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Caló: He's desmadroso, always creating desmadres

The feature for this episode is the term ‘desmadre.’ Its literal meaning is motherless or ‘of no mother.’ It’s used to characterize a situation where there’s no order or governance — chaos. Comparable terms in English are hullabaloo and commotion. One can cause or be a desmadre. Of course, there are also gradations of desmadre, where somebody is more desmadroso than the other desmadres in the cohort.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

Boy, Cleofas and the man giving them a ride to El Mulato in his pickup truck had finally reached the end of the washboard road and started to descend into the canyon, where the land long-known as El Mulato begins.

“Bueno, we made it. In a little while we’ll be at Quiros’ Hill,” said the driver.

Cleofas was more animated and engaged now.

“You don’t have to go all the way there. You can just drop me off here in the canyon. I know people here,” he told the driver.

“No, no. You’re still a long way from home. What are you going to do if you don’t find anybody here? Walk all the way home alone. You’re just a little kid,” the old man responded.

“I know short cuts and people all along the way,” protested Cleofas.

Boy looked back and forth at his two companions. He worried that, since his aunt had entrusted him to Cleofas, he might be obligated to get off in the canyon, too.

“Nel, I’m not going to leave you here and worry that a pack of coyotes or a cougar got you. You can’t possibly defend yourself,” said the man.

“Yes, I can. I can throw rocks and pick up a stick. I even have a knife,” Cleofas said, pulling out a big pocketknife.

“You’re loco. I’m not leaving you here and cause a desmadre cause you didn’t show up at your uncle’s before sundown,” he groused at Cleafas.

The truck didn’t slow down until they had exited the canyon and reached the uplands. At that point, the driver downshifted to climb Quiro’s Hill.

“Here we are. I won’t leave until I see you go into your uncle’s house,” the driver told Cleofas.

Cleofas obliged without a word.

As the truck got back on the road, Boy looked out the window and thought how nothing had changed since Easter when he was last here.

The driver shook his head and looked over at Boy.

“Don’t be hanging around that chavalo. He’s a desmadre,” he said.

“He’s always causing desmadres, like his uncles and aunts,” he added.

“I guess it’s because they’re part bears.”

Boy looked up at him incredulously.

“Oh, sí, part bear,” said the man.

“Bear, like the animal?” asked Boy incredulously.

“The same. The grandmother was taken away by bears when she was young. Then after a long time she came back with a brood of kids. Never said how she came of them,” the man said adamantly. 

“That’s why they’re all such desmadrosos,” he said as he rolled into Boy’s grandmother’s yard.

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