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They’re all relajes!


The featured word of this episode is relaje. In modern Spanish it means to relax.  In Caló, a relaje is someone who fits in the category of those who behave laxly, who don’t try, and who are the likely weakest link in the chain. In this way, a relaje is also a snitch or tattletale, someone who’ll quickly and thoughtlessly betray the side.

The quinceañera was dragging on. Five songs per tanda instead of the usual ten, and long intermissions. No court table. The birthday girl sat at an undecorated table with some of her girlfriends and younger sisters. Her maids of honor and their escorts sat at different tables, detached from the quinceañera and from each other.

The crowd was growing restless. A couple of near-fights had broken out at the periphery of the zone the people of Los Montoyas had stakeouted for themselves in the dance hall, where the young Montoya men were sitting.

Young Boy and his family sat a table in the middle of the Montoyas, accompanied by families with young kids like his and by elderly family members.

“They better start playing again or people will forget about dancing and start doing other things,” said one of Boy’s aunts, an elderly woman, widow, and his grandmother’s youngest sister.

The front line between the Montoyans and non-Montoyans was heavily populated by her grandsons. That’s where she kept her eyes. The undirected spaces in time worried her.

“The marcha should start after this break, and the band seems to be coming back. See?” a comadre of her’s at the next table responded and pointed at the stage.

Boy looked over and saw that indeed the band was back on stage and getting ready to play again.

Seconds later, the band launched straight into the middle of the “Marcha de Atotonilco.” At that point, a woman from the quinceañera’s household went up to the microphone and announced they were going to do a marcha. And that the honoree’s padrinos were going to lead it.

“Please join us as we march together behind the quinceañera to show her we’re all behind her as she moves forward in life,” the announcer said.

A line of women quickly formed behind the madrina and a same-sized line of men got behind the padrino. After a full circle, the padrinos led their lines to the quinceañera’s table and onboarded her and her escort.

There were many different kinds of marchers in the line. Some well-coordinated and energetic. Others just going through the motions. Still others basically walking and kinking the line.

“Those kids in the middle are making the line go sideways,” said Boy’s aunt.

“They’re all relajes, not paying attention,” said her comadre.

“Seems to me this whole dance is a relajo,” Boy’s aunt said.

“Simón, comadre. One big relajo,” said her comadre.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.