chingona f (plural chingonas)

badass woman; maker of her own Camino; harnesser of her own fire.


So you want to be a firestarter, a change maker, a movement builder? A key to that will be reclaiming space to write your own story or helping your community reclaim and tell its story in a way that’s unique and authentic. You’ll need to raise your voice to make room for the people and communities you love in the space(s) they’ve been closed off from.

Women who do this work—that is, raise their voices, protest, boldly fight against the status quo—have been called any number of names by their detractors, most often the people who feel threatened by their empowerment and success. For Latinas, one of those words is “chingona.” That’s why Denise Hernandez, herself a firestarter, a chingona, decided to start the Chingona Fest: to unite fellow badass women and support the advancement of women of color.

What it means to be a chingona

The word chingona used to have a negative connotation and was leveled at women who were seen as “controlling” or “bitchy.” “The funny thing is,” says Denise,” that the male version of the word – chingon– is used to describe a man who is strong and cool. It’s great to be part of the generation that is reclaiming and subverting what it means to be a chingona. We’re forging our own path and we’re not bound by the norms of traditional Latino culture.”

Denise has been forging her own path from a young age. It’s something she learned from her mom, who raised Denise and her sister by herself and worked two jobs to support them. She constantly reinforced for her daughters the value of education. That led to Denise being the first in her family to go to college. “My mom truly embodies what it is to be a chingona,” she says. “I am so blessed to have a mom who was so supportive of me and encouraged me to carve out my own path. Chingona Fest is for her, for all the strong women like her, and for the young professional women like me and my friends who want to see ourselves reflected in business and leadership roles instead of consistently feeling like a minority.”

In addition to drawing inspiration from her mom, another driver is the contemporary landscape, both nationally and here in Austin. “After the last presidential election, I realized how easily the comforts and gains made by the Latino community could be taken away. Our community felt—and feels–targeted. There’s a collective feeling in the Latina community especially of wanting support and a place of our own.” So Chingona Fest emerged as a response to that feeling of unease but also a response to conditions in Austin, a city with a serious diversity and inclusion problem. While the city frequently tops “Best Places to Live” lists, it also has the dubious distinction of being the most economically and racially segregated large metropolitan areas in the United States.

Bringing diversity to Austin

“As a young professional in Austin,” explains Denise, “there have been many times I’ve attended professional environments and felt like a minority, and it makes you feel like you don’t belong, you don’t fit in, despite knowing that you’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where you are.” The City of Austin is putting a lot of policy work and resources into addressing the issue, but as Denise says, “For real change to occur, community leaders and business have to be conscious and intentional about creating more spaces for communities of color. That’s what Chingona Fest is.”

The Chingona Festival

The first-ever Chingona Festival is this Saturday at Hops and Grains Brewing. While it’s already sold out, don’t despair! Mark your calendars for next year, and in the meantime, you can check out the documentary Denise created with her fiancée Krista Cottingim and the Austin-based production company FemBeat about local chingonas and how they are changing the narrative of what it means to be a strong, empowered woman, forces for change in their communities. After the festival, Denise, Krista, and FemBeat will launch a tour to share the documentary at chingona brunches where they’ll not only show the film but also have discussions about important issues on the community. Dates will be announced on the Hustle for the Cause Facebook page, which is the social impact and event production company co-owned by Denise and Krista. You won’t want to miss this awesome film!

So, firestarters, chingonas, go out and reclaim your space, make room for the people and communities you love. By doing so, you’ll find not only your community strengthened, but you’ll find it benefits everyone where you live.


#movementmakertribe #movementmaker #thefutureisfemale #inspiration

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