I have been writing and taking a ride in this chonga-academically-fueled train for about three years, but I identified as a chonga in my adolescence for another three years, or as many former chongas will say: “till I ‘outgrew it.'” I have however reclaimed that identity, and now I argue that I never stopped being a chonga, I just learned an American-sanctioned level of code switching. My current status as a chonga in a private graduate institution makes for tense and oftentimes uncomfortable situations, which I am not apologetic about.
My perceived crassness, hyper-feminine aesthetics, and bravado are all what I credit to a particular socio-economic and immigrant narrative which has been crucial to my formation. I did not stop being those things, when I originally shed my chonga-ness, instead I learned to apologize for them.
I did not learn to apologize for myself willingly, but rather I learned in school that if I wanted to be “respected” by my teachers (and most outsiders) I had to curb my style and personality. I had to learn when it was “appropriate” to be me, and to this I call bullshit.
My chonga identity is political because I reject this perceived respectability that I worked hard to gain, because it came at a high cost: it cost me,
I learned that speaking too boldly, walking with my head held high, and wearing clothes that made me feel like a goddess – these things were NOT what brown immigrant girls from working-poor families did –
We are not supposed to walk like the world
is ours to claim.
We are not supposed to demand respect.
We are not supposed to speak our minds.
We are supposed to blend in,
We are supposed to make ourselves invisible.
Therefore, I do not write papers that brings you one step closer to “understanding” a particular Latinx subculture. No, I write manifestos. This is not a disembodied discourse, but my life and the life of many Latinas who identify with this subculture. It should not easily be explained and rationalized, because there may be some methods to our existence but if you explain us to ourselves than what has become of our agency.
I am not trying to humanize us to you, because we are already that, and so much more, I am simply . . . “writing, writing, writing, for my life” (Pearl Cleage, Mad at Miles). The era of shaming chongas is coming to an end; it has to, because we are demanding it.