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Recholero!

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Órale, rechola is the featured word of this episode. It’s an old Castilian name for a disease that causes reddening of the skin. In Caló to means a social infection, a pack or band of bad company.

Boy had just been delivered to his aunt’s house in OJ late at night by a group of strangers he had met on the bus from the Southside to La Junta. The bus had broken down in Paisano, and a group of men who had been riding on the bus to him took pity on the pre-teen boy and invited him to join them on a ride they had hired from a cantina in Paisano that would take them the rest of the way.

“Who was that rechola that brought you here,” Boy’s aunt asked.

“Don’t know them. They were riding the bus with me when it broke down in Paisano. We went together into a cantina in the barrio there and asked if someone would take us the rest of the way for money. We all paid the driver $20 to bring us across to OJ,” Boy responded.

“Good, they had good hearts. What would you’ve done had they not brought you along?” she said.

“Probably spent the night in the bus until tomorrow when another bus came through,” said Boy.

“Have you eaten?” she asked.

“No,” he said.

“I’ll make you a quick bean and asadero burrito so you don’t go to sleep on an empty stomach. I think the stove is still hot,” she said.

“We have kin in Paisano. You could’ve stayed with them,” she said standing over the stove.

“I don’t know them,” Boy said.

“Had you asked anybody in the barrio where the Montoyas live — that you are a Montoya — they would have taken you to them. I don’t doubt it," she said. "Remember that for next time you’re stranded like that.”

“They were talking about people from Los Montoyas. That they get in trouble often,” Boy told her sitting at the kitchen table, fruit flies swarming the kerosene lamp alighting the room.

“They said we’re bad?” his aunt asked.

“That the police is afraid of people from Los Montoyas, and that a lot of men from there are in jail,” said Boy.

“It’s not true. We’re good people, but we lived a hard life in the past. Lots of violence. As you know, Los Montoyas is way out in the sierras, far from everything and hard to get to. Our grandfathers tried stay there and live in peace. But the rechola came anyway. And often. Over the generations, the people became hardened to it. Now they blame us for it,” she explained.

“Who?” asked Boy.

“Rechola from town and from across the river. And the Montoyas would drive them out. Now sit up and eat this burrito before you fall asleep,” she said.

Boy ate heartedly.

“Never be a recholero and hang out with rechola,” she said.

“Finish eating. I’ll make a bed for you on the couch. Tomorrow I’ll find someone going to Los Montoyas who’ll take you,” she said.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.