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Caló: Ahina’s how we are

Órale, the word for this episode is hacina. It’s an adverb from old Castilian that means ‘like this.’ The modern Spanish word is así, as in do it así. From the middle Rio Grande Valley north, the typical pronunciation injects an English h in place of the c to exaggerate the indication that’s being made, as in do it ahina, instead of hacina. It’s a distinctive regional signature that Spanish teachers have been trying in vain to purge from the vernacular for generations.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

“This is a polka, not a ranchera or a waltz," Boy explained to his date in the middle of the dance floor. "You step, not scoot or sweep. Just step step step, hacina."

Boy’s date smiled and nodded, but Boy sensed she wasn’t trying. It wasn’t going well. The slight distance between them he sensed when they first arrived at the ballroom was growing. Normally always smiling, there were now moments when she didn’t smile at all.

They were at a wedding dance among Boy’s mother’s kin, a closed-knit clan that opened few avenues for outsiders to interact with them. Half from Kansas and half from the sierras south of OJ. All country folk that preferred their own company to that of the rest of the world.

It was Boy’s date with the friendly, dyed-blonde girl he’d met at an outdoor barbecue. He thought this time he’d bring her around his family. She seemed to like everything else he had shown her,  why not also this special family gathering.

But it wasn’t working out. Boy couldn’t tell why.

“They’re all your cousins?” she asked him.

“Simón. From the sierras. Most of them came straight from there cuz the bride and groom are the same people,” explained Boy.

“Same, like relatives?” she asked.

“No, just the same roots. Their families have been close for generations,” said Boy.

“They seem different than the people at that backyard party where we met. They were dressed differently. I could understand them,” she said.

“Right. The folks in that party were my father’s kin. They’re city, not cowboy like these folks — my mom’s people. They speak quite rough, I guess cuz they stay to themselves,” said Boy.

“You switched to their language. Like that word you just used, hacina. What language is that?” she asked.

“It’s old Spanish. It means ‘like this’,” Boy said.

“But in school they teach you to say ‘así,” she said.

“Nel. I bet you’re hearing a lot of words that ain’t book Spanish tonight,” said Boy.

“And I don’t recognize anybody here,” she added, not really listening to Boy.

Boy stood back. 

“Chabelita was right. She ain’t here for me,” he thought.

“Who you looking for?” he asked.

“Your friends. Like that girl you said is your neighbor,” she responded.

“You mean Chabelita. Not here cuz she ain’t kin. Ahina is how we are,” said Boy.

“That old Spanish too?” she asked.

“Chale, it’s closer to English, but it means the same thing,” said Boy.