THE CAFECITO DIARIES #1: Cafecito con Chisme

Latinos around the world know that a cafecito (small coffee) always comes with its fair share of chisme. For those who have never heard of the word chisme, it’s something similar to gossip. Culturally, it isn’t as bad or as mean as some Americans perceive the term. I say this because chisme basically surpasses common, American gossip since it is a phenomena of Latino culture. It has its own set of rules on what and how you say every piece of it, but most importantly, it sets no limits as to what can be shared which means you can go full savage (see urban dictionary) mode whenever!

How to chismear:

Let’s say that you and a friend have just pulled up to CHCH and the both of you are sharing a warm mocha latte with extra whipped cream on top. You ask your friend, Mati, to fill you in on some juicy chisme from Patricia’s party (which was last Friday, but since you don’t like Patricia very much, you decide to stay home and watch the novela). Long story short: We don’t like Patricia.

For Latinos, you can engage in two types of chisme with your friend: harmless vs. cruel. It can be harmless for all parties involved, or laced with cruel intentions for the target of your gossip. The first type of chisme can involve something as harmless as grabbing coffee with your friend Mati the morning after a Friday night party in Hollywood, and you had heard John Travolta had showed up at some point.

However, Mati clarified things for you: “Güey, dicen que fue Patricia la que inventó que John Travolta iba a estar en la fiesta” (translated: “Dude, did you hear that Patricia made up this crazy rumor that John Travolta would be at the party?”). With this piece of chisme, you realized that: a) Danny Zuko wasn’t really at the party, and b) Patricia is a freaking liar -- two things you suspected already but now have been confirmed. Harmless, right? Yes! And you can tell right off the bat that this piece of chisme is more of an inside joke between you and your friend, one you both know is not true.

Or, the second option takes a 360 degree turn and makes your chisme-filled conversation go total savage. Let’s say Mati was low-key butthurt (see definition two at urban dictionary) because you didn't go to Patricia’s party with Mati. Taking advantage of the fact that you weren’t there, Mati says to you: “Güey, dicen que John Travolta también estuvo en la fiesta de Patricia.” (translated: “Dude, John Travolta was at Patricia’s party”). Suddenly, your heart drops because you could have met John Travolta, but you missed it because you weren’t at the party. Mati knows how much you love Grease and this is her cruel way of getting back at you. Considering that chisme is practically true until otherwise proven, this is how it can take on the second kind of chisme.

Cafecito AND chisme?

Okay, now that the informal definition of chisme has been established, what is its connection to a cafecito and can anyone just engage in chisme over a cup of coffee? Why Latinos decide to engage in this type of conversation while drinking coffee will be forever a mystery to me-- I truly do not know. The answer to the latter question, however, is a definite ‘yes’!

Whenever I visit my aunts in Tijuana, there is never a Saturday evening when you don’t see them sitting out on the porch of my grandmother’s house, sipping their cups of coffee and running through layers and layers of chisme. There’s one tactic that I have learned from observing them during their various cafecito/chisme sessions. It is so easy to learn -Anybody can imitate it by following these simple directions:

If you are about to share some good chisme OR if you think someone is eavesdropping into your conversation:

  1. Start off by lowering your voice

  2. Bring the cup of coffee up to your mouth in case the sneaky eavesdroppers know how to read lips

  3. Act like you are blowing into the cup

  4. Whisper the spiciest piece of chisme you’ve got while maintaining a straight face. With this tip, any chisme lover is on the path to success.

The only real way to know whether you are a natural chismoso is to grab a friend and a cup of warm coffee and to try this out!

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