Chingona Fest: Interview with the Founder

I was able to speak with Deena Herrera about why and how she started this wonderful empowerment festival in the Rio Grande Valley, Tx. I am busy crafting my jewelry so I can have the opportunity to celebrate with all these powerful and beautiful women.

What made you want to participate or begin this type of Empowerment Festival?

*Chingona Fest was created by myself, Deena Herrera. It was thought of on a whim. I was watching Sandra Cisneros talking about what it is to be a “Chingona” on HBO’s Documentary, The Latino List. I was sitting in the kitchen listening and I told my husband, “I’m going to make a festival and I’m gonna call it Chingona Fest.” I could identify with what she (Sandra) was referencing to, I knew other women could too.

What are your goals for the organization and where do you see it going?

*My goals for the festival are to empower women, showcase what the women of our community have to offer, whether it be art, music, poetry, business, etc… I hope to raise money to give back to the women who are all about making positive changes not only for themselves, but for others. I hope, hope, it becomes an annual event, a bigger and better event. I underestimated myself with the festival and didn’t really think anyone would be interested or would show up, so I dreamed humbly. I have gotten such a positive response to the festival, it’s been great. I’ve had too much interest in the festival and just not enough room for everyone. I’ve felt very badly turning people away, but there’s always next year. I’m already thinking of changes for next years event.

How did your band/craft/business start?

*Because this event has inspired so many other events that are in the works between my husband and myself, we’ve decided to start a promotional company called, Gatos Locos Promotions. We also have a band called Gatos Locos which we both are a part of.

What types of music/craft/or business do you create/offer?

*Gatos Locos Promotions will be hosting future events that are in the works just as soon as Chingona Fest wraps up. We are extremely busy with our band also. Chingona has become almost an organization rather than just a festival, it’s become so much deeper. I don’t want an organization though, I don’t have the time to dedicate to it. An annual event is the best I can do to showcase what the women in my community do.

What has been the hardest thing for you so far?

*The hardest thing for me has been doing most of the work on my own, as far as the festival is concerned. My assistant, Heidi Sanchez, has offered advice, she’s guided me, she’s helped me get sponsors, she’s helped me as an admin on our face book page, but aside from that, I’ve been on my own. It’s been difficult at times, because I don’t have time to do this during the school year. It takes up way too much time to organize an event like this. It has been all consuming. I think my family has been somewhat neglected because of all this, my kids can’t wait for it to be over. Little do they know that, there’s three more events coming up after Chingona Fest, then we’ll be done for the year.

What inspires and motivates you?

* Everything and everyone. In organizing this event I have met so many amazing people. This festival has opened my eyes in so many ways; it’s opened me up to new experiences. It has been incredibly humbling. People’s stories motivate and inspire me. In meeting these women, I have taken a little piece of them with me. They’ve shared their stories or triumph and tragedy. I’ve witnessed some of their triumphs and tragedies.  Some of their stories have inspired me and motivated me to create events in which we can bring awareness about some of their very personal issues. I’ve never been so blessed.

As a Latina/Hispanic/Mexican American, what is one thing that has affected your craft/music/business and how do you deal with it or balance it?

*My culture has heavily influenced my craft/music/business in every way. My culture and it’s tradition influences what I do. I’m very proud of my culture, it’s the most beautiful in my opinion. My culture is represented in everything I do, from my food, to my dress, to my music, to this festival. In the picture of me there’s several elements of our culture and tradition depicted in that one photo. I thought the picture spoke volumes. How do I deal with it or balance it? There’s no balance, this is who I am.

I am so happy to be able to get to know her and other Chingonas as we count down to the Festival.

Jessie

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