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Caló: Cala?


Órale, the Caló word today is ‘calar.’ In Spanish, it’s the verb for stab or penetrate. In Caló, it means to hurt or insult. When you take offense, you say it in the same way as when you catch a rock in your shoe: cala.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

Young Boy had gone to sleep in his grandmother’s bed so quickly and soundly that he woke up with a crick in his neck in the morning. He first felt it when he heard her walk up from the utility shed where the chickens laid their eggs. He tried to sit up, but the pain shot up and knocked him back down. He knew immediately what it was, as it happened to him often. He thought it was going to be a bad day. 

“Ay,” he complained, scolding himself for getting into this trouble again.

“What’s wrong?” his grandmother asked.

“My neck is twisted,” Boy said, flat on his back in bed.

“Let me see,” his grandmother said. “Cala when I touch you here?” she asked him.

“¡Ay, sí!” Boy screamed when his grandmother touched the left side of his neck.

“Oh sí, you’re crooked. Seems you slept with your head hanging off the bed,” she said. “Get up anyway. The sun’s up already. You need to get your blood circulating to get better.”

“Come inside. I’ll make you some tea and a burrito to get you going. Later you can walk out to the garden and cut a sugarcane for yourself. Vamos,” she commanded.

Boy lurched inside, his neck cocked to his left.

“Put on clean clothes and have breakfast,” she ordered.

“No, I can’t move,” protested Boy, his voice quivering. 

“Ay, como me cala that you don’t do what I say,” she said sternly. “You won’t feel better until you start moving around. Go!”

Boy complied.

By siesta time, he was feeling a lot better. His neck had straightened up a little. He could rotate his upper body close to normal.

His grandmother noticed the improvement. “Better? Or does it still cala?” she asked her grandson.

“Cala a little, but it’s a lot better than when I woke up,” he responded.

“Bueno. I’m going to take a siesta. You should too,” she told Boy.

She spread a blanket and cushion on the packed dirt floor and laid down. “You sleep on the couch,” she said to Boy.

When they had dug in, she spoke up again. “So you didn’t finish telling me about what they say in the books,” she said.

“Oh, everything everybody talks about,” said Boy. “For example, there’s a story about a guy who lasso’s tornados. And another one about dogs talking to each other,” he explained.

His grandmother was silent for a long time.

“And they spend so much money on paper and ink and the work to make books on that?” she asked.

“Sí,” said Boy.

“Ay, it sure cala,” she said, mostly to herself, as she went to sleep.