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Caló: Te Esquineo


Órale, today’s episode features the term ‘esqinear,’ which is a verb that in English means to corner. In Caló it means to back you up, defend you, block you, blind side. It’s the lifeline you want to hear from your carnal or carnala when you’re in a difficult situation.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

The board had assembled. Romeo’s item was up right after the approval of the minutes and agenda, and old business.

“New Business Line, Action Item," read the agenda.

Romeo had prepared for days. He had worked on endless lines of questioning. Checked and re-checked his research, numbers, backup, academic articles — todo.

“Was it too radical?” he asked himself.

“What if they freak out and say I’m crazy, presumptuous?”

“All that Ivy League education pa’nada, for nothing.”

“Of course, if I was tall, blonde and blue-eyed like that vato next to the chairman, I’d just be ambitious.”

“Will it would go better if I went with ‘Rom,’ like some people in the office call me?” 

“Pendejo," he scolded himself. "Shut your mouth and take home the big salary, pero no…”

Too late. His idea was now in front of the board for debate and action.

If they bought it, a lot would change. If not, then the unthinkable.

No raza on the board or even in the audience.

He knew this going in but “Eeee,” that annoying thing his cousins would say was all he could think of.

“So now we’re going to hear about a proposal to replace our main business line,” said the CEO.

All eyes turned to Romeo.

He made his pitch perfectly in 10 minutes as he had practiced. No glitches on the slide show.

Then the questions came.

Romeo had a succinct answer for all of them — except the last one.

“You’re asking too much. I’ve heard everything you’ve said and can follow the numbers. But I’m not convinced you’ve been in the mainstream long enough to appreciate the value of what you’re asking us to throw out,” said a tall white-haired man in a grey suit eyeing Romeo sternly.

On his right, a younger, taller guy, pale, blonde and green eyes, smirked.

Romeo blush through his dark complexion. 

“Cómo que I haven’t been in the mainstream long enough?” Romeo fumed silently.

“I went to the same schools que él,” he told himself.

“It’s just a way of saying a brown boy can’t tell what’s valuable.”

“And that güero gatcho, that mean blonde is laughing at me,” he thought.

His hesitation caused a pregnant pause.

Yet Romeo kept ruminating.

“It doesn’t matter what I say,” he thought.

His edge was now clearly showing. The board was growing anxious.

“Yo te esquineo, ese,” the young blonde suddenly said in perfect Caló looking at Romeo.

Everybody was caught off guard. But it soothed Romeo.

Now steady, Romeo nodded lightly and said, “it’s precisely because I haven’t been in the mainstream long enough to assume the old business line is all there is that I can say there’s something better.”

There were no more questions.

“I move we go with the proposal,” said the same güero in a Texas drawl as he turned left and right.

Romeo looked up at him, blank mind and expressionless.

“Second,” somebody out of his eyesight said.

“Approved 10 to 1,” said the chairman.

Romeo nodded at the guy who made the motion. The tall blonde nodded back in a perfect cholo head roll as if to say, “órale.”