How Mi Familia’s Holiday Tradition Prepared Me To Be a Journalist

We were all gathered around in the living room, each of us nestled into our seat on the couches when the name for this activity came about. My immediate family lives in northern New Jersey, close to New York City, while most of my family (on my mother’s side) lives in central Jersey–what we Jersey people call down the shore (DTS). During the holidays we always come together, Thanksgiving is the big kick off for the celebrations of the next month and a half. Being geographically distanced from the larger part of the familia means we are often the last to know what goes on, but thanks to what we coined as “the bochinche couch” we stay pretty up to date with all of the family news.

Let me go on the record by saying The Bochinche Couch is an activity special to my family, and by no means represents the entire Latino community. Translated to English it means The Gossip Couch.  I’ve never publicly shared anything about the bochinche couch yet felt compelled to, in case you’d like a name for the same activity you’ll be partaking in with your family throughout the holiday season, because let’s face it, that’s what families do when they get together, gossip.

The bochinche couch has brought about news of pregnancies, marriages, divorces, health status, new relationships, old relationships, family history, funny scenarios and just about anything else that goes on in every family. In a Puerto Rican family, it’s very hard to maintain fluidity during the bochinche couch sessions. Everyone jumps in with their own bit of news, in hopes of catching the whole group’s attention long enough to finish the story. (You barely ever finish a story on your initial try.) It’s almost like a competition: who has the best piece of news gossip to share. I must admit, it’s made me feel prepared for a career as a journalist.

You see, social media/the internet has not yet taken over good old fashioned family gossip, at least not in my family. There’s no way it could, although sometimes it will drop a tip for a potential story. And you have to pitch the hell out of your story to the family, or they won’t be intrigued enough to ignore everyone else’s pitches and heighten their hearing for yours. And imagine shooting out just straight facts? No one cares for that story. No. Instead it’s the descriptive nature of my stories that get me, or anyone else, air-time during the bochinche couch sessions. You also must have good sources to validate your story, it enhances everyone’s reactions to have supporting evidence. Some take to acting out the news (yes, you get theatre training in our bochinche couch too), while others use content from social media to supplement their story.

So as you go forth to your family gatherings and struggle with the idea of the inevitable gossiping, just know, there’s a Puerto Rican family over here in New Jersey who’s bochinche sessions have actually offered them more than plain gossip. Make it work for you; I’ve made it work for me. It’s less an activity of idle time, it’s more my very own newsroom, it’s mi familia’s bochinche couch.