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Caló: Escamado

Órale, in today's episode we’re going to use the word ‘escamar.’ It means to spook or frighten. It’s not modern Spanish, but it’s rooted in the old Castilian word for spirit, ‘espanto.’ There’s a variation more common to the northern part of the Rio Grande that’s closer to the root, spantar.’ Sometimes the two words are used together to distinguish between fear of the flesh from fear of the soul, as in he’s escamado his horse will get spantado and rear up.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

It was high noon. Don Valentín and his three riders were nearing Brogado in his truck. Boy, sitting between Don Valentín and the primos, was fretting he wasn’t going to get to OJ in time to catch the ruta (rideshare) to La Bolsita that day. 

“Should have already been there,” thought Boy.

“Hey, see that old house in the field?” asked Don Valentín.

“Siról,” said the primo at the end of the bench next to the passenger window.

“Cayéndose,” said the primo next to Boy.

On the other side of Boy, Don Valentín stirred behind the steering wheel and nodded exaggeratedly.

“Umhum,” said Don Valentín. “Lived there as a child.”

“Nambe,” said the primo in the middle.

“Simón,” said Don Valentín.

“Your father’s?” asked the primo on the end.

“Nel,” said Don Valentín. “The rancher’s. We stayed there because my father was the irrigator. Another family lived with us. I used to play with my brothers and other kids in the ditches when the water was running, yet we promised our parents we weren’t. 

“They said a boy once drowned there. That he got all spantado from something he saw and lost his wits so bad he couldn’t climb out of the ditch.”

“Pos, I heard there’s a diablo that haunts this area,” said the end primo.

“I was once passing through here at night when I was a child, and my father stopped the car because he thought he ran somebody over on the highway. He got out and looked for sign but saw nothing. So he jumped back in the car spantado and floored it all the way to Tarilas. My mother was escamada he was going to get a ticket or break the car.

“I heard other stories like that,” said the middle primo. 

“All at night?” asked Boy.

“Chale,” said Don Valentín.

“I heard all those stories and more. Also that the ‘spanto will come out in the middle of the day if you’re driving alone on this lonely road.”

“But no te escames, Boy, we’re not going to see anything today cuz we’re a bunch, not along.”

“Y what do you think would happen if one those ‘spantos caught up with you?” asked the middle cousin.

“Pos, depends if you owe something,” said the end cousin.

Don Valentín didn’t say anything. He knew where they were going.

“Like what?” asked Boy.

“Like if you broke a promise or…,” said the end cousin before he was interrupted.

“Nel, nel. It’s not like that,” said Don Valentín. “It’s diablo contra santa. That’s why they put the statue of the santa here. To ‘spantar the ‘diablo. It’s coming up.”

Everybody looked out of their nearest window.

“The east,” said Don Valentín.

Everybody, but Boy, turned east. 

Long silence. 

“It’s not there,” said end primo.

“We must’ve passed it,” said Don Valentín.

“You sure?” questioned the middle primo.

“Santa escamada,” said Boy.

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