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Let me alzar!


Órale, today’s episode is about the word alzar. In modern Spanish, it means to raise, put up, elevate. In Caló, it means to put things in order, clean up, reform. Given the context, alzar can be used innocuously to say you’re going to clean your house or feverishly to exhort people to rebel against the established order.

The bus ride was going well. The first stop was in Tarilas, where the driver let everybody get off for a few minutes. Boy ended up not having to break his $20 bill to buy a snack as he had feared. The old man who had been sitting behind him refused to give him change when he asked for it and instead bought him potato chips and a soft drink.

“Keep your twenty. You may need it later,” he told Boy.

Just before Limpia, however, the winding turns and steep hills seemed to take a toll on the bus. The high-pitched sound of low gears not shifting up when needed kept going longer and longer.

“It’s the transmission,” somebody said.

“Siról. The clutch is letting the stick shift, but the gears don’t seem to be keeping up with it,” said the driver.

When they arrived at the pickup spot in Limpia, the driver announced they were going to hold up a little longer than planned so he could check the transmission.

The passengers crowded around the driver when he popped open the engine cap.

“Smells like burnt wires. Let’s go and get where we’re going before it gets dark. I just need to alzar my tools. I’ll check it again in Paisano,” he announced.

They entered Paisano a half hour later. Going up the mountain valley made things worse, however. The transmission wouldn’t shift up when the road flattened out.

“There’s a mechanic here,” said the driver.

The bus stop was a gas station and repair shop with many cars strewn about seemingly awaiting repairs.

“What a desmadre. This vato doesn’t alzar his shop,” said a man sitting behind the driver.

“It’s cuz he pumps gas and does repairs at the same time,” said the driver.

Everybody got off and waited for the mechanic to approach.

“Don’t expect much from this vato,” the old man who bought Boy a snack said.

“Let’s alzar if it takes too long,” sombody said.

The mechanic eventually came over and questioned the driver.

“Burnt wire smell, huh? It’s more than I can take on now,” he said out loud.

“Then we’re alzados,” somebody said.

“Refunds or a ticket for the other bus tomorrow,” the driver announced.

“Get your money and come with us. We’re going into the barrio to look for somebody to take us the rest of the way,” the old man told Boy.

Boy soon followed a small pack of passengers across the highway.

“Let’s first go to that bar over there. Maybe somebody’ll take us for money or know somebody who will,” somebody said.

“See? I told you you might need that $20,” the old man told Boy.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.