The Other F-Words: Feminism and Femininity

Maria Elena Fernandez reveals her inner Cha Cha at Highways

By Carla Sameth
Published on LatinoLA: April 4, 2003

The Other F-Words: Feminism and Femininity

After debuting her first solo show in Los Angeles to sold-out audience two years ago, local performance artist Mar?a Elena Fernandez brings "Confessions of a Cha Cha Feminist" back home after garnering sold-out audiences and wide media attention in Albuquerque, Denver, San Jose and Berkeley. "Confessions..." chronicles her poignant and hilarious rebellion against her traditional Mexican upbringing, armed with feminist theory and, ironically enough, the hyper-feminine aesthetic of the cha chas she grew up with: those L.A. disco girls known for their big hair, red lips and spiked heels.

"?Cierra las piernas! (Close your legs!) ?Qu? va decir la gente? (What are people going to say?)" With these constant admonitions and an ever-present brother to chaperone her, her parents attempt to mold her into the perfect Mexican immigrant daughter. But Fernandez uses her smart girl status to elude her parents' iron grasp and flees across the country to attend Yale University. In the classroom she discovers feminism, the dagger she wields to slay the double standards she was raised with.

But all she ever wanted to be since she was a nerdy Catholic school girl was a cha cha, one of those hot, glamorous 80s L.A. Latina disco girls who flaunted hair, lips and hips. How will she ever reconcile her feminist fervor with her obsession with shaving, waxing, tweezing and bleaching?

From Catholic school girl to cha cha feminist, Fernandez tells a rousing story about forging your own path on the treacherous and exhilarating road to womanhood. In an unusual direct plea to a performer from a reviewer, Ann Ryan of the Albuquerque Journal closed her review with "Confessions of a Cha Cha Feminist is enormous fun . . . Please, Ms. Fernandez, bring it back."

"It's been really exciting to perform in different cities telling my story and find out how many people -- women in particular -- completely relate to it. But I'm especially happy to bring it back home to the audiences that first nurtured it. It's really a homecoming for me," says Fernandez

In this, her first solo performance, Fernandez has emerged as captivating an entertainer as she is insightful a social critic, bold enough to embrace both "F-words: feminism and femininity." Fernandez is also a professor of Chicana/o literature at Cal State Northridge and a writer who uses poetry, first person essay and performance to excavate through Latino culture, especially Latina womanhood. She has published in the LA Weekly, LA Times, Latina Magazine and the anthology Urban Latino Cultures.

Fri. & Sat.: April 11 & 12, 18 & 19, 8:30pm

4/11 reception, 4/12 cha cha party

Highways Performance Space

$15, $13 students

310-315-1459 for reservations

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