Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hialeah: The Mythical Land of Churros and Chongas Part I

Part I

Chonga is a Spanish-derived term used especially in South Florida, often to indicate a working-class, sexualized, aggressive, and emotionally expressive young woman.”

Chonga. Let me start off by saying this word is the bane of my existence. So much in fact, that I have decided to cover this topic in two posts in order to properly cover all the issues I have with it. If you are a South Florida resident, the sight of this word immediately brings to mind many associations. Bad grammar, lip liner, Lycra, hoop earrings, beaded Chinese slippers etc.

“While feminist scholarship on chongas is limited, early work by gender studies scholar Jillian Hernandez has suggested that the chonga identity is an "emerging icon", and that it can be empowering for working-class women.”

Clearly Jillian Hernandez does not live in South Florida. Otherwise, she would immediately see the negative connotations associated with the term chonga and how its association with Hialeah has completely destroyed its credibility as a working class suburb of immigrants. There is NOTHING empowering about it. 

Chonga is thought to come from the Spanish words chusma and chola, neither of which are flattering. Chusma is used in Spanish to describe someone of a lower class who is rude and talks loudly. Chola is used to describe a woman who is from the streets, gangster like, and often portrayed as promiscuous. If someone calls you a chonga, it is an insult. It is no more empowering than calling a woman a whore or stupid.

The Chonga Goes Viral

“Chongas became considerably more common in popular culture after the 2007 release of Chongalicious, a YouTube viral video.”

As a Hialeah resident, I had never even heard the term chonga until 2007. Two girls, who were in fact residents of Kendall, decided it would be funny to make their own version of the popular Fergie song Fergalicious and use it to portray the stereotype of a Hispanic American woman and call it Chongalicious. The “chonga version” of Fergie's song went viral on YouTube, completely blowing the chonga stereotype out of proportion and even worse, directly associating it with Hialeah.

Since then, social media, local television, and even local radio stations have been perpetuating this stereotype and associating it with Hialeah, creating its now infamous reputation in South Florida as the Land of Churros and Chongas. The term chonga and the City of Hialeah are synonymous till this day. 

Around that time, local radio station Y100 was having a discussion on the then popular Miami topic of chongas, and again they were making it seem as if ALL Hispanic American women in Hialeah fit this stereotype (and as if they were not found anywhere else Miami-Dade.) I called upset and determined to give them a piece of my mind and to my surprise I actually got through. (Yes, this ACTUALLY happened)

I bitched about how detrimental the popularization of this stereotype was for Hispanic American women and how unfair it was that this stereotype was being directly associated with Hialeah.

“This chonga thing with Hialeah is not funny anymore. I was born and raised in Hialeah and I am articulate and educated. I am not a chonga and I really resent this stereotype.”

I was met with laughter. They responded “I know it’s kind of unfair, right? Those girls from the Chongalicious video weren't even from Hialeah.”

“Exactly! So If you know this, why do you continue to fuel the fire?”

“It is what it is, honey.” More laughter.

It is what it is... 

Hialeah and the women in it were now the butt of every joke and everyone was laughing. Whether it was an accurate portrayal was irrelevant. It is what it is.

I’m going to stop here to avoid sounding like I'm on a soapbox with a megaphone. I can feel you rolling your eyes at me. lol

Tune in next week for Part II!

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