Chism isn’t just salon chair gossip. It is an act of solidarity.

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I grew up in South Florida, where the lush palm trees are almost as vibrant as the immigrant communities that have planted them. Long considered a Latino oasis since the early 1960s, Miami has become a haven for political refugees and those seeking a better life. The town is filled with small cups of Cuban coffee, garage hairdressers, and butter cake tins (usually filled with sewing supplies). My family’s suburb has the majority of Venezuelans living outside the country, and it’s one of the few places cable providers only serve Spanish-language TV stations, one of which was the highlight of early daytime talk shows: El Gordo and La Flaca.

Every afternoon when I got home from elementary school, my mom and grandmother would play it in the background while they cooked for the day. It’s related to live with Kelly and Ryan, although more focused in delivery. Nestled between the discourse on politics and world affairs, questions like “Are they? For real to date?” and “Did you see how her panza in that dress?” were treated with as much journalistic rigor as anything else in the sky. I ate my co-host Lili Estfan’s colorful mini-dresses, subliminal digs, and cunning jokes just as I arroz y caraotas. chism, can be a satisfying meal, as it were, for a little girl who grew up wanting to be a big reporter. It wasn’t just normalized where I came from; it was validated.

chismthe Spanish word for gossip, is a cornerstone in most Latin households. Chismeando is practically a national sport, with unmarried tias usually comes first. Hair salons, domino tables and family cookouts are our safe spaces, and often times, where you’ll find the juiciest bits of information about what’s happening in the community: where to go, who to trust, and most importantly, who not to date.

Being occupied with chism is a natural gut response for the majority of Latinos and Latinas I know. The female urge to open WhatsApp (the messaging platform of choice for abuelitos who genuinely send wrong information) and voice note my friends is stronger than ever when i hear something special that is worth it. Throughout college Dominican friend and I drank coffee before class once a week and spilled the best chism personal. Usually bombshells came at the beginning, flying out of our mouths so quickly to be greeted only with wide eyes and a simple “Girl …”. Does that make me a bad person? Perhaps, if you understand the nuances of chism within Latin communities. As the saying from YouTuber Antonio Garzia, I didn’t ask to be born Latina. No más tuve suerte.

Unlike the American gossip culture that is determined to talk nonsense about those who have wronged you with a viciously sharp tongue, chism is never so serious. You’re more likely to find little old ladies talking about alimony payments or a cousin who has mysteriously died rather than tearing someone down because of the way they look just out of boredom. You don’t have to look far to see how celebrity gossip magazines and blogger websites have personified American gossip into one big, bad, money-hungry machine. On the other hand, chismexplains Mario Abad, is embedded in who Latinos are.

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“It’s never really dark, we always have a good laugh. Honestly, it’s not even considered gossip. It’s just the way we talk, “Abad, the fashion editor at Paper Magazine and self-proclaimed chismos, say. Some of his followers, many of whom act as some of the top gatekeepers in the editorial world, are anonymous sources in publicly posted direct messages serving to enlighten an already bustling online fashion community.

“My social media is an extension of what I already do, which is talk to my friends in the DMs and texts, but I also like to share it with other people,” he explains. “So, if that makes me… chismoso, I embrace it.” A swipe through his Instagram story will explain it all — blind-item worthy news and front-row gossip have given the editor the clout he has as a go-to resource. At the end of our interview I cut out the recording and the chism session started just as natural additions to our conversation. Once our mouths opened, there was no chance we’d let the good gossip go to waste.

Although it’s easy to just write down chism to the simplest definition if you are unfamiliar, it is more than just talking shit to close confidants. Since the beginning of time, chism is a form of oral communication and storytelling. In ancient societies in Latin America, indigenous peoples gathered to share information about what was happening within their communities. leyendas, epic legends and tales of gods and spirits, were traded alongside coffee beans and cocoa beans as a careful warning about what could happen if you didn’t respect your ancestors. Years later, chism since oral tradition still serves as a warning – instead of your crops burning down because you haven’t prayed enough, it’s your only child that doesn’t end up in the best and brightest academic program.

“It’s the way we communicate in a variety of settings, from church to school, to our work environments and during coffee breaks,” said Magdalena Mieri, director of Latino Programming and History at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. “Women like to chat and chismeando when a new person comes into town or a new neighbor. It builds community and trust.”

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Women are notorious for chism, and the long line of loose-lipped Latinas that come before me are proof of that. It’s practically in our blood, tying shared secrets and tidbits of information that will make you raise your eyebrows and purse your lips. All that matters is that you have something to say back.

chism is helped by strength,” explains Mieri. “I have this information I want to share with you, but maybe you have another one chism you can share it with me.” The sentiment rings true: To stay in the favor of the gossip gods, the law of equal exchange usually takes place. When this writer slyly tells you about someone canceling a wedding because they found out their partner was cheating on them with their cousin, she expects something even juicier in return. (True story.)

While chism has come a long way from educating women in ancient civilizations of impending danger, it is still a necessary way of life for Latina women in predominantly white spaces. When Julliana Hernandez, a content creator and stylist from Puerto Rico, did a two-year exchange program at a predominantly white school in southern Alabama, chism wasn’t just entertainment. It’s a way to survive.

“I would try tobemear with the only other Latina person around me, and she would clearly understand what I was talking about, but the other people around us said, ‘Oh, are you talking about Sofia Vergara?’ because we spoke in Spanish,” she explains. “[Americans] either they didn’t get it at all, or they just made it very toxic.”

The toxicity Hernandez refers to is the brazen, unfiltered way she believes gringos (or, non-Latinos) gossip. In her experience, it’s a bit more personal, with painful insults thrown around in the blink of an eye — most of that delivered by the people who spouted Hernandez’s gossip because they were considered sinful in the first place. It’s yet another reminder of how gossip culture in America has been the subject of ridicule, rather than opposition, in the Biblical Deep South. In Puerto Rico, however, the backs of small, white-painted church buildings after Mass were where the little girls exchanged chism like candies growing up.

Hernandez’s experience is not a one-off: Time and again, the “spicy Latina” trope has been used to objectify and vilify women who love a good chism here and there. While a loud mouth is certainly not something to brag about in any culture, more and more young Latinos are giving in to their entrenched urge to talk shit. In full transparency, I’m one of them – and so is TikTok creator, Jesus Acevedo, who made his living owning the label: “It’s like, Princess Diaries, but make it Spanish and low-income” he joked.

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Acevedo, a 22-year-old Mexican-American who grew up in the torrid San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, has devoted a text thread to it called “chismosas” with flaming heart emojis. It’s a group chat with his other Mexican friend and a gringa friend. At this point Acevado has perfected the cardinal rule of chismeando: making sure you get the best information by appearing as humble as possible.

“When I found out through chism that my uncle was going to jail, they didn’t necessarily tell me, I just found out because I was there,” he says. ‘That’s my greatest hidden talent -*yo me hago pendejo-*and I use it to my advantage. People just spill everything.”

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If you like the comments section in any of his videos about chismeando, you will probably find hundreds of people who agree with him. He affectionately calls them comrades-a regional slang term for friends and people you are connected to through religion. Most of its content comes from a hyper-niche consciousness that comes with being part of the large-scale diaspora. It’s not necessarily for everyone – and certainly not for those who brag chism to something frivolous like gossip. Over the last few months, he’s been getting more and more positive response to his content, with most of his followers confirming that they too can’t shut up, no matter how hard they try.

“Everyone just validates cbemeando as an art form. You can all say you don’t, pero we are all a little chismos inside, whether you like it or not,” Acevedo says. “People look down on chismososbut you all live for it too, don’t play.”

So, next time, when you’re composing that snarky, obscure text of information you’ve heard about so-and-so, think for a moment: Would my ancestors who escaped political turmoil, colonization, and religious persecution be proud? By all accounts, they would be standing there, holding their breath, to see what hot gossip is coming out of your mouth right now.

Ana Escalante is the editorial assistant of Glamour. You can follow her on Instagram @balencianas.

The post Chisme isn’t just salon chair gossip. It is an act of solidarity. appeared first on Glamor.

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