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Caló: Gacho


Órale, today the focus is going to be on the word ‘gacho.’ It means undesireable, mean, bad. It’s rooted in the French word for left-handed, ‘gauche,’ which back in time represented the wrong way. That meaning evoled in Caló to the point the term is now very value laden, as in, “Que gacho George. He wouldn’t co-sign my car loan. Now I have to buy something gacho.”

It took hours for Don Valentín to get past Limpia. He was very cautious on the mountain curves. Órale here comes Marfa. Aguila, be aware. The sheriff here is real gacho. They say he stops everybody going through he can’t recognize. And if he can’t get something on you, te raya la madre, he curses you. So nothing crazy while we’re driving through.”

The white truck with Don Valentín, Boy, and the two primos slowed even before the first sight of human habitation. Don Valentín straightened his spine and looked straight ahead as they crept through town.

“We’re OK. Three vatos and a kid in an old gacho pickup. Nothing out of place,” said the primo furthest away.

Boy looked up at Don Valentín.

“What do you mean gacho?” asked Don Valentín. “It’s paid for y jala (and it works).

He scowled briefly then caught himself and put back on the expression of angelic solemnity he painted on when they entered town.

“I mean it’s not new or real machine. Otherwise we’d stand out gacho,” said the primo.

Boy looked back at Don Valentín.

“I suppose so, but it feels gacho that you put down my troquita,” said Don Valentín.

“Don’t be gatcho, primo. Look at it, radio,” said the other primo.

“No jala,” said Don Valentín.

“Ma,” said the primo.

“I left the driver’s window open one night, and it rained so gatcho that water got into the dashboard and lo desmadró, it broke it,” said Don Valentín.

“Gacho,” said the primo.

At the highway intersection, they saw a sheriff’s car parked at the opposite corner facing them. Empty. 

“He’s in the store,” said one of the primos.

Before they were completely across the intersection, the sheriff himself stepped out from the corner store and walked hurriedly to his car. At the last second, he made eye-contact with Don Valentín.

“Vato gacho. He spotted us,” Don Valentín said, clearly worried.

They kept driving. 

“We made a proper stop—perhaps too long. No reason to come after us,” he said.

 A few seconds later, the rack lights in the police cruiser flashed on all of the mirrors.

“Ah, gacho,” he’s turned on his top lights. Had I taken off just a second earlier, we would have passed by before he got out of the store,” said Don Valentín.

“Then slow down,” said the primo in the middle.

“I’m just coasting now. I’ll hit the breaks if he gets behind us,” said Don Valentín. 

Several long seconds passed.

“Hup, he turned onto the highway toward El Chuco,” said Don Valentín.

“Eeee, it would have been real gacho had he stopped us,” said the far primo,

“Why,” asked Don Valentín.

“Cuz I’m supposed to be at the police station,” said the primo.

“Que qué?” asked Don Valentín. “You’re running from the law?”

“I didn’t do anything, just a witness,” said the cousin.

“Pos you can still get in trouble for not going,” said Don Valentín.

“If they say anything, I’ll tell them I was on my way but the car I was riding in broke down,” said the cousin.

“Gacho,” said Boy.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.
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