From YouTube to Hialeah streets, a new rebellion creates a roar.
In 2007, chongas jiggled their way into American pop culture, when the “Chongalicious” music video hit YouTube.
Inspired by Fergie’s “Fergalicious,” the song drew 4 million hits in two years and made Internet stars of Mimi Davila and Laura DiLorenzo of Aventura.
In the video, they rap about wearing Brazilian jeans, brightly colored pants made of Spandex to accentuate the thighs, hips and behind.
UrbanDictionary.com defines chonga as “a Hispanic girl from Miami, Florida, who expresses a desire or regard as ghetto through her form of dress and speech.”
The chongas have developed a culture of their own by mixing traditional Cuban roots and the urban American lifestyle into one.
Some people, of course, may see that as “inappropriate and trashy.”
Chongas are one more instantly recognizable hybrid of two cultures that are cross-breeding in the favorable climate that the Obama administration is creating by thawing relations between two long-hostile nations.
“A lot of girls who are chongas are less assimilated. These girls have recently arrived from Cuba,” said Myra Mendible, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University who specializes in Latina culture and the Latina body in pop culture.
Other songs about chongas have also entered the mainstream, like “I’m in Love With a Chonga” by The Chongas featuring the Act Up Boys, and “I Love Chongas” by KC Chopz.
“The reason ‘Chongalicious’ is so funny is because it’s true about how chongas dress and look,” said 17-year-old senior and “reformed” chonga Anaily Pedraza from North Miami Beach Senior High School.
“They have lots of lip liner, super long acrylic nails, belts with their names on them, anything super tight, their stomach showing no matter how much muffin top they have, Chinese slippers, fake eyelashes and five billion piercings.”
Even though “the clothes were uncomfortable and stupid,” Pedraza said she became a chonga because everybody else was doing it.
Perhaps, but they definitely intend to send a message.
Chongas “think guys are very visual, so they dress the part to get the attention,” said 18-year-old Lauren Lopez, a Florida International University freshman who grew up in Hialeah.
It may not always be the attention they want.
“It’s not attractive. It’s disoriented,” said Lazaro Vaquez, a Cuban-American 17-year-old senior at Coral Gables High School.
Chongas are not always seen as desirable to their male counterparts, said Vaquez, noting that he has never dated a chonga and doubts he ever will.
Lopez believes some teens become chongas because of the media attention.
“Once the video [‘Chongalicious’] got out, everyone wanted to do it,” she said. “When fashion changes, so does what people think. “
Although some teenagers agree that the media play a role in this phenomenon, others believe that peer pressure drives the look.
Chongas are both trying to fit in and stand out, according to Elena Ruiz, a Latin-American philosophy professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.
“Since South Florida has a large Cuban community, a number of chongas dress the way they do to be distinct,” Ruiz said. “For example, goths wear black to stand out and be different, but in reality they aren’t that unique because there are so many of them.”
Pedraza explains how she thinks it all started.
“I think one girl wanted to wear clothes like a chonga and her friends did and more friends and everyone became one. I guess chongas want to look a certain way but it doesn’t mean they look good.”
Lopez says that while dressing like a chonga may look like a form of rebellion, it’s not an extreme one like vandalism or criminal mischief.
“It’s not like they’re out robbing places,” Lopez said. “It’s just how they dress.”
Ruiz said it’s hard to say whether they’re rebelling.
“I think they’re doing this all semi-unconsciously,” she said. “What’s a 13-year-old rebelling about? They’re ‘supposed’ to be that way, in their opinion.”
By dressing the way they do, they defiantly conform to a stereotype that results in prejudice from people who don’t understand them.
“People love to label others and we like to treat people on the basis of what we see. When we need to understand them, we make up phrases to describe them,” Ruiz said.
Pedraza and Ruiz both think these girls are going through a phase. Ruiz believes that it’s one that will continue to fascinate the nation.
“They’re just trying ‘to be’,” she said. “Just like everyone else.”