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Caló: That’s his muleta

The Caló word for this episode is muleta. In modern Spanish, it means crutch or wooden peg leg. But it's the Spanish word maleta — which means suitcase that comes closer to meaning. In Caló, muleta is a burden or blame. Muleta can be understood as the Caló counterpart to the mid-1900s English term for the same general idea, bag, as in left holding the bag.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

“The first political discussion I ever heard— my first lesson in politics— came when I was very young and hanging out with my aunt and her church lady friends,” Manny told young Boy. 

“Everybody wants to put the muleta on someone else.”

Boy frowned in silence.

Manny’s statement had ensued from an incident they had just witnessed at a church fundraising barbecue in the Southside, where the local priest had put down Mexico. 

“Everybody’s corrupt in Mexico,” the priest had said loudly.

The priest had gotten angry when somebody complained to him that a lot of trash had been left behind by the informal but well-attended Mexican soccer league game. 

“But didn’t they reserve the concession stand by the baseball field,” said the priest.

“Sí, but they divided the field into two soccer fields, and the cars parked on all the sidelines,” a parishioner had responded.

“They parked in the middle of the field?” the priest screamed in disgust and disbelief.

“No more rentals for them?” asked the parishioner

There was a long pause.

“No. They’ll just set up without it and make even more trash. And it’s good income for the church. Just charge them a little more and get a deposit to make sure somebody cleans up from now on,” said the priest.

The priest couldn’t tell, but his statement had fouled the mood at the barbecue. He wasn’t from the Southside, and even many years into his tenure he didn’t know everybody in his congregation either originated from or were interrelated with people from Ojinaga, which many called OJ, Texas. 

“Politics,” said Manny.

Boy gave an expression of not connecting the dots.

Manny waved his right hand.

“The church ladies were talking about income taxes. Some complained they were too high — too big of a muleta. One said it was to pay for the police — a necessary muleta. Another complained the money was only wasted or stolen. Still another lady said the taxes should go to fix the church roof. Then an old man who always tagged along with these ladies said it shouldn’t be anybody’s muleta anymore. That the law said the taxes one president imposes expire when he leaves. And that nobody should have to bear the muleta of Lincoln cuz that president had died long ago. Everybody shut up, unsure if he was right, talking nonsense, or being sarcastic,” said Manny, chuckling.

Boy still looked like he wasn’t sure he got it.

Manny raised his forefinger.

“No, you saw it with the priest. He said started talking before he finally got it that it’s his muleta to raise money for the church. Once the coin dropped in the slot, the corruption in Mexico didn’t matter anymore,” explained Manny.