The Chisme Symposium: What We Don't Talk About


Neomi De Anda

Hello, and welcome to the chisme symposium. This is a great opportunity that we're coming together to talk about nothing other than chisme, maybe share a little bit of chisme. My name is Neomi De Anda. I’m an associate professor at the University of Dayton. I am in the Religious Studies Department, as well as teach in the Race and Ethnic Studies program, particularly in the Latinx and Latin American Studies minor hopefully soon to be major. Today, we are here again to talk about chisme in one of two conversations we will be having on this topic. Today's conversation is focused on a little song that we don't talk about and I checked about the copyright infringement, so we can't play any portion of the song with a name that we can reference that we can talk about it. But I was hoping we could play a tiny clip but that's not the case. So if you have not heard about Bruno, then I recommend going to find it in Disney's Encanto. We don't talk about Bruno and we definitely don't play it. So today, we're looking a little bit at what is it about “We don't talk about Bruno” that makes it such a smash hit. It is written by Lin Manuel Miranda. It's a fascinating time because it made the top of the billboard global 200, and this is in its 19th week on the chart. It made the billboard hot 100 number one. It was on number one together and then on the hot 100 it was on for five weeks. It's the first Disney song in 29 years to hit number one A quick Google search for the song yielded about 13 million almost 14 million results in point five, two seconds.

So why is it that “We don't talk about Bruno” is so often heard and so often discussed. There's so many articles. Actually this conversation came from an article that Patrick Reyes posted on social media and began a small discussion there. So is it the suave salsa/chacha beat? Is it the characters voices? Is it the children seem to love Encanto? My theory is that it is chisme.

So, In a February 3 2022 Atlantic article titled the biggest reason “We don't talk about Bruno” is a hit Spencer Kornharbor writes. “A message at first listen the meaning of ‘We don't talk about Bruno’ is pretty unclear. The song advances a larger complex plot, by expressing an extremely particularly particular concept, the estranged uncle of supernaturally powerful family used to tell gloomy prophecies.” That turned out to be true, and said family doesn't like to talk about all of that anymore. But within the context of Encanto or with repeated plays of the song the overarching narrative starts to feel simpler. The members of a clan are gossiping about an outcast who is disliked for reasons that the listener begins to suspect are not entirely fair. Some commentators have written about how this concept triggered a strong emotional reaction in them. Bruno could be thought of as a stand in for someone with misunderstood mental health conditions or as someone who just doesn't belong. Many people have experienced group dynamics in which rumor or shaming and silence beat out dialogue and empathy. As much the clockwork catchiness of the song is creating the fascination with it relatable themes about the marginalization and family dynamics, maybe pulling listeners back to the song.” So what is chisme?

I've been talking about chisme since 2008. I happened to actually stumble upon it as I was writing a paper actually on telenovelas in that paper where I watched a couple of different telenovelas Dame Chocolate and Betty la Fea, I realized that the primary conduits for moving the plot was chisme. That was ultimately what created not just the plot twists and turns, but how the main characters move pieces along. So what is it if we look at the historical roots of chisme some people would translate this in English to gossip. We find an interesting array. The actual root for the word chisme is unknown. There's some speculation that things that might come from “chin che”, which is a pair of setting bug putting bunk beds, some people say it may come from schism versus more to enter into discordance or divisions. Definitions for chisme include, “ Noticia falsa o mal comprobada” - so it could be false or bad rumors and significant. That always seems to carry a negative connotation. Yet the history of the word gossip comes from a very different place. The 14th to the 18th century texts that include the word gossip use it to mean in godparent. From the 14th too late 19th century, a gossip could also be one of a number of women invited to be present at the birth of a child. Gossip as one mostly a woman who engages in idle talk can be found in documents from the 16th to 19 century and gossip can also be a primary means of building and sustaining communities. Community cannot emerge without intimacy. Gossip enables people to explore the lives of others shared intimacy leads to bonding not only by linking us in the life of the one who is being gossiped about. There are just many, many things going on with gossip. However, I like word chisme. I was raised with that word and like a recent Latino USA podcast mentioned, they also prefer chisme over gossip. It just seems and familial and familiar close to our hearts. It seems, for many Latinos/Latinas/LatinoXas/Latinx, whatever your word choice is. Chisme seems to be something that brings us all together. There is merchandise. I'm not selling this T shirt behind me, but a friend of mine actually sent me this when she read something I wrote. It's just something that seems to have some sort of cultural coming togetherness, it brings us all together.

So what do I think about chisme? First, I think chisme shows human finitude it often includes how one person has fallen short or what we believe is necessary to live one's best life. It allows us to understand ourselves better because it compels us to be self-reflective. Chisme upsets the daily rhythms of life it's usually based upon questionable behavior. It can be an interpretive tool that forces us to reexamine ourselves within our normative contexts. Some say that we are always discerning what God asks of our lives and chisme makes us engaged and interpret our moral behavior. That was actually an insight that came from Gilberto Cavazos-Gonzalez. Third, chisme provides a way for us to express in daily life that we are humans filled with contradictions. Chisme allows us to check our experience against those of others and functions as a language of the people. Finally chisme involves both intimacy and vulnerability. We share chisme with people we trust and with whom we wish to build closer relationships.

So, because, as I said, this conversation started on social media because of an article that was posted by Patrick Reyes, we are here to have this great conversation, as a follow up to that and, hopefully, as a beginning to many other ongoing conversations. Today we have with us again that Edwin David Aponte, who is currently the executive director little Institute and starting June 1, 2022, he will be Dean of the Theological School of Drew University. Aponte holds degrees from Gordon College, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and Temple University where he received both an M.A. and Ph.D. As a cultural historian, Aponte explores faith spirituality and culture, especially the intersections of race, ethnicity and religion, congregational studies, and religion and politics. His writings include ¡Santo! Varieties of Latino/a Spirituality by Orbis Books 2012, and He is co-editor of the Handbook of Latino Theologies by Chalice Press and co-author of Introducing Latinx Theology with Miguel De La Torre, also from OrbisBbooks. Patrick Reyes is the author of two award winning books, The Purpose Gap: Empowering Communities and Nobody Cries When We Die: God Community and Survival to Adulthood; he is the host of the “Sound of the Genuine” podcast. He is a Chicano educator, administrator and institutional strategist. He is the Senior Director of Learning Design at the Forum for Theological Exploration. He's the President Elect of the Religious Education Association. He serves on several boards in higher education and in the nonprofit sector, supporting the next generation of Black, Indigenous and Latinx/Chicanx leaders. I will let them each speak for about seven to teni minutes, and then we will continue with a conversation.

Edwin Aponte

Thank you, Dr. De Anda. It's great to be here with you and Dr. Reyes to talk about Bruno. I want to reinforce the invitation from Dr. De Anda that separate from this podcast you must view this this song and the performance of “We don't talk about Bruno” separately and then bring it together with our conversation here, because that certainly is, in my mind, as I reflect about this. One of the reasons why I resonated with the song when I first heard it and saw it. It got me thinking about the lived experience that I have as a religious studies scholar as a ordained clergy person and the work that I do with grantees and the world of philanthropy, work I do in graduate theological education, the work I do in local congregations about what is really going on and everyday life. This song in it's few minutes captures one dimension of this and the chisme that's there and the irony that's there in the performance alright. The song, “We don't talk about Bruno” and the entire song are the characters talking about Bruno.

The talking of Bruno and the song takes elements of their own experience of Bruno, either directly or indirectly. And they tie it to their own life experience and ascribe things that happened in their own lives, and I think rightly unfairly on Bruno. So, Bruno becomes a foil to explain something that has happened in their lives, that has nothing to do actually with Bruno and so that's part of lived experience right lived religion alive everyday. People taking what they are experiencing and making connections with the wider world. I'm also fascinated with Bruno. The song Bruno and the performance there as I learned more about how it was created, as was mentioned the great Lin Manuel Miranda wrote the song and in a “New York Times” article from January 13, 2022, there's some description that the two directors Derek Bush and Byron Hall and co director Sherice Castro Smith and Tom McDonnell they talked with Miranda in a brainstorming session they were doing and, of course, in a remote digital way like we all were doing during the height of the pandemic, and let me just quote for a minute here is that we could see Lin thinking and he looked at us and said it feels like a spooky ghost story like a spooky montoño. And then they saw Miranda compose drawing on this Cuban musical pattern. And create it the song itself, the other dimension about “We don't talk about Bruno” is how it draws on montoño, a syncopated piano rhythm that draws on traditional Cuban music, which is all actually of course you can use it as Afro Cuban music right and that brings the African rhythms and themes forward, and it also because the film the story is set in in Columbia that draws on Cumbia and then also there are elements of salsa and rhumba. In “We don't talk about Bruno” we see the kind of mixing that is also characteristic of the Latino/Latinx/Latina/Latine as we describe it realities here in the United States, so the chisme that we live into is also a mix of all these different things.

The other reason that got me thinking using this “We don't talk about Bruno” as a springboard is something I had been thinking about for a long time in my work as a religious studies scholar. And my colleague Miguel De La Torre, my occasional writing partner, regularly says to me, we will be at a professional gathering something happens often, the two of us are sitting in the back of the room, so we could whisper to each other and exchange looks.

We're doing the chisme with each other and then, when we leave the meeting reflecting on what had just happened. Dr. De La Torre will say to me, you have to write the book, because you know all the back stories. And when I heard “We don't talk about Bruno” that got me thinking about the development of what we often is called Hispanic/Latino/Latinx Theologies in the United States. And there's one dimension of it that gets published; that gets printed in our books our journal articles. But, then there are other things; there are the back stories. Some of it that is great, and really, really gives us a better understanding of what publish and then there are the stories that we don't tell that still had a role in the production of that scholarship. And what Dr. De La Torre wants me to do is to tell those stories that we don't tell. And I know those stories and I for myself I've been noticing them over the years, so I don't forget. But I'm not sure I want to tell those stories out in the open. And that I think is a dimension of chisme for us to also explore: what are the things that we intentionally share, not just with a small group or one or two? But with the larger audiences but also what are the things that we very intentionally are never going to bring out in the open, and yet they still exist and they still have influence and what we say and do?

So there are many dimensions of chisme, I think, for us, just in terms of everyday in a personal relations in terms of communal relations and also the impact that it has in the development of religious and theological scholarship so I'll just stop right there and look forward to our conversation with each other.

Patrick Reyes

I appreciate that so much, I mean I got little kids at home, so this has been playing on repeat. My kids are nine and five, and you know we can go through about singing in replacing Bruno with just about everyone's name and the family, which I think is pretty much the point of chisme and of this song. You know I'm thinking of the first time we watched the movie through and there's a beautiful moment where you know, things are happening like facts it rained, but when the when the priest takes you know takes off his hair said he was going to go bald you know my kids both yell not like you know, like you went bald. It's you on the on the movie.

You know the gut thing same thing; I mean it was just it was so wonderful and so joyful at the same time. It hides a lot of trauma. Which I think is kind of how I grew up like this is us talking about family members. Someone we all love very dearly and it's not really a question of what happened in the family. It's really a question of what the impact of these various things were happening, and someone who just in Bruno’s case in the movie was just naming these things are happening. It's not like well you know, the chances are good, that they will happen either way you know my family all the men in my family are bald so it's like that would have happened all of us. Bruno could have said that about everyone. So there's just there's a piece of this to me that was so joyful even in the way this trauma just to see this represent, because I remember sitting at my grandmother's table and my titi or my cousins come through and we started talking about the person who wasn't in the room, and it was always. It was never really a question of like a specific event or what, of course, that happened.

But it was also the how you know what was the impact, you know what was going on their psychology which none of us actually know. Why they do the things they do or why they say the things they do, but we would start making up reasons I think that's really where chisme. I love the word where it's kind of its beyond gossip. Gossip to me just feels like something that doesn't really fit the love and care that comes from the questions or the concern or the community member. We're not trying to push someone out and again what I love about Bruno in this song you don't you don't really hear from the grandmother in the song, but you do see her at the end with Bruno and all they wanted was Bruno to be a part of the family.

At the end of the day, like you've been hiding in the walls, we wanted to see you and you actually you can stop apologizing because we just we're glad you're here. And I think about the way that chisme at least operates in my family that's really what it's about I mean there are crazies in the Reyes, the contest family We're nuts. We know we're nuts. You know got all kinds of problems that we can control and some that we can’t, addictions. You know, mental health stuff we can't control that is literally stuff that we're working through but chisme at least as a way of us kind of naming and bring it forward as a real concern. We love this person that's why we don't talk about them is because we love them so much. That everything kind of revolves around them because they're not in the room, and we want them to be desperately we want them desperately to be in this room, because we love them so so much what I also love, let me just add this about the Bruno song is this, this is the beat the rhythm in the Disney world which I have to swim in because my kids are of that age. It was so good to see music Afro Latino beat dropped in a song. It was not even the one that the Disney had put up as their main hit. This is a sleeper hit they wanted. You know the song that really appeared at the end that was performed at the at all the award shows that they really want that to be their primary song, the one about the two butterflies. I mean it's very beautiful, it's a gorgeous song. But this took over. This is a sleeper hit.

And you've put it, in contrast to what my kids have to watch in the white storytelling world “Let It Go.” Man that song has not died in decade, I really wish it would like these are songs that are just not empowering to our people not reflective of what how our families operate it's really is a communal story. She's going to try to learn about this person who she's never known and has never understood that's what my kids are going to do with that my brothers and sister like they're going to ask other people about who is this person who is this Bruno in my case, you know. Tell me about uncle Kevin tell me about uncle Jason, Cain, Katia, like we want to know who these people are. My kids are going to ask those questions they're going to go to other people ask them and they're going to try to have to piece together this that's such a better version of a you're part of this family.

Now you know FTE the work that I do is really about vocation about people's life's journey about meaning and purpose that's how we construct our stories is in community with our people. It's not about creating the structure where you're saying and let it go and you know it's all about you and you're in the center and doing all those cool moves that she does this is. What I loved about Bruno, is it really put the emphasis back, at least for me, and in my Xicano upbringing, which is on the family, for those who are in the room, and who are not in the room that we really want to be in the room and I think that you know that there's a there's an upside shiny side that chisme is really about that. It's about singing people back into the room and everyone sharing their connections with them good and mostly bad because that's what that's what travels those are the good stories right. So yeah I'm grateful for this conversation.

Neomi De Anda

Yeah in better cases I think it's also with people that laugh at ourselves and learn more about ourselves, and how our family sees us or how others who love us. With theological education, I think it's really also interesting to think about how we educate in our communities so and our Latinx/Latine/LatinoXa/Latin@/Latino communities. We do educate in these communal models and try to connect each other, but it is funny to me now being I guess a middle aged scholar I don't even know I don't want to say older scholar, but I think I'm starting to get there very quickly. Like the last 20 years went too fast, but being definitely an older middle aged scholar that the young scholars go from person to person to see what they can learn about each person, but also what they can learn about the other people in the Community and to test the waters and create various narrative so I don't think it's just about children, actual biological children, but kind of communal generational creation and that we do that as scholars as well in our Community here in the USA and come together through a very through various organizations and through kind of informal settings as well, so I think that's great.

Edwin Aponte

Well, certainly, I want to follow up on what you said about this communal scholarship. As I’ve come to the end of my time of service at Louisville Institute and reflecting on that part of what I brought very intentionally was to try to have the Lousiville Institute adopt a pastoral y teología de conjunto approach and everything in a communal approach and for historically dominant approaches to scholarship and theological education, it is so individualized and what we have found that this emphasis. On communal engagement and communal production and communal and collaborative journeying through as scholars and as teachers, there is a hunger for it, so this is a gift coming out of the Latinx community that others have really resonated with an adopted and that is something that is countercultural.

And so the communal aspect, and I think chisme in the best sense contributes to this communal development and this ongoing communal identity is something that is helpful to have this desire to be attentive to everyone and to take a risk to be in relationship. We at Louisville Institute meet many early career scholars. There is an overwhelming kind of a negative chisme that everyone is out to steal my research and how can. We encourage people to go on and life while not denying the realities and the challenges that one has to face, but one could choose a better way to go forward. That we don't always have to be looking out for someone to steal something from us. So the cultural dimension, I think it's very important. The reality of chisme is that there's a naturalness to it when there is that community that people feel at ease and trusting enough to be able to talk with each other that way. Whether it be standing next to the cooler or the Barbecue or having certain types of beverages at a professional conference, wherever it may take place, but to be able to trust into relationships with each other and talk with each other.

Patrick Reyes

I would add to I mean some of the work that we do at FTE is really about scholars of color. How do we gather scholars of color and I would say, make space for chisme? Like, how do we create the container for us to have the conversations we need to have about everything that's happening to Dr. Aponte’s point what's happening out in the world and to flag hey you don't want to work with that person. It may have just been my experience they could be awful. They can be. But hey just watch out like some of that stuff which I think in other contexts could be considered gossip but for me it's survival like I need to know their insight as a first generation. And for a lot of our folks of color who have, this academy was not built for this is making space for chisme to actually be like sharing those strategy tips around how to survive. Whether they're true or not are helpful just to have the container that makes a space for that I think it's really important to be able to have spaces, to have those conversations and also to say, making the distinction between Chisme and like let's say libel, which I don't think like when I was first time I went out into the South to do my work realizing that southern culture is very different from the culture, I grew up in.

Hey, you know if you're in the circle we're going to talk about we're going to talk about things you know I don't care if you agree with me or not, and then you're going to be invited back next week and we're going to keep talking about things because the circles being created this is who our community is. You don’t share chisme with everyone. You know, I think that there's something there that's really particular to the Academy that's necessary for survival to us that pockets, where we can. Have those pull those conversations science hey I got talking about sounds so like. This is not cool, how do we navigate this or how do we can kind of negotiate these things and share those little stories that shouldn't have happened, you know, like the rain did fall first and the person did go bald, they did grow a gut. You know, like and really try to help and think about that as community. And you know, on the flip side as how do we do what Edwin says also kind of correct what chisme does kind of come cultivate which are some of the more negative things about people and correct some narratives. One of the things I love about my role because I get to work with so many scholars of color is when I hear things.

The Academy is such an anxious place people are trying to perform peer reviews of things. You know success. We got jealousy. I mean it's just it's the perfect individualistic capitalistic thing that we got going on in the Academy. It's just messed up. And one of the things people do tend to do is to project. You know that person shouldn't have gotten it. They should have been working with that mentor. They should have got that publication. Whatever it might be. Or they're not supporting me. And just correcting that in those circles to say like, “Hey, I actually know that person. They're really cool. You should hit them up.” You should call them like that they're not saying anything about you behind your back, so I think that making spaces or zones for chisme, not gossip, but chisme like for us to share the steps tips and strategies to survive this world, I think, is really important.

Neomi De Anda

I think there's two really great points, one about bringing together Dr. Aponte with en conjunto and the whole phrase, pastoral y teología de y en conjunto so that pastoral life, how we care for one another, is what feeds how we grow our logics our theories our wisdom ways and that we do that with one another and for the broader church world society. So I think one that's a major gift of Latino Latina Latine or Latinx theologies is pastoral y teología de y en conjunto. It is something just to keep thinking about when we think about particularly around theological education and the future of what religion and religion scholarship and religion scholars look like. And then, how is it that we create futures? So, I think those are all just exciting things also exciting things to talk about with the two of you, because you two are serious future creators. The other thing that I think is really interesting to connect back with you, Dr. Reyes, is the notion of cultural gaslighting so that many times we're thinking Okay, did I just miss step, like, “Did I spill the tea, as in the chisme? Or did I spill the tea as in I made the misstep.” I actually want to you know or was it that people expected me to serve the tea because I'm the Latina and instead I gave the keynote and then they didn't know what to do. The actual what is going on with within our culture's and with the larger academy and being able to have that community where we can check things and say, “Well, Okay! No, there they were mistreating you or there X, Y or Z.” And then the other piece about blaming the person themselves, so I was recently talking with a new mom who is also a scholar said, “I feel so isolated because I don't want to share anything with anyone anymore, because everybody seems to blame me for everything that goes wrong with the child, everything that goes wrong with my career everything that goes wrong anywhere.

Edwin Aponte

I want to follow up on this idea about these themes that chisme, survival, and gas lighting and processing what's happening. It's something I'm still trying to process is the chisme that I’ve been part of as we've talked about someone who did not check in with a wider community and has experienced difficulty in life. But if they had connected with the chisme the community could have told them, “You know what be careful over there.”

So, it's the kind of communal processing after the fact over someone's misfortune, difficulty in life and how to fold that back in and not to assign or delegate someone to living between the walls of the home, but to bring them back in right. So all right, we all make mistakes in life and we go some places word that they were not helpful or positive. So how can we talk about that with them and help them process it you get what I’m saying, or that there there's a communal processing. Because in one sense, we were observers who, that is, oh no that's bad and if he or she they had asked us, we would have told them. It was too late alright, so what we do on the other side.

Patrick Reyes

Yeah, I think you're right. I mean there's a communal process to this and sharing stories I think what I love about chisme as a thing is it's accessible to everybody. You know the academy where there's barriers of access, you know, and then we put them all in there for to try to you know, imagine that we're in some sort of meritocracy which is just not true it's a you know it's a it's a messed up system and the way it is. And chisme allows us, I think, to kind of democratize that and say hey we want to give you some of the skills, tips, strategies to make it through. And I think when you're absolutely right, Edwin, there is also this sort of post event moment. Like we don't talk about Bruno song is all of them are reflecting on past events things that have happened. And that they've assigned to this person if they would have if they if he would have said it probably wouldn't happen, it probably would have happened. But, you know, this is one of those things like hey what if we can pay attention to what's happening in the weather? You would have seen the storm clouds are coming. You would have seen everyone else in your family's body was seeing everyone else grew a gut. These are facts of life that you should be fine with. But if you're a part of this community, you would have you would have known and I just I think about the role of Bruno as well. As I think about that line I gave it the beginning around we've put every single family members name in the place of Bruno at some point. There's always all those narratives that come behind when I put it, as you know, one of my brother said put his name in there. There's the stories behind them and to kind of connect to something you said at the very beginning, Edwin, about the stories that you know and potentially publishing. The other thing I really like about chisme I wouldn't want to lose is that it's not for everybody. It's not for the public. It's maybe not for a book or a documentary or for our research.

It's the stories of our community that we know that kind of actually shepherd our lives and tell the narratives of our lives. Like those stories are like talking about a marriage their wedding day. Like these are things that we have stories that maybe aren't for the public knowledge they are just for us. I just love that about chisme as a thing. Like this is for us. Like this is. And, Neomi, what you said. We don't take it that serious. I mean we do. But it's for humor. We laugh, and we cry about it. But, it's for us. And, I think there's something that, especially in the academy and scholars I worked with trying to navigate, what are the things for the Academy. Chisme is for us what things you publish about. You wouldn't publish about everything we talked about in the circle. You wouldn't document it. This is really for us. This is conversation over the water cooler, over a meal in the kitchen. And to build community I really wouldn't want to lose that. I think it's a wonderful thing. And I’m good at it too. Nah, I'm just playing.

Neomi De Anda

So, I think one of the other things I wanted to bring up about Bruno is the notion of prophecy so Patrick you talked about that people should not be surprised that Bruno sees these things or says these things. But they even in the song sees it as prophecy. They name it. That in the word is using the song and so it made me think about what does that mean we're scholars of religion, when we think about prophecy and looking ahead and being able to tell something. Is it about reading what's going on, culturally and because we're trained to be readers of culture that we seem to be able to do that differently, and sometimes people say to me, “How do you see some of these things?” But is it because we seem to have, we need to develop some sort of way of reading dominant cultures or dominating cultures around us to be able to survive and thrive, so I wanted to spend some time talking about prophecy.

Edwin Aponte

Let me start with talking about Bruno as profit in the film. And one of the characteristics of Bruno as profit is that often he does not understand what he's what he sees and is communicating, right. What does that mean for the prophet to have that certain type of insight, but it really is calling on others to understand. And also the dimension of the prophecy - Am I remembering character correctly? Mirabel, right, how it's going to turn out? It depends on that she has agency in what's how it's going to happen and how collectively the family is going to not just be saved, but enter a new dimension of their life together as family and then life with the larger community. So, the prophecy is real but doesn't necessarily mean that from the from the get go, we understand what it's about right it's leaning into what the prophet has shared and certainly many of us have learned how to be cultural observers to be cultural interpreters, to see what is happening. And so part of the work that we do sometimes is as an astute. description of what's going on, right. And, if the people in the village were they to have known that if the rest of many of your family were bald. You were going to be bald. To write that some day all the goldfish are going to die, right. So that's part of it, right. But then there are other dimensions of it that we need to be challenging when the prophecy comes not to default to one particular interpretation and in the story of Encanto I think that's part of what happened with the family right. That they saw only one very negative kind of possible outcome of what the prophecy meant. And then that became the dominating narrative, and so there has to be, and maybe this is something that we do with each other is to challenge each other to say what are the other possible interpretations.

And maybe, those of us who've had the ability to experience the education to learn to be observers and interpreters of different cultures and what's happening in society and within different communities, religious and nonreligious. That we can bring well, it could be that. But, I have a hunch maybe to this as well, so that prophecies not necessarily have one meaning. That there could be multiple meanings.

Patrick Reyes

There's something about just naming the reality like being able to as Edwin said be the keen observer of what's happening and just saying it out loud can be disruptive. This is what these are the social dynamics I’m seeing happening in the room. You just said this and because I called it out. As what the impact of that thing happening, It becomes I'm somehow the problem I'm like, “Look this just went down. We were all here. We all experienced same thing. But, the kind of the social expectations that we would not talk about that we all saw.” It all happened. We want to move on with their lives. Why are you calling attention to…? And I think that's the role, as biblical scholars and religious scholars, I mean this is the role of the prophet. It is to name what the reality is in the light of God's context, you know. Like what's happening in the larger story of the community. And just naming it like y'all are not being faithful. That's the call. I mean there's all the details that come after that but that's traditionally in the prophetic literature that's what it is. And so, for me now really thinking about this role of the prophet is to name the world as it is. And I think about even the not to predicted what will come, I think. Even those predictions let's say you know the weather in the song. You got the weather. You got things are happening people's bodies. Like we could have predicted that everyone's going to die like this is a thing.

The gold fish, the gold fish flipping over like, of course, you know, like these are obvious things they happen to everyone it's going to happen when you think about the image that they give Mirabel and the reflection and seeing the house splits. Any keen observer profit who's watching this movie would see at the very beginning of that movie. And so I think about that role of the Prophet is really the name, the world is and be an observer of what. What's happening in the community social dynamics? And it's less about predicting this is what's going to happen as much as being able to say, ”Wow! Like hey, you know you are both our community builders. I'm talking to great community builders. If you weren't in your roles and in your places, students at U Dayton or the Louisville Institute or you know, in the future and Drew like they're going to be missing something.

It's just saying that you are such powerful relationship builders and holders and the beauty of that and naming that reality that that's going to be huge void. Should you ever leave your positions. And I think that's hard, people are not used to having the world narrated for them to see it as it is because the worlds busy. We want to just move along on our way. We don't want to be told this is how we're showing up. We don't want to be told, because it would force a change of behavior how we might want to show up for our family members in our community members. So, I think the role of profit, as you ask this question is really just to name the world as it is and to see it for what it is to name that truth. And the beautiful thing about we don't talk about Bruno is like the whole family's wrestling. Like yeah that did happen. We would rather blame Bruno than say, “Hey, we should add a backup plan for our wedding if it rained.”

Neomi De Anda

I also thought you're getting married in the church it's right behind us, this is a big deal but yeah that's a whole different thing I also wonder about they're talking they're saying we don't talk about Bruno. They're talking about Bruno. Yet, they don't notice the Bruno has lived in the walls of the house for years. And, it makes me think about what is it that we may actually use as a tool as a scapegoat to blame and then pretend we don't notice it's there simultaneously. You know? Or is that something to talk about. That which goes into it is fascinating to me, and probably that he is hearing them tell these chisme over and over and over throughout all the years because he's having dinner with them every night too. So, at the dinner table what they're not talking about but they're whispering to each other he's probably hearing so it's just it's also a very interesting dynamic in that sense.

Edwin Aponte

Right and one dimension from their perspective of the majority of family Bruno's not there. But, as we know, once we through Mirabelle get behind the walls. We learn that he was always there and he set up his space, so that he could be with them at dinner right. And, the other thing we learn that the family doesn't know yet, is that the issues with the house had been going on for a long time and unknown to them, but Bruno has been patching things together behind the walls right. So, you ask about a scapegoat. You know what, why is it that we need a scapegoat right. I realized there. It's there in the Hebrew Bible right. And we probably don't have time to talk about that. But, what does that do is that trying to lift any kind of responsibility we have of seeing the world as it is and responding - not having to deal with it, by putting it on someone else. That's not fair. That doesn't seem fair. And it doesn't resolve. So, we from our side, the house looks fine and the walls look fine but it's precarious. It's being held together by the one that has been banished; who is no longer visibly there - is still having a role in the life of the community. So, I think this challenges us if we're talking about Bruno. It challenges us what our conceptions of the need and the identity and the reality of who are the scapegoats. Why the practice of scapegoating? Why do we do that?

Patrick Reyes

They put Bruno in the background of basically everything so Bruno's been there. The whole time we haven't seen Bruno. You go online. You can see all the different YouTube videos and all that stuff where in the song they're singing about him he's literally dancing in the background. Which is hilarious to me like to your point at the beginning, Neomi, like when you start talking about someone they're typically there and they'll show up. Like, he's back there celebrating the fact that everyone's talking crap while he's in the background. Like he's like, “I'm in the room. You know. Like okay, I'll do a little shimmy while talking about me.” It's fantastic!

For all the listeners now go back check out Youtube and all the great blogs about this. Where they point out that you know these folks like Bruno are in the background. And sometimes they enjoy it. Like I enjoy it.

Neomi De Anda

I wanted to return back to the patching things together piece and from two different points one in the shifts that we've seen globally of people who lived in the backgrounds - who we now call frontline workers and who many times, no longer want to do these positions. So, we're finding people who don't want to do these jobs. And we relegated them. Society has relegated them or societies. It's a global phenomenon. I want to say it's not just of the US. and I don't say it just happens to Latinx people's. People relegated to the background to be able to say our world is beautiful. It's perfect. It looks so nice and clean. And, there are no there's no cracks in my house.

So, that's one piece about how the COVID 19 pandemic has made us look at who are those people who hold our societies together. And that it's also seemed to be empowering and adding some agency for people who are saying, “I will no longer do this the way that you have been expecting or have been enjoying for me to do.” So, that's one piece. And then I wanted to come back to something you mentioned at the beginning Patrick about trauma. A lot of people that I saw talking about this movie and even about Bruno were talking about trauma and familial trauma. And so I don't know if that's a topic we wanted to revisit or if that's just too traumatic and we want to keep it light, so we can do that in another way in another day.

Edwin Aponte

Your questions, particularly related to the reality of what we experience through this pandemic made me think of my elder sister. Zaneida is a nurse she's an RN. And so nurses already are frontline. But, if there's a way to describe it, they became even more frontline and just the horrific stories, particularly in the early months of what she experienced and the triple masking and the plastic mask and everything and what she needed to do each night after a 12-hour shift. And then wash everything. In a few hours she was going to be back in the hospital. And what happened to her once she was eligible to be to retire, that was it. Before the pandemic she had been talking about, “You know I enjoy my work being a nurse and everything.” And then, but because of the overwhelming burden of it, Zeneyda, one of the frontline workers and for many people, nurses, are in the background right until you need them right. She was just overwhelmed and exhausted, and when she could tap out, she was out.

Even though we talked about the essential workers as a larger society, I don't know. If we have sustained memories about what those people have done for us and the risk they took for the larger society and as different states. get rid of mass mandates and other things, all the things that we said we would do. And, we would never forget our frontline workers. And, we would applaud the medical professionals every night at 7pm, right. Oh, that's gone right. And, and what about the talk about providing our essential workers with the living wage. If that ever got any traction that also has seemed to dissipate as well. There's a situational aspect to this that those who are on the front lines that help hold things together for the larger community. We have amnesia about them. So what does it do for us to try to remember in a positive way.

It makes me wonder if not talking about Bruno is a deliberate decision not to talk about things that we ought to talk about, not just about individuals but larger systemic injustices, that we ought to give attention to. And, of course, there is traumatic effect that, like that I'm not a licensed therapist in anyway. I'm just a younger brother. But, talking to Zenayda, I think she was profoundly affected by the pandemic in ways that her years of being a nurse and with the dying that the pandemic had an impact on her that nothing else beforehand and other than occasional talking with us in the family, who is she talking with to process all that? Who are the other persons who have been essential workers and then frontline? How are they processing that?

Patrick Reyes

I mean if you pick up on that, I think these questions are related at least they're related for me and my work. One of the push backs I got in in the pandemic, especially, since we all went virtual. I was in my organization is the one the only one with a PhD who's doing the scholarship thing, asking a lot of questions is why would you research this, why would you talk about it, why do you want to make to publish this is Latinos you know across the spectrum, all of us. You know less than you know 4% have PhDs in my community. Less than 2% of her percent have a master's degree in anything and that includes health care and legal services and all that stuff I get super pissed when these questions come up because I'm trying to call to account these things that are happening. And I'm thinking about frontline workers like being able to name and take up space in these.

In the Academy, or even in my own institution to say like, “Y'all are trying to talk about things in a really abstract way. In 2020, when the fires were raging in California, you know, less than a mile from the packing plant that my dad was working at where he's trying to put food because my entire team and myself included were ordering food delivered to our houses. He's going into check in with his people to make sure in a global pandemic. When there's fires going around he's going to work 10 to 12 hours a day, to make sure I can order food from an APP.”

That's stupid! Like that's just idiotic to me! Like, I don't know that it doesn't make any sense for me so as someone who comes out of a community that has you know, been so marginalized so ignored if the central valley in California became its own safety. In the course of the nation, like we have been erased from the record, and this is a tough conversation to have across races that were also being affected by deep trauma - across genders, people who are feeling like there's a legitimate concern of the glass ceiling. Yeah I'm here! Why I'm here! I'm here for that. I'm here for this, and let me tell you about my dad my family are still going to work there's a fire right now.

I'm not trying to take up too much space. I'm trying to say all of these things are important. We need to be able to coalesce around these issues. Frontline workers, like Edwin said, where did that go? Where did, you know, raising the minimum wage go? Like these are things that we need to be talking about and not see them as competing or a race to the bottom. And so, for me, this now, this question around what we don't talk about is we don't talk about those people who we have literally tried to invisabilize those folks who are working in the fields, which is my first community. Latinos/Chicanos/Mexican Americans who are in the fields in the central valley in California, who are going to work to make sure we got food on our table. We do everything we can to not know their lives, this society has done everything across all spectrums all people to erase them so that way I can get my food and not have to think about how or where it came from. It blows my mind as people who have to eat three meals, a day at least you know, like it's just. This is violence, and I think about the connection and trauma those folks who are in the fields are deeply traumatized by what's happening in the world, deeply traumatized by the work. The oppression, the folks who are working in Watsonville, California experiencing when they go and pick these strawberries, is that we don't talk about Bruno we want to have our good wedding. We want to, we want to have a goldfish that lives forever. Let's just replace the goldfish and throw the other one away and not actually think about what's happening in the world. And in order for us to do that, we have to try to find ways to re-story our traumas.

Neomi De Anda

My wedding was ruined because of the rain, not that Oh, I could have pitched my own tent or maybe different plans. So yeah so again, thank you both though for those incredibly rich stories that are very both very personal, but I do think that the telling of the stories that are concrete are among the most important pieces of what we need to be doing to humanize all of these pieces we don't talk about. To bring it to systemic levels that we don't talk about Bruno and chisme is something that's fun for doing personally and in our families and changing out those names and building intimacy. Dr. Reyes and Dr. Aponte, do either of you have some last thoughts?

Edwin Aponte

I think that with chisme, to just remind ourselves to be open to the broadness of the definition and of it's all, right. And when we connected with the English gossip but to remember the history of gossip and the connection of God parenting so in In what sense, do we have a God parenting role as we engage chisme in a positive sense and ah, I get, particularly in fairy tales there's the imagery of the evil godparents I'm not thinking about that, but I'm thinking of the godparent who it really is loving and who is thinking of their Godchildren and wants the best for them, and so, to give ourselves permission to not be ashamed about chisme, but also to be open to the possibilities of the good that can come out of our engagement with it.

Patrick Reyes.

Yeah for me is just the recognition of life is messy. I don't know why we try to clean it up so much and that chisme just for me, a part of it. And, I think if people are participating in it, if you're going to get into it get into it, but get into in a loving way like and if they're talking about you, if you're Bruno, you know, take a little advice from Bruno like hey watch the what they did with him in the background, he is literally dancing hanging out and he's having a good time. I know he was pretty sad when he was in the walls, but there is something about this, like hold it with the lightness. Chisme about community. It's about the people who are actually involved in that and wanting to keep people in the community and re-member them.

Neomi De Anda

Thank you both for participating in our Chisme Symposium. We're so excited to be able to do this, out of the University of Dayton and hope this is just the beginning of a conversation, and we can continue to move forward.