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Watch out for the trinquetera


Órale, the feature this week is the word trinquetear. It’s a verb that means to cheat or steal by tricking or scamming somebody. In modern Spanish, a trinquete is the cross beam on the main mast of a sailing ship. But if used as an analogy, it refers to the constriction that occurs if you wind the cross beam like a tourniquet. In Caló, there’s triqueteada, not trinquete, and it means the scam the victim is woven into. The person doing it is the trinquetero(a), always a skilled and creative person. If you know a trinquetero(a), you can’t help but appreciate their art.

There’s more intrigue involved in ballroom dancing in the Southside than actual dancing. The dances, whether public or private, serve more as a venue for community interaction than as an organized event. Whatever‘s happening in the community moves into the dancehall. The good and the bad. The start, continuation and end of whatever’s going on in the Southside inevitably floats into the dance.

It was the hottest dance of the year. El Litty John was playing his first dance since he was caught with a jealous man’s wife by the jealous man. In this case, El Litty John’s wife was the one who tipped off the offended husband on the condition that he not permanently maim or kill Litty John, just give him a black eye.

On his first appearance after the affair, everybody wanted to know if Litty John showed signs of the debacle. Puffy eye perhaps? Cracked voice?

Boy was in attendance with his girlfriend, Rosalia, an on-again off-again courtship that had started in middle school. Today, it was on the upswing, and he was sitting with her family at a big round table bordering the dance floor. Boy and her father were the only males among the 14 family members at the table.

“I wanna go to the baño,” the youngest of the girls at the table said when the band took a break.

“Rosalia, go with her,” said their mother.

Rosalia looked over at Boy.

“Dale,” said Boy immediately.

“Let’s all go, Rosalia’s older sister said.

All the woman at the table got up.

“Hey. Wait. I’ll escort. You stay here and watch over everything. That trinquetera is here,” Rosalia’s father said to Boy, pointing with his chin across the dancehall where the stags gathered.

Boy looked over and spotted a beautiful, tall, light-skinned woman in a tuxedo.

The woman seemed to notice them looking at her and smiled.

“She’s a diabla. Doesn’t need anything but trouble. Cuidado. Make sure she doesn’t take anything,” his possible future father in-law commanded sternly.

Boy nodded and turned to look at the trinquetera again.

Rosalia and her family had not yet crossed the dance floor when the trinquetera started walking toward Boy.

Seconds later, she took the seat next to him and scooted right up to him—touching.

Boy looked at her, surprised by her brazenness.

He had to have looked upset in some way because she crinkled her eyes as of expecting a backsplash.

“What are you doing here?” he asked not knowing what else to say.

“Trinqueteando,” responded the diabla in tuxedo, her eyes now locked into Boy’s.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.