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Caló: Al alva, ese

Today we’re going to talk about the warning expression, “al alva.” Albo, alternatively alba, in Spanish means daybreak and the general area of the color spectrum closest to white. In Caló it means be lively, engage, and get ready because here it comes or it’s about to start. It’s one of the various nuances of a long string of warning expressions in Caló, along with aguila, trucha, ojo, watchale, and aguas.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

Boy was casually overhearing a conversation between a crew cut young man and whitehaired middle-aged man wearing a white Stetson. The two seemed related to each other in some way. The older man was doing most of the talking. 

The young man started the conversation by saying, “I’m going to OJ to race El Bud.” 

“OJ? Al alva? You sure you know what you’re doing?” asked the older man.

“Simón, ese. A vato came all the way from OJ to lay down the challenge. He said both horses are guaranteed a minimum purse of $1,000 to cover expenses. That I can put it down as a bet if I want,” said the young man.

“What’s the other horse’s name? That vato who came, the owner?” asked the older man.

“Chale. He was just a messenger for the guy organizing the race,” said the younger man.

“Pos, sounds suspicious to me. How did he know to come to you?” asked the older man.

“You better be al alva when you go there, ese.”

“Bud’s famous. Everybody knows him after he won that race in Comanche they announced on the radio. I’m even getting calls to take him to New Mexico,” the young man said.

“Pos, it doesn’t matter, on the other side the rules are different. And al alva, they get crazy at horse races. You remember that big trouble at the races in Ranchito? It was vatos from OJ fighting with other guys from OJ, like they were from different countries or states. No, se salen gacho, they get crazy real bad,” said the older man. 

“I remember that. It was before I got El Bud. You’re right. They were all together then started fighting,” said the younger man.

“Pos, it’s not like here where everybody’s from the same town. In OJ, everybody’s from a different rancho, and each rancho’s fighting with another rancho, sometimes the neighboring one, for centuries. Who knows why,” said the older man.

“Hmmm,” responded the younger man.

“You bet, hmmm. You go over there and get in with one crowd, and the other crowd hates you for it. And they could be related to the police chief. Al alva,” said the older man.

“Huh,” sounded the younger man.

“Huh’s right. And getting El Bud over and back ain’t gonna be easy either. How you thinking of doing it?” asked the older man. 

“I’m gonna cross him over at El Mulato,” said the younger man.

“El Mulato?,” the older man asked almost screaming.

“And what’s the name of the horse Bud’s racing?”

“El Kicapú,” said the younger.

“El Kicapú?!” the older man shouted.