An Examination of my Chingona Soul

The past month I have undergone an activation of my chingona soul. Maybe it was the election or Día de Los Muertos or seeing Namor in Wakanda Forever, but I’ve been bursting with pride for the gifts that I received growing up Latina in southern Colorado. Not only do I have an immense reverence for the mountains and the rugged reassurance they offer, but I grew up with a sense of cultura that endures today.

I grew up with the idea that the term Chicana had to be earned through activism and a willingness to sacrifice for the cause of equality. I also knew that the term chingona was never to be self-applied, but bestowed by members of our feminine activist squads. Likewise, the term bruja was a slur to be avoided at all costs.

The day I put my graduation on the line to point out educational disparities among Latine students at my high school, where half of our graduating class had disappeared. And thanks to a movement to reclaim the term bruja, there has been an explosion of resources leading me toward a deeper study of brujería. My effort to crystalize these experiences into a shield to protect us as patriarchy, capitalism, and exploitation sputter out and die. And considering that my major sociological focus in college was Chicano social resistance, embracing the term bruja is another way I can reconnect with my roots and passion.

Yet, the first day that a Latina leader used the term chingona to describe me, I nearly melted. It was like I was being inducted into a secret celebration, the quinceañera I never had but always wanted. Mingling among other queens of our people, women who bore the wounds of the forced assimilation and dilution of our traditions, women who fight with all they had to integrate it into their power. To be accepted as one of -them- meant more to me than any award I could ever receive. And to be accepted and embraced for my polyamory, my mixed heritage, or my failures to be able to belong anywhere else has been an honor and responsibility I take with great care.

Inclusion into this sacred sisterhood perhaps means more to me because I’ve learned more by having them as bosses and mentors than I have from any formal learning. These mujeres modeled how to use my calling, how to strategically channel my power and privilege into change. If I was the most tokenized woman in a room (boards love me because I’m just disabled, Latina and queer enough to not be a threat to their sense of white, patriarchal, heteronormative comfort) then by god, I would use that power. So I learned to hold open the door and shove more seats at the table before ghosting them all like yesterday’s news. I see myself as a spiritual adelita, a warrior for the underdog, who heals with compassionate truth, disarming my opposition with piercing insight and swift kindness.

This is why this week it was so important that I share how this poem by Sanda Cisneros touches me twenty-plus years since I first encountered her work. I am reminded to wear the chingona label with pride, because fuck yeah, I earned it. But also because I know I don’t need the approval of others, particularly those who choose not to see the value of my heart. Someone said, “she writes from the ovaries” and I think any daughter of La Virgin does too. We write with crackling honesty steeped in the bloodied hands of our ancestors and the galvanizing vision of a cosmic integration reclaimed. And here, she frames it so perfectly.

Loose Woman

By Sandra Cisneros

Adela Velarde Pérez, the real woman behind “the Adelitas”, one of the solederas who fought on the frontlines and tended to the wounded during the Mexican Revolution.
I relate so much to this song and this little girl. She is totally 10-year-old me.

They say I’m a beast.
And feast on it. When all along
I thought that’s what a woman was.

They say I’m a bitch.
Or witch. I’ve claimed
the same and never winced.

They say I’m a macha, hell on wheels,
viva-la-vulva, fire and brimstone,
man-hating, devastating,
boogey-woman lesbian.
Not necessarily,
but I like the compliment.

The mob arrives with stones and sticks
to maim and lame and do me in.
All the same, when I open my mouth,
they wobble like gin.

Diamonds and pearls
tumble from my tongue.
Or toads and serpents.
Depending on the mood I’m in.

I like the itch I provoke.
The rustle of rumor
like crinoline.

I am the woman of myth and bullshit.
(True. I authored some of it.)
I built my little house of ill repute.
Brick by brick. Labored,
loved and masoned it.

I live like so.
Heart as sail, ballast, rudder, bow.
Rowdy. Indulgent to excess.
My sin and success—
I think of me to gluttony.

By all accounts I am
a danger to society.
I’m Pancha Villa.

I break laws,
upset the natural order,
anguish the Pope and make fathers cry.
I am beyond the jaw of law.
I’m la desperada, most-wanted public enemy.
My happy picture grinning from the wall.

Guadalupe by Silvia Ji. Her work is outstanding.

I strike terror among the men.
I can’t be bothered what they think.
!Que se vayan a la ching chang chong!
For this, the cross, the Calvary.
In other words, I’m anarchy.

I’m an aim-well,
shoot-sharp,
sharp-tongued,
sharp-thinking,
fast-speaking,
foot-loose,
loose-tongued,
let-loose,
woman-on-the-loose
loose woman.
Beware, honey.

I’m Bitch. Beast. Macha.
!Wachale!

Ping! Ping! Ping!
I break things.


The essence of the Chicana soul.

Additionally, I’m a geeky Chicana priestess – and I fell in love with Battlestar Galactica because Edward James Olmos is one of my heroes.
Frak is one my of favorite words.

What is a Chingona? “A mujer (woman) who is intelligent, fearless, and can get things done. See also “boss” and “badass” (definition supplied by chingonadefinition.com). This is who I was raised by and who I was raised to be. I am not a wilting flower waiting for someone to rescue me – I empower myself AND my community and look damn fabulous doing it.

This is my Chicana soul. This is what I learned growing up in a social justice, whistleblowing, socially shy activist household. This is who I became growing up in Pueblo, Colo, where my school had been one of the sites of the Chicano Movement. This is who I became as a leader trained through National Hispanic Institute.

They say I’m a beast.
And feast on it. When all along
I thought that’s what a woman was.

I was raised to believe that women were fierce protectors of home and community. We didn’t wait for the men to save us, but we’d do it ourselves. We’d tear through barriers with our teeth, shredding them to scraps that we’d feed on for our own satisfaction. We’d deliver food to sticking workers in the dead of winter and lick as many envelopes as it would take to get Ken Salazar elected. We watch out for our own, better than anyone else who thinks they watch out for us. This is who we are.

They say I’m a bitch.
Or witch. I’ve claimed
the same and never winced.

I don’t wince at witch despite how I was socialized to look down on the term bruja. But by college, I had embraced other forms of spirituality to augment and often replace what I was taught by a church that taught me to be afraid of feminine power – a tool they used to cover up their genocide of our ancestors, to keep us from uncovering the truth about our own power. But conversely, often people don’t realize I was being a bitch until hours, days, and weeks later when they realize crossing my boundaries meant they are now dead to me.

A Tonantizin Guadalupe commission by the fiercely talented PJ Superior. I’m so happy her padrino brought her into my life. Praise the invisibles, Antonio.

They say I’m a macha, hell on wheels,
viva-la-vulva, fire and brimstone,
man-hating, devastating,
boogey-woman lesbian.
Not necessarily,
but I like the compliment.

Most people are wrong about me. If they see only light & love it’s because they’re ignoring how the shadow of humanity fuels my advocacy. If they see only the fire & brimstone, they think softness escaped me in my “good years” (aka before the trauma and while I was still a pliable, impressionable girl). And as fucking always, bi-erasure always manifests in the assumptions people make of me. It would be an honor to be called any of these, but they also aren’t all me. No description really ever is. It’s just a moment of me, one of the millions that I will live and that you won’t.

The mob arrives with stones and sticks
to maim and lame and do me in.

This was me in college – I took on the President of our university for statements he made during a student diversity dinner about Mexicans and their lack of ability to complete higher education. This Jesuit already had a history of antisemitic statements and treating foreign professors of color as inferior to whites. But it was that he said this during a diversity dinner where NO ONE ELSE spoke up, but were happy to leak it to the press who started calling me. Even the school newspaper speculated on whether I had been hearing things. Standing up in front of the student center to address 300 people demanding answers, I was probably the bravest I’ve ever been – and it turned the tide of conversation to point to his many systemic failures – just like what I did in high school.

All the same, when I open my mouth,
they wobble like gin.

So, it hasn’t been unusual in my life to find myself at a mic or the podium to respond to some ugly things happening in the world around me. I step up to both soothe the soul and spark the heart while not shying away from the truth presented in our reality. Even if they were shouting for my crucifixion just minutes before, they end up falling all over themselves with praise( lending more credence to the “witch” claim).

Diamonds and pearls
tumble from my tongue.
Or toads and serpents.
Depending on the mood I’m in.

If you haven’t noticed my posts are a reflection of my current state of healing, but also an argument for truth, a compassionate encouragement for a better world. I am all and none of these at once. It really just depends on the mood (aka expect more in-the-moment blog posts here or at my Substack – which is free for right now).

I like the itch I provoke.
The rustle of rumor
like crinoline.

The most provocative thing about me is that for all that I share about myself, very few will truly ever know (or grok) me. They’ll know a facet of me – the political or legal me. Others know the kinky & poly me. Or the spiritual visionary. I am a glittering, glowing multi-dimensional diamond that most will only ever encounter their own two-dimensional approximation of understanding. And when people realize there is…soooo much more…I am so much bigger and more expansive in my love than they can comprehend – the intoxication of interest that my openness provokes is what makes my life so worth living.

I am the woman of myth and bullshit.
(True. I authored some of it.)
I built my little house of ill repute.
Brick by brick. Labored,
loved and masoned it.

There are some lies I’ve told during my time, and some stories I’ve exaggerated for effect. Sometimes it was to make myself feel bigger and braver than I felt at the time and other times it was to remind me that I am badder and bolder than I give myself credit for. It isn’t my responsibility to tell everyone’s side of my story – rather I get to live in the Tower I have proudly built from the shattered, smoldering remnants of the towers I have toppled for others. Good and bad it is all mine – and I am fucking proud of it.

I live like so.
Heart as sail, ballast, rudder, bow.
Rowdy. Indulgent to excess.
My sin and success—
I think of me to gluttony.

I have no other life to live but this one. I live and die by my choices. And if I want to smoke pot and write all day, that is my choice. If I want to take a trip to Scotland to research my family, that’s my choice. And I don’t need to justify it to anyone. I know all that I have done and more importantly, only I know why I did it. I slept with those men for reasons. I toppled that organization’s leader for reasons. I brought in people with lived experience for reasons. Are they your reasons? Was it your background at play? No? Then sit down and let me have my life and make my choices for my reasons. Because god only knows that as usual, the consequences of my bold choices are always mine to shoulder.

By all accounts I am
a danger to society.
I’m Pancha Villa.

Just ask my exes, my estranged family members, the local kink community, the people who outed me, and those dumb enough to believe them – I spoke truths and became a force to be reckoned with, a power to be contained and curtailed. It may have taken until today to fully accept it, but I know I am stronger than the flimsy net of shame they draped over my shoulders before running away like they were trying to trap a pantheress thinking she was a pussy cat. My bravery will always withstand their cowardly opinions.

Photo by Broken Glass Photography, Colorado Springs.

I break laws,
upset the natural order,
anguish the Pope and make fathers cry.
I am beyond the jaw of law.
I’m la desperada, most-wanted public enemy.
My happy picture grinning from the wall.

I bend the rules of business and policy…because I know I can. I set boundaries with lovers and faith…because I know I must. I make grown cis straight men cry and offer my shoulder to the bi, trans, femme, fluid, disabled many they have left behind. I am a direct threat to patriarchy, an impossible rose growing in their cultish landscape of ash and ruin. Oh, and the bishop of Pueblo used to literally run and hide when he saw my mom. So, yeah, I know how to wield power just fine – and nothing they’ve done so far has stopped me. I am an adelita brought back to life – my knowledge is my weapon, my passion my talent, my cos

I strike terror among the men.
I can’t be bothered what they think.
!Que se vayan a la ching chang chong!
For this, the cross, the Calvary.
In other words, I’m anarchy.

People believe more in my freedom than they do in theirs. Once upon a time a friend back home said to me “the only reason why you can be poly and I can’t is because you’re Janet and they’ll forgive you anything just to have a piece of what you’ve got.” So my freedom is tolerated but they don’t see how hard I have always had to fight for it. When trauma tells me it is my last remaining friend, I have to fight like hell to live. I have to fight like hell not to give in and care less like everyone else does; I cannot absolve my responsibility so quickly. They soothe themselves with stories that earned my freedom, distilling me down to a sensitive, quirky, liberal love bomb when perhaps the truth is that in viewing me as somehow special, they can absolve themselves from the responsibility of their own liberation.

I mean, I actually DO care about people. But I also don’t care if others approve of me or not.

I’m an aim-well,
shoot-sharp,
sharp-tongued,
sharp-thinking,
fast-speaking,
foot-loose,
loose-tongued,
let-loose,
woman-on-the-loose
loose woman.
Beware, honey.

In short – I am SharpSweetBella – La Madonna Rosa – a confoundingly honest, resiliently vulnerable, expansive-hearted, slut enabling, freedom-loving, patriarchy-busting, Pueblo Chicana beauty. Am I full of myself? Probably. Do I still do good in the world? Arguably. Do I care what others decide about me? Not anymore.

I’m Bitch. Beast. Macha.
!Wachale!

Ping! Ping! Ping!
I break things.

That is the chingona in me. I spark the heart and soothe the soul. I am the catalyst lightning bolt that breaks the tower apart. And that capacity for infinite love combined with a superpower for transforming pain into societal change, my passion to serve humanity cannot be severed from my identity. Because frankly, the most chingona thing I could do is live boldly from the truth of my heart, showing the world how the view is from the mountaintop, sharing my lens so others get a glimpse of the majesty I see waiting to be unleashed in them.

This is who I am and who I always will be. The chingona Sagitarritus bruja mountain goddess wildfire in me. ¡Órale!

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