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Caló: ¿La Chavalada is scared?

Today’s word is chavalo. The closest thing in modern Spanish is chavar, to be pesky or bothersome. A chavo in the Caribbean, where Spanish first arrived in the Americas, means a portion of the main unit, as in coin or change. In Mexico, it means a youth or near-adult. In Caló, this logic is extended by reference to a horse, caballo, turning chavo into chavalo, meaning a strong youth or adolescent—more grown than a child but not yet an adult.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

It was a strange October. The kids in the Southside were skulking. Their reclusiveness and silence was quite notable. Their mothers were worried. 

“The chavalada is acting weird. What’s happening?” Chabela asked Boy’s jefita rhetorically.

“They’re all scared. My little girl didn’t want to go outside today.”

Boy’s jefita just shrugged. 

They both knew what was going on. A chavalo in the barrio had done something wrong, and they were all covering for each other. Nobody was going to tell. All of them were going to remain subdued until the problem cleared up.

Chabelita heard her mother talking and sighed. 

When the sun went down, she thew a small rock at Boy’s window. 

Boy had been waiting for it.

“Psst. Que onda?” he said hidden behind the screen.

“You hear they catch anybody,” Chabilita asked. 

“Chale, they don’t even know who to go after,” said Boy in a loud whisper.

“So why were you doing it?” asked Chabelita. 

“Not just me! All the chavalos. They were doing it for days,” said Boy.

“And the truckers were going along with it. We pump our fists, and they honked their horns loud and long, a toda madre.”

“That’s all? You sure the other chavalos weren’t doing something bad like throwing rocks? asked Chabelita. 

“Chale. Chale. I watched a long time the day before. Then I was there a long time. Nothing bad, just honking trucks,” said Boy.

“Then why did the police come?” asked Chabelita.

“I don’t know. I guess somebody didn’t like it,” answered Boy.

“Pos now they’re looking for everybody,” said Chabelita.

“I know. Real gacho,” said Boy.

“How did you know?” asked Chabelita.

“I was there when the police came. I was just hanging out telling the truckers to honk their horns, then suddenly the cops came,” said Boy.

“Eeee, they just swept in? Did they catch anybody?” asked Chabelita.

“Nel. Everybody went different directions. I ran into the ditch and hid,” said Boy.

“Then?” asked Chabelita.

“Pos nothing. When it got dark, I went out and everybody was gone. Then when I walked through the barrio, it seemed everybody was gone, like they were hiding. So I went into hiding, too,” said Boy.

Chabelita let it sink in. After a long pause, she rubbed her head hard on the window screen. 

“So all the chavalos in the barrio are hiding because you’re hiding from the police. But the police don’t even know who they’re looking for and, even if they did, you don’t know if they would do anything to you if they caught you?” Chabelita asked mostly herself.

“Pos chansa, maybe I’m wrong,” said Boy.

“Thaaat’s it,” said Chabelita.