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Caló: Aguas!

Órale, today we’re going to talk about the expression “aguas.” In Spanish, it means simply water. In Caló, it means brace yourself for you’re about to get hit.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

The conversation between the two men Boy was overhearing was getting animated. The older man was now raising his voice and hands over what he was learning from the younger man about an impending horse race in OJ.

“You gonna cross your horse at El Mulato?” the older man asked.

“Aguas," he said. "Nobody crosses there without getting hit. Unless of course, you’re from there.” 

The younger man replied: “The border patrol doesn’t care if you cross the river going south."

“That’s not where the trouble is,” said the older man. “Remember I said they’re all divided by ranchos…rancherias?”

“Ya,” said the younger man.

“Pos, El Mulato’s the worst! It exists all by itself and doesn’t get along with the other rancherias. The vatos there do care if you cross their land. You don’t just drive through. You only go there if you’re from there. They only let their own people cross. They’ve been that way for generations. Wachale,” warned the older man.

“Órale. I have friends from there who get me in and out,” said the younger man.

The older man looked at the younger one for a long while in silence.

“What have you been doing that you know those people,” he asked the younger man in a low voice, looking in all directions.

Boy looked the other way as if he had been called by somebody, making sure not to make eye contact with either of the men he was overhearing. 

The younger man took a long time to answer.

“Pos, I’ve been crossing El Bud there for all the races we’ve done in OJ,” said the younger man.

“Madres! And nothing’s happened?” asked the older man incredulously.

“Chale. My friends know everybody there. They even have a trailer they lend me. That way I just park mine on this side of the river,” said the younger man.

“Just like that? How’d you ever come to know those guys? They normally stick with their own,” said the older man.

“Pos, my mom has primos from there. And the guys who help me cross El Bud are friends with them,” said the younger man.

“Primo's what Mulateños call each other. If one’s a lot older than the other, they say tia or tio,” said the older man.

“Oh, I bet they know all their connections. I guess that’s how you get in and out. Otherwise, aguas, you’d be telling a different story right now.”

“Pos, no problems. I cross at a vato’s farm everybody calls Primo Tanino’s. I then ride El Bud into the village. Then another vato gives both of us a ride to the race, wherever it is, always someplace closer to OJ,” said the younger man.

“Órale. But now it might be different. You said you’re racing a horse named El Kicapú,” the other responded.

“Ya. Why?” said the younger man.

“Aguas. That’s a Mulateño name,” said his companion.