Kim Guerra’s uplifting and empowering floral prints have probably made their way into your Instagram feed at one point or another. You’ve seen her inspiring verses “pa la raza” around social media and you’ve probably run into her Etsy shop Brown Badass Bonita — where she sells prints and tees with lines like “Mi Cuerpo, Mi Cucu, Mis Reglas.” Now, Guerra is releasing her second book, Mija, imparting knowledge from the perspective of a mother to her beloved daughter, coming out August 28.
“Mija was a letter I wrote mostly for myself. I wanted to tell myself the things I needed to hear as a little girl,” Guerra tells HipLatina. “I needed these words even as an adult. I wanted to have a message I could pass on to future ‘mijas’ in my life. Perhaps, they need these words too.”
In November of last year, Guerra released Mariposa, which celebrated and explored the complexities of being a Latinx woman. It was during that book tour that she began speaking with women about the messages they wanted to pass on to future generations of women. She drew inspiration from those sentiments as she developed this ode to daughters spread out in 122 pages.
“I knew this was vaporu for our ‘mija’ souls that we were making together,” the 27-year-old Los Angeles native said.
Her latest poetry collection starts off with a maternal voice letting her daughter know the extent of her love, imparting life lessons and values like the importance of being kind, brave, and loving and being proud of your Latinidad.
“We are seeds,/ nopales,/ mariposas./somo/ valientes/ y resistentes,” she writes in Mija.
Intentionally written in Spanglish because it’s the “language we heard from the womb and the one taught in schools, it is all here and there and in-betweens,” the amalgamation of bifurcated cultural identities united in a language that’s native for first and second-generation Latinxs.
While each verse carries a message, the overarching sentiment is unfaltering — be strong, fierce, resilient, and a proud Latina.
Generational trauma and resilience also permeate the poems, painting a picture of strength cultivated over time which, for Guerra, allows women to rise and reclaim their inner and outer reina.
“Honor your roots, mija./They connect you to your ancestors./They nourish you, so you can bloom,” she writes in another poem. The poetry collection is an ode to her ancestors but as much as it’s a remembrance of the past, it’s also a contemporary reflection of the values that Latinas growing up now can relate to.
In one passage, Guerra writes that women have to “hold men accountable,” a very modern declaration in the face of a culture that’s historically dealt with rampant machismo. This also comes during a time where movements like #MeToo and Times Up remind both men and women that we have no tolerance for sexual violence or harassment.
“We have to hold men accountable because their papis and mamis didn’t. Men are enabled and entitled. Our culture teaches them to get away with toxic behavior and teaches women to forgive and put up with this behavior,” Guerra explains. “It’s important to remind mujeres that their lives are just as important and that we have the power to teach men how we deserve to be treated. We change entire cultural and familial systems when we hold men accountable and demand changed behavior.”
In this way, Mija marries the past with the present to inform future generations of Latinas to own their power. Beyond her emboldened take-down of machista culture, Guerra also addresses the importance of being politically active.
During a time when immigrants and other communities of color face racism and mistreatment on a daily, it feels especially timely. “I believe all generations need to be politically informed and involved. No one is apolitical,” Guerra said. “We need to realize our vote has the power to change this nation because our voice and presence only grows stronger. We need to breakdown the old systems and build longer tables.”
In the book, she also touches on the fact that sometimes rules need to be broken in order to make new ones that aren’t oppressive or solely catering to rich, white, cis-hetero able-bodied people. Guerra’s words represent the modern iteration of a Latina, shunning the idea of “calladita te ves más bonita.” She believes this is one of the biggest lies Latina women are told, forced to stay quiet even when it meant enduring abuse.
“I want mujeres everywhere to realize: Tus alas, tu poder, tu voz son tuyas y de nadie más. Vuela sin miedo,” she said.
This sentiment is weaved throughout Mija, as Guerra reminds her readers that self-love is integral, something she personally had to learn with time. She recalls challenging herself by asking “How will I love myself today?” and answering that not just with words but with actions. From ending toxic relationships to pursuing her dreams, she believes it was self-love that propelled her to do more and be more. As she writes, “te vez más bonita when you’re loving yourself.”
This fierce agency for Guerra’s life is forged by trauma, a result of having witnessed the sacrifices the women before her made in the name of love. She learned that the only way to have a deep love for others is to love yourself first so as not to lose yourself in your love for another.
“This society doesn’t want brown and black people loving themselves. They’ve taught us to hate ourselves and surrender. When they see black and brown people loving ourselves and celebrating ourselves in all our glory: they become afraid,” she said. “Let’s make others afraid and uncomfortable with how much we love ourselves. This is freedom.”
Guerra — who is Mexican and Salvadoran — knows what it’s like to feel like an outsider. Having attended Cornell University in New York, where Latinx students made up about 13 percent of the undergrad population, the feeling of isolation helped propel her journey in ethnic and cultural identity development by writing “as a way to heal and reclaim [her] story.”
She founded Brown Badass Bonita, based in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, in 2016 and considers it more than a business. She believes it’s a revolution that celebrates Latina women’s identities and stories. “I create products that make me feel like a walking revolution and testify to a mujer loving herself,” she said.
With Mija as the vehicle for this revolution, stylized with her signature colorful and floral designs, she considers it a manual to raising fellow “brown, badass bonitas.” She’s already thinking about a second volume and hopes readers will message her with suggestions, incorporating their voices with hers to better represent the Latinx community.
“I want this to be a living letter that is passed down from this generation to the next and passed back to the women that came before us. We all need these messages. I want this to be something people add to,” Guerro said. “I want it to be something that is constantly growing and evolving cross-culturally and cross-generationally.”
“Mija” will be available in her Etsy shop and on Amazon.