It was a phrase Korina Esther Moreno heard often growing up: “Nadie te va dar un vaso de agua,” the Spanish equivalent to: “No one is going to give you a glass of water.”
The phrase was intended to remind her to always fend for herself, a mindset carried by many immigrant parents whose familiarity with struggle is all too real.
But something about the message just didn’t sit well with Moreno.
“I don’t believe in that,” she said. “I think that we all need to uplift each other so that we can all grow. If I grow, they grow. If they grow, I grow. That’s something that I’ve always believed in.”
Walking her talk, Moreno—a 23-year-old artist who earned her BS in Visual Communications Design at SF State last fall—is curating “Hey Homegirl: It’s Time We Reclaim Our Space,” an all-female multidisciplinary art show meant to lend visibility and representation to female artists, many of whom use their art to tell their own stories. As of press time, Moreno has 12 artists confirmed for the show. And though the show will debut on March 14 at Acción Latina’s Juan R. Fuentes Gallery, the inception for the exhibition began when Moreno was still a student at SF State.
As part of her Senior Design Project class, Moreno had ambitions to expand Chika Xicana—a brand she launched during her sophomore year in college after being exposed to a variety of women-run social media brands that promote healing, body positivity, and empowerment for women.
“I know that when I wear their stuff, I feel empowered,” Moreno said of sporting merchandise from women-owned brands. “And the fact that I’m supporting another woman—and another woman of color—that probably went through the same things that I did, makes me really happy. Maybe I can create something that someone will feel empowered by.”
Yearning to contribute to and be part of that community, Moreno—as part of her senior project—proposed to her professor that she would organize an event to launch her Chika Xicana brand. Moreno’s professor accepted the idea, initially believing that the event would be theoretical and not really happen. But Moreno envisioned the event beyond just some faux assignment.
“If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. ‘De de veras,’” Moreno said.
But there is a deeper motivation for the show as well. Growing up the oldest of three daughters to Mexican parents in the San Diego neighborhood of City Heights, Moreno longed for role models that looked like her.
“I feel like growing up, I didn’t have a lot of representation,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with having white women as representation … but I really wish I was inspired or empowered by people who looked like me. So that’s what I want to do for my sisters. I want to create representation not just for my sisters, but for other young girls.”
As a young woman, Moreno endured abusive relationships and trauma with family and friends. Now, she’s intent on voicing those struggles on her way to empowerment and healing.
“Women in general go through a lot growing up,” she said. “I was going through a lot of struggles, and I was quiet about them. That’s something that I want to do now: Voice who I am and reclaim my space in this world. Because I feel that was taken from me when I was growing up.”
The name of the show is also especially significant for Moreno. As part of her research, she scoured Urban Dictionary (the trusted web source for definitions of slang), searching the term “homegirl.”
“Some of their definitions are great… and then it starts to get worse,” Moreno said. “A lot of people have this stereotype of what a ‘homegirl’ is.”
Moreno became incensed upon seeing definitions that used words such as “hoodrat,” or that they’re “supposed” to look a certain way.
“And I was like, ‘Fuck that,’” she said. “That’s not what a homegirl is. A homegirl is someone who’s there for you, someone who has your back. You know, a woman. Who is trying to live her life.”
“Hey Homegirl: It’s Time we Reclaim Our Space,” opens on Saturday, March 14 at 6 p.m. Acción Latina’s Juan R. Fuentes Gallery, 2958 24th St., San Francisco.