Bregar, Leadership, and Social Change

After spending the summer traveling around the state, moonlighting as a ferryboat captain, and hiring 4 full-time/seasonal teachers for the blueberry harvest, I’m finally ready for my favorite season: fall.

In the middle of this, I’ve had time to do some reflecting and after facilitating a leadership development workshop, I got thinking about a word I spent much of Fall 2008 thinking about: bregar (Spanish for “struggle”).  This single verb is so important to Puerto Rican vocabulary that Arcadio Díaz Quiñones has written an entire book about it (El arte de bregar).  Like luchar in Cuba, it’s become a word that can simultaneously mean everything and nothing at all.

Quiñones discusses multiple meanings of the word in his series of essays, but the one I want to focus on here is the third: “una línea de conducta muy práctica que hace posible sobrevivir con cierta dignidad, aun cuando sea simulando teatralmente que se ha resuelto algo” (32).  For those of you out there who don’t speak Spanish, he’s talking about a “practical line of conduct that makes it possible to survive with a certain dignity…”  Using the metaphor of colonization, Quiñones discusses this form of bregar not as “the subversion of the colonial order, but rather its acceptance, but with the condition that this order become more open and incorporate new sectors, promote more social equality, and that the state mediate the social classes” (84).  This Bregar lies in between reflection and action – that is, a form of Paolo Freire’s praxis – which serves to unify theory with the realities of life and the realities of life with the hopes of theory.

To become successful leaders, hay que bregar, you have to struggle.  You have to understand societal norms and follow them (to a point), you have to study things you don’t want to study, and you have to form relationships with people that have power dynamics attached to them.  When it comes time to change the world, we have to decide when to fight and when to conform – understanding that conformity can be subversive.  In this struggle, we’ll have to work past some wrongs in order to work towards the common good.  While we do that however, we can’t forget our values and ideals.  There are some things with which we can’t bregar and that’s one of the difficulties of leadership, deciding when to struggle and when not to; when to bargain and when to hold your ground.  In both cases, we have to have a vision of the future defined not by reality, but by ideals.  That being said, we also have to be prepared to accept reality, to work within the system and in doing so, to work towards that vision we started out with in beginning.

So that’s my two cents for the day.  If you haven’t been to Maine in the fall, now’s the time to come check this state out… soon enough winter will come followed by mud season and eventually this brief and perpetually late season I’ve heard is called spring.  More soon and stay in touch!

Source: Arcadio Díaz Quiñones, El arte de bregar (San Juan: Ediciones Callejon, 2000).  Translations are my own.

One response to “Bregar, Leadership, and Social Change”

  1. Vanessa

    Mil gracias.

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