Pixar’s ‘Luca’ Helped Me Prioritize My Mental Health


If you haven’t seen Pixar’s Luca, get your bucket list ready. You’re going to want to book a trip to Italy or at the very least, end up craving pasta for weeks. Personally, I’m looking into getting a Vespa. 

In Luca, a sea monster turns real boy when he touches the surface—think The Little Mermaid without the contract. Curious about life on land, Luca meets Alberto, a sea monster boy like him who explores the coast regularly. Alberto is braver than Luca, having the spontaneous confidence of an Aries. After deciding to venture closer to town, they make friends with a human and become obsessed with winning the town’s summer race so they can use the prize money to buy a Vespa. 

Luca is a buddy story with life lessons, funny characters, a tested friendship, and a sweet ending. The first time I watched this new Pixar movie, I loved the story and the vibrant colors that radiated off-screen. Upon second watch, something else clicked for me. As much as people see me as Alberto (I too am an Aries), for most of my life, I have actually been Luca. The one trying to keep it cool, constantly having to say: Silenzio, Bruno. Which got me thinking… 

Why was Luca the way he was? Why did all that anxiety seem so familiar? 

Pixar & My Mental Health 

Pixar has been trying to get me to prioritize my mental health since 2015 with Inside Out. This was the first time I saw how my mind worked; especially when it came to islands of personality. When you experience trauma at a young age, and all the things you once loved get destroyed (aka your islands of personality), you slowly start to rebuild. Sometimes the construction happens all by yourself. Other times, people enter our lives to add their own islands for us.

When we meet people, like Alberto, who help us get out of our comfort zone, we try new things. Maybe, we make new friends. We start to rebuild our islands of personality. What made Alberto a great friend was how he defined himself in the end. He wants to see Luca happy, even if that means Luca has to leave Alberto behind to start his new journey. 

When you’re battling your self-doubt, I am in favor of using Silenzio Bruno, the phrase Luca and Alberto use to quiet their fears. When someone else is suggesting you use the phrase, be careful they’re not just using it for their benefit. For someone that has suppressed trauma for a long time, Silenzio Bruno can be kind of dangerous. The more I think about it, Silenzio Bruno is actually just a bandaid. A cover-up to try and move through life without actually taking the time to heal your trauma. 

Why Am I Actually Saying: Silenzio, Bruno? 

Watching Luca’s sea monster parents panic, trying to find their child on land made me realize where all of his anxiety came from. In most cases, it comes down to a chain reactor: our parents. But it’s not just our parents; it’s our parents parent’s. To quote Emperor’s New Groove, our tatara tatara Tia’s too. I’m talking about generational trauma. 

Being part of the first generation to talk about mental health within ourselves, and in our families, is no easy task. I sympathize with Luca, relate with him even – therapy and mental health is still a big taboo in our Latinx community. When no one has shown us the way, or even how to justify the cost—that’s a lot of pressure and blind navigation. Especially for Latina first-daughters like me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents. I think they did the best they could coming to this country and building a life for themselves, hoping for a better life for me and my siblings. While we all have our own baggage to carry, it’s ultimately up to us to take the first step towards healing.

A Latina First-Daughter Goes To Therapy 

I recently decided it was finally time for me to try therapy. I’d been debating whether or not it was something for me—I’m the friend and family member people go to when they need advice. I’m constantly trying to find the meaning of things. Trust me, I am the most self-aware person I know. 

The first step was finding a therapist and filling out paperwork. Now, I’ve had my share of doctors. The usual checkboxes of medical histories and current medications. But, this paperwork hit a little different. 

Question #1: How is your relationship with your mother? 

No one’s ever asked me that before… 

Like the sketchy test taker that I am, I skipped to the next question.

Question #2: How is your relationship with your father?

Aye Dios. What was the other question again?

That’s when the doubt started to creep in: 

Am I really doing this? Am I ready for therapy? 

This is what I signed up for, right? Growth? Healing? 

What if it just brings up more trauma? 

Silenzio Bruno!

There’s a joke about who can fix the US—the first daughters of immigrant parents. It’s funny to everyone except first-gen daughters. I mean sure, we can do it. But have you looked at our plates? Or did you want us to serve you too? We’re tired (and hungry!), especially as we navigate the trenches of mental health, carrying years of inherited trauma. 

Don’t Forget About You

Take it from someone who has over-served the people in her life: Don’t forget to make yourself a plate. Don’t starve yourself from healing because you are too busy serving others. It’s okay to talk about your mental health. It’s okay to try therapy. You are not weak or incapable because you decided to prioritize your mental health

So I’m asking, first-daughter to every Latina out there: How are you? Has anyone checked on you lately? Are you doing okay? These are also questions I myself don’t hear often. 

No, but really. Don’t Silenzio Bruno. 

You can venture into a new world, make new friends, and still learn how to take care of yourself—just like Luca.

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