If you don’t know who las chingonas are, you should. They’re badasses.

Or, to reference Urban Dictionary: "Chingonas are the most badass girls in the world. Don't mess with them or they will kick you in the nalgas."

Starting July 30 and lasting through the weekend, the village of El Rito—north of Española—becomes the event horizon for a gathering of chingonas who push against patriarchal society's mainstream assumptions about feminism and social change.

Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (Women Active in Letters and Social Change) centers its work on social change, in particular on the roles of Chicanas and other Latinas in higher education. The organization's annual Summer Institute gathers hundreds of scholars and authors for four days of seminars, lectures and discussions on issues from a Chicana-feminist perspective.

Chicana feminism and scholarship is marked by its own set of unique characteristics that differentiates it from more Anglo-centric modes of feminist thought.

"It really is about decentering not just patriarchy, but decentering what we would consider institutionalized whiteness," said Patricia Trujillo, one of the conference organizers, assistant professor of English at Northern New Mexico College and director of the school's equity and diversity program.

For some people, the thought of organizations and a conference whose themes include racial and gender identity can be uncomfortable and seem exclusive. However, the organization has embraced diversity—including the identities of Afro/Asian Latinas, indigenous women and transgender people—that perhaps might be overshadowed in other forums.

The conference is open to the public and boasts more than 80 sessions the touch upon literature, social justice, history and theories on feminist and queer identities.

The theme of the conference, "Mapping Geographies of Self: Woman as First Environment," prompts its own discussion about the role of environment in shaping Chicana feminism. The environments—rural and urban—people experience along with class also shape their perspective on gender and the role of Chicana feminism.

"Being from Española, people will frame Española, 'It's impoverished, this and that,'" Trujillo says. "It's not impoverished; it's working class. It's a community of working people, and work might look different there. People take initiative and go get wood from the forest that they sell on the side of the road, and the women might make quilts."

Latinas in many ways have outpaced their male counterparts in finding success in education, both in attaining degrees in the United States and in attaining positions as faculty in higher education. A 2013 study by the Center for American Progress notes that Latinas have increased their rates of college education more any other group of women. The reality remains, however, that college graduation rates among Latinas still trail those of other groups, and as a proportion of the population those rates lag behind.

Major Chicana and Native American scholars and authors are set to be a part of the conference including Norma Cantú, author of Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera; Josie Méndez-Negrete, author of Las Hijas de Juan: Daughters Betrayed; Dolores Delgado Bernal, editor of Chicana Feminist Theorizing: Methodologies, Pedagogies, and Practices; Tara Yosso, author of Critical Race Counterstories: Stories from the Chicana/Chicano Educational Pipeline; and Aída Hurtado, author of Voicing Chicana Feminisms.

Mapping Geographies of Self: Woman as First Environment
 Starting noon Wednesday, July 30
through Saturday, Aug. 2,
 $20 per day
Northern New Mexico College,
El Rito