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Chingona Fest: The SXSW alternative for WOC

posted February 26, 2019 | in Pop Cultura by Christine Bolaños

The word “chingona” originally had a negative, even profane connotation toward Latina women. But decades later, women are taking the word back and wearing it as a badge of honor.  Denise Hernandez, Assistant District Attorney in the special victims’ unit of the family violence division in Travis County,  refers to “Chingona” as a movement of Latinas taking ownership of their lives. This can mean anything from being the first in their family to graduate college, to running a successful business, and most importantly, creating a space of inclusive and diversity for fellow women of color.

That’s why Hernandez created Chingona Fest ATX in 2018 to unite fellow chingonas through art, food, music and sisterhood. Proceeds benefit local nonprofits such as Con Mi Madre and Latinitas which empower young women. Now, Hernandez and her team are gearing up for the 2019 event, which promises to be even bigger and better.

Chingona Fest attendees showing off their Latino gear at the 2018 Chingona Fest.
Courtesy of Chingona Fest organizers.

The event — which is giving South by Southwest a run for its money for women of color — is scheduled for April 5 and 6 and will celebrate Latino culture, identity and values in the heart of Texas. The statewide multi-event conference and music festival wants to inspire and empower Latinas through music, film, art and community. It’s a special place intentionally filled with musicians, artists, speakers and vendors of color.

“It’s really strange but I feel like I was meant to do this work from a very young age,” Hernandez says. “When I joined the National Hispanic Institute, I began to learn about building up the Latino community and about Latino equity, and about nurturing and discussing those issues. The older I got, those principles and concepts continued to be inside of me, and I realized how important it was to create this community and build up this power we have in the community.”

Though Hernandez plays juggler balancing her professional work with Hustle for the Cause events, she wouldn’t have it any other way. Hustle for a Cause is a social impact brand and event production company that creates products and experiences to empower underserved communities such as Chingona Fest.

“When I’m working on Chingona Fest I feel like I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose to be brown and proud and realizing the power we have as Latina leaders and entrepreneurs and creating a space where our young Latinas can realize they can step into those spaces as well,” Hernandez adds. “I really want Chingona Fest to be an experience for every attendee where they leave and feel empowered starting a business or starting college or overcoming adversity.”

Bidi Bidi Banda members gather for a group photo just before taking the stage at the 2018 Chingona Fest. Courtesy of Chingona Fest organizers.

More than 700 tickets were sold for the inaugural event that drew women from Corpus Christi, Houston and Dallas. Organizers proudly announced that $5,000 was donated to the chosen nonprofits dedicated to women of color. They hope to exceed those numbers, including doubling the number of vendors to about 45 total.

A whooping 97 percent of vendors who participated in the 2018 festival were small businesses owned and operated by Latinas. Most were first-generation entrepreneurs. Hustle for a Cause is offering a $500 grant to a small business owned and operated by a woman of color this year.

The conference portion of this year’s event includes panel discussions on Latina entrepreneurship and leadership. Speakers include Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Delia Garza, Texas Freedom Network Political Director Carisa Lopez, Samantha Najera, owner of HeartFire Media, Trenza founder Rachel Basoco and Nelly Garcia Caballero, founder of Rocheli Patisserie.

California-based Cumbia heavyweights La Misa Negra is headlining the concert. They will be joined by Texas artists Ballet Folklorico MariCruz, Mariachi Las Coronelas, Tiarra Girls and Bidi Bidi Banda. DJs Gracie Chavez and Canela ConSafos will keep the music vibes going through the event.

Chingona Fest volunteers take a moment to show their chingona pride at the 2018
Chingona Fest. Courtesy of Chingona Fest organizers.

Tori Baltierra, Sophia Baltierra and Tiffany Baltierra make up the Tiarra Girls, an all-sister Latina band from South Austin. They play indie rock/pop with a Latin influence.

“In an industry run by men, we contribute to erasing the stigma that women or women of color can’t create a platform for themselves. It’s what we do with our music that makes us stand out. We use it as our voice to empower people to make a change,” the band said in a statement.

They are drawn to Chingona Fest because they want to be part of the narrative of strengthening what chingonas of prior generations have laid out for their generation.

“We felt that contributing our talents and voices to the festival would help us connect to other creative women of color to reach an audience of young women that want to be musicians just like us,” the band says.

The sisters grew up in the Austin music scene and had the opportunity to connect with other all-Latina fronted bands like Girl in a Coma, La Santa Cecilia and Bidi Bidi Banda.

“Seeing them on stage expressing themselves, their message, and their culture inspires us to keep on doing what we do. Latinas supporting other Latinas starts with inspiring the young generations to strive for their dreams, to work hard and keep empowering others,” the band adds.

Mariachi Las Coronelas own the stage at 2018 Chingona Fest.
Courtesy of Chingona Fest organizers.

The party will live on late at night during the Puro ChingonX Vibes event with DJ sets provided by DJs Ella Ella, Zetroc, Pinche Juan and Chorizo Funk.

The vendors also offer a plethora of unique items that embrace Latino identity, culture and values. Hermanitas Boutique, a shop that makes clothing and accessories based on the founders’ Mexican American heritage, will be selling items at Chingona Fest.

“We don’t want to simply assimilate into American culture because we are such a beautiful combination of Mexican American heritage,” say founders Jasmin Romero and Violeta M Hernandez. “We want to make sure that those that feel like they are “ni de aqui, ni de alla” are represented.”

The San Antonio-based business travels to markets throughout Texas. Participating in Chingona Fest was a no-brainer because the founders want to support local Texas economies and help provide opportunities for women.

“They are creating spaces where people of color feel represented and valued. We can share our stories and our struggles. So much of how we grow as people is understanding ourselves and each other,” they explain. “Much more than a festival or market, Chingona Fest is a movement.”

Yocelyn Riojas, a self-described Latinx designer and illustrator in Austin, is also selling products at the festival. She creates designs that celebrate cultural identity, social justice and women empowerment. Her work has been gaining momentum in the Latino community for reflecting Latino culture with positive representation and familiar childhood aesthetics.

“With all the growing gentrification in Austin, the diversity that exists within the city has become increasingly difficult to find. Chingona Fest is an example of our community’s resilience by creating a space to help uplift women of color voices, art and businesses,” Riojas says. “I wanted to get involved with Chingona Fest because they reflect my views, values and pride in being an unapologetic Latina.”

Riojas says the event reminds young Latinas they can love and embrace their identities.

“For so long we’ve been told to assimilate, but we now have the freedom to walk our own paths without fear of judgment. Chingona Fest testified to the truth that our culture and business matters because there is a demand to be seen,” she shares.

Bella Flambeau vending at 2018 Chingona Fest. Courtesy of Chingona Fest organizers.

Jen Zeano Designs, a Brownsville-based lifestyle brand with a mission to empower the Latino community through apparel and accessories that make one proud of their culture, is also on the vendor roster.

“We believe in kindness, girl power, adventures, Latina magic and celebrating every tiny victory, which is why we strive to create a brand that celebrates all of you,” says Founder and Creative Director Jen Zeano.

She says it’s “amazing” to see strong women come together to make Chingona Fest a reality and “incredible” to see the community unite in support of the event.

“I feel like we all crave to celebrate our Latinx roots and this event does just that. Plus, it’s amazing to be surrounded by people who understand and support you,” Zeano says. “It is also an incredible opportunity for our business. JZD always tries to empower our Latinx community and Chingona Fest aligns perfectly.”

She believes Chingona Fest teaches young Latinas to be real and honest.

“It encourages them to be unapologetically themselves and make their own seat at the table,” she exclaims. “Many times, we are told to settle or even step aside but Chingona Fest reminds us of our importance and more importantly it encourages and empowers young Latinas to step up and embrace their inner chingona. There is no greater power than embracing, celebrating, and owning our culture, our skin color, our hair texture, our Latinx roots, our accents, our identities, our sexual orientations, our Latinx self and Chingona Fest highlights all of that perfectly.”

Organizers are already making plans for the 2020 event, which will include panel discussions on Latino representation, entrepreneurship, money mindset, Latino identity, civic engagement and leadership. Chingona Fest Texas 2020 will also treat attendees to a film event highlighting and promoting films produced and/or directed by Latinas.

Organizers said Chingona Fest is only possible with support from sponsors, vendors and supporters. Remaining tickets to this year’s event are available at Festival passes are $30. All access passes are $65.

Jen Zeano showing her Latina power products at 2018 Chingona Fest.
Courtesy of Chingona Fest organizers.

Festival Agenda:

Poderosa Platicas @ Chingona Fest Texas is April 5 at 6:00p.m. in The Studio ATX, 2400 E. Cesar Chavez 212, Austin, Texas 78702

Networking Event with Panel Discussions on Latina Entrepreneurship and Latina Leadership. $30 Ticket Event Pass.

Speaker Lineup: Delia Garza, Austin Mayor Pro-Tem; Carisa Lopez, Political Director of Texas Freedom Network; Samantha Najera, Owner of HeartFire Media; Rachel Basoco, Founder of Trenza; Nelly Garcia Caballero, Founder of Rocheli Patisserie

Chingona Fest Texas is April 6 starting at 11: 30 a.m. in Hops and Grain, 622 N. Pleasant Valley, Austin, Texas 78702

Live Music, Food, and Latinx Vendors from all over the US. $30 Festival Pass.


12:15pm – Ballet Folklorico Maricruz (TX)

2:00pm – Mariachi Las Coronelas (TX)

3:45pm –  Tiarra Girls (TX)

5:30pm – Bidi Bidi Banda (TX)

7:15pm – Headliner – La Misa Negra

DJ Sets by:

DJ Gracie Chavez and DJ Canela ConSafos

Puro ChingonX Vibes After Party starts at 10 p.m. in The Native Hostel, 807 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78702

Dance Party with DJ sets provided by DJ Ella Ella; DJ Zetroc; DJ Pinche Juan; DJ Chorizo Funk. $20 After party pass.

Christine Bolaños serves as editor of Latinitas Magazine. The 2016 International Women’s Media Foundation fellow is an Austin, Texas-based freelance journalist focused on the areas of social justice and women’s empowerment. Her work has most recently been published by the Guardian, NPR’s Latino USA, Remezcla, Latina Style Magazine, the Daily Dot, Project Pulso, Mitu and many other national outlets. The award-winning writer is a proud Salvadoran-American and an advocate for women of color in the media. 

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