Mija, you are worthy. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let us honor the young women that courageously used their voices to create a new narrative. A narrative that transcends our bodies and focuses on liberating our minds.
I myself invent time by first conjuring up the
voices and spirits of the women living under
brutal repressive regimes… [b]ecause I want to
do just to their voices. To tell these women,
in my own gentle way, that I will fight for them,
that they provide me with my own source of
humanity.Helena María Viramontes
What is the conscious expansion of la Soldadera?
The conscious expansion of la Soldadera can be found through their laughter. A Chicana embracing the fullness of her existence is bound to create profound change. The empowerment that ignites resistance to transform generations of beautiful, young, brown minds. Chicana voices shout out to the world around them, “I deserve to be educated!”, “I reclaim my body!”, “I am of the same goodness that intended the sun!”, “¡Viva La Raza!”.
The Chicana movement during the 1960s and 1970s bloomed an internal shift that allowed a new narrative to flourish. In the hearts of Chicanas, domestication and the limited perspective of their male counterparts would no longer silence their voice. Chicanas encouraged, organized, and led alongside their brothers during the Chicano movement. However, to possess the body that supports the existence of human life had not been deemed strong enough to have a career, obtain an education, or live prosperously without a man and family.
To shed light on the potential Chicanas possess, I will be delving into the works of both authors Aída Hurtado and Maylei Blackwell. Hurtado’s book titled Voicing Chicana Feminisms and Blackwell’s book ¡Chicana Power! exemplify the transformation of the Chicana mindset through the embracement of sharing stories, political resistance, and promoting new thought narratives.
How does listening to the stories of Chicanas create positive change?
We begin with Hurtado’s Voicing Chicana Feminism which provides stories of young Chicanas. The information contained within these stories is the basis that impedes the necessary growth Chicanas is deserving to experience. Hurtado introduces Sofia’s story. For Sofia, “she had dreams of pursuing an education and having a career”.
While Sofia grew up, she witnessed the lifestyle her mother lived– maintaining a household and caring for fourteen children. Sofia resisted the concept of marriage as she witnessed the pattern repeated with two of her older sisters. Between her two older sisters, there were seventeen children to be added to their family tree.
While living her life in Mexico, Sofia faced a similar fate that many Chicanas endured due to the reality that opportunity is being withheld. Sofia is a representation of resistance while “at the same time, many had come to terms with their lives and instead of living in regret, they tried to build families and provide their daughters a different life than their own.” Where some dreams had been laid to rest for one generation of Chicana women; they still held hope for the future of their daughters.
When pinpointing the transition of Chicana women, the conscious expansion of la Soldadera can first be identified as the fierce love given to us by our mothers. Our many mothers want the many Sofia’s in the world to relish in their intelligence, innovation, and hearts filled with laughter. The Chicana story deserves to expand beyond borders and author Maylei Blackwell reveals the borders that encase so many in a limited perception of our young women.
How can iconography both help and harm the Chicana narrative?
What is iconography? Iconography can be defined as the imagery of symbolism or a work of art, an artist, or a body of art. Blackwell writes, “Chicana activists engaged political icons and politicized iconography in order to negotiate their own political agency and (re)figure themselves with movement iconography by creating new images of women’s revolutionary participation.”
During the movement to personify the strength and leadership Chicanas contributed, they embodied La Soldadera-female soldiers. The image below shows student Hilda Reyes taken in August 1969 at Lincoln Highschool. “The crossed bandoleras represent an intersection–simultaneously symbolizing her revolutionary commitment and invoking the complex ways women and women’s bodies are made to stand in for the nation, in both historic projects of nation building and numerous revolutionary struggles.”
Chicanas have been present in the creation of change since the beginning. Our contributions cannot be presented if the lens is not intentionally focused on us. Blackwell offers a suburb analysis regarding the limitation of the picture frame itself. The image of Hilda, although it represents cultural pride, simultaneously demonstrates the confines of Chicanas in another context.
Blackwell shares, “in most movement histories, the background of the lived working and organizing conditions of women in the movement, or even their stories, have been cropped out. This framing calls attention to the constructed nature of all representation and the multitude of factors that shape how we see historic events.”
Images are powerful and in today’s current climate we have become fixated on believing narratives that do not support our well-being. The Chicana movement is a prime example of how hardships are still endured by those fighting to live a life of mutual respect. La Soldadera creates her own narrative and shares it intentionally with the world.
La Soldadera is a storyteller. She is creative. She is intelligent. She is a motivational speaker. She does not need violence; she believes in the power of her words. She is resilient. She is grateful.
The conscious expansion of the Soldadera begins and ends with empowerment. The consistency of young Chicanas to uplift and create positive change should not be met with resistance. We are our mother’s daughters and we will not be intimidated. Our philosophy rests on leadership, cooperation, and humility.
To our brothers and the rest of the world: Tú eres mí otro yo— You are my other me.
Check out more Hispanic Heritage Month content here!