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Watcha him huarachar


Órale, the feature this week is the the verb, huarachar. It’s derived from the noun, huarache, which means sandal in Nahuatl or Aztec.  One nuance of huarachar is to walk or dance in huaraches, but the more common use of this word in Caló is as an analogy for uncouth behavior, that is, acting as if you’re someone who customarily wears huaraches—a hick or backcountry person. It’s an insult with many dimensions, economic status, intelligence or worse. If you’re speaking Caló and you have to say somebody is dancing, you say they’re chancleando or zapateando, not huarachando, unless of course you’re intentionally calling somebody a lout or a brute.

In the Southside, what’s perhaps even more intriguing than the marcha, which happens generally in the middle of a dance, is the last tanda (stanza). It functions like a long last call at the bar. At that point, alcohol has hit home, and whatever was cooking during the dance comes to a close. If you’ve had too much to drink, that’s when it hits you. If you have a move to make, that’s when you make it.

In the case of Flaco, Boy’s big brother, it was not a matter of a single move he wanted to make at the dance, it was many moves.

It had been a strange night. The crowd at the PanAm Ballroom was surprisingly thin that Sunday, the last weekend before the start of school. Sammy y Los Headliners, from San Antonio, top of the Spanish radio station charts was playing. It should have been packed, but the sponsor, T&G Tamales and Spanish Food, miscalculated and decided to charge double the usual entrance fee. Plus, there had been scant advertising, not even a personal appearance at the local radio station. Nada. Just puro spots on the radio on Friday and Saturday. T&G must have thought that the attraction was so strong and sure, they would save on advertising and crank up the fee.

Pos it didn’t work. Only the más true believers and chavos with the extra cash ended up going. Flace wasn’t a true believer, but he happened to have the cash and the strong desire to bet on a chance to meet up with a girl he had been exchanging hand waves on the vuelta (cruise route) every Sunday most of the summer.

Tragically, the girl never showed up. Very few single women showed up. The thin crowd was made up almost entirely of couples and stag men. The counted few single women in attendance were sitting together at a table near the band stage. Flaco guessed they were with the band members. Puro off limits.

With no recourse, Flaco started drinking rum and Coke. By the last tanda, he was drunk but animated and refusing to go down. So when the Headliners started playing his favorite song, he unthinkingly walked onto the dance floor and started dancing by himself.

The tune was a well-known ranchera played as a fast rock-n-roll song. But in his state, Flaco thought it should be danced as a San Tevo marcha. Lots of foot and headwork. It didn’t take long before he cleared the dance floor. And everybody gathered around close to watch.

“What’s he doing,” a middle-aged woman asked her partner.

“Huarachando,” he responded.

Everybody around them nodded somberly.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.