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Caló: Ojo, Ojo!

Órale, today we’re going to talk about the expression “ojo.” In Spanish, it means eye or water spring. In Caló, it means to pay attention or focus on something. It's also an incantation or spell that’s delivered through a malevolent stare, as in he gave the ojo to his neighbor. Either way, it’s usually said with your eyes pointing at whatever it is you’re telling somebody to be ojo about.

Boy was having great fun overhearing two men talk about an upcoming race in OJ between the Southside’s favorite, El Bud, and another horse named El Kicapú.

The older man was schooling the younger one about how things were on the other side of the Rio Grande, telling him that danger awaited him and his horse if they crossed over at El Mulato as he was planning. 

Having spent half his life there, Boy could not help but wince at the old man’s pronouncements.

“So you never heard of the big horse race between the people of OJ and the Mulateños?” the old man asked the younger one.

“Nel,” the young man answered.

“Pos, it happened a long time ago. My grandfather said he heard the story from his grandfather. Back then the Mulateños didn’t even go into OJ. They traded with people on this side of the river. They didn’t even speak good Spanish.

So this caused OJ and El Mulato to see each other as different people. And there were always confrontations. Then one day somebody had the great idea of running a horse race between the two communities. The course was the road between the railroad station and the then road to the international bridge, about two miles.

“The Mulateños’ champion was a big paint named El Chicapú. The people from OJ didn’t reveal their horses until race day.

“Then when the race started, everybody was betting. But the Mulateños were taking bets on lines they drew all along the racecourse, some at a mile, others at the quarter-mile mark, and so on and so forth. The OJs took the bets thinking it was all about the finish line. 

“The race started with the OJs pulling their champion off a train that arrived that morning with a top horse from the racetrack in Chihuahua City. It ended with the result in a dispute. The Mulateños expected to get paid for when El Chicapú crossed the line they had drawn on the track ahead of the OJ horse. The OJs thought they had won their bets at the finish line. Seems El Chicapú’s rider eased up after the last line the Mulateños had drawn and didn’t even try to cross the finish line first.

“Bad blood and all kinds of trouble followed from that day on for generations,” said the older man.

“Eeeee! I was wondering why they drew those lines,” said the younger man. 

“Pos, ojo, they go by different rules,” said the older man.

“And even more ojo now that you’re racing a horse called El Kickapú. They’re gonna want their horse to win.

“Simón, mucho ojo,” said the younger man mostly to himself.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.