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Better get clecha


Órale, this episode features a word contributed by one of our listeners. The vato’s from Marfa, and he contributed several words. Thanks, carnal. We’re gonna use them all. The word is clecha. There’s no root for it in either Spanish or English, but it intersects a little with another word we’ve used in the past, trucha, which means “watch out.” Clecha refers to the skill or learned behavior of watching out. You say somebody’s clecha if they’re street smart or, if they’re in the pinta, you use it to mean they’re prison smart. Good advice when somebody’s been torcido is, “you better get clecha fast in here, ese.”

El Low Rider got off a prison bus and was escorted into the pinta along with a line of other new torcidos. They were greeted by head nods and whistles from a few veteranos who were helping settle new arrivals.

“You from El Chucho, ese,” one veterano said.

“Chale,” said El Low Rider.

“Simón, I am,” said a red head at the point of the line.

“Me, too, ese,” said somebody else in line.

“Órale, I’ll tell our carnales we got company,” said the veterano.

“Sananto?” another pinto asked.

“Sirol,” several men in the line responded.


“Me and my brother over here, ese.”



“Nobody from Youstón this time,” somebody said.

“You? Where you from, ese,” the same veterano asked, looking in El Low Rider’s direction.

“From the Southside,” El Low Rider said looking straight ahead loud enough for everybody to hear.

“Ain’t nobody here from there. Closest is El Chuco, but I don’t think they work with country boys,” another veterano said.

“Órale,” El Low Rider said, shrugging his shoulders.

“You’re gonna need a rancho and some clecha right away, ese,” yet another veteran warned.

“Pos I’ll wait until another vato from the Southside falls in,” said El Low Rider and kept walking.

Heads turned and nodded.

That evening as he was about to step into his cell, which he was going to share with one of the new arrivals, he was unexpectedly shoved by one of the two guards who was escorting him. It was a rude two-handed shove, but El Low Rider didn’t budge.

It would be a recurring miscalculation prison guards and inmates would make throughout El Low Rider’s tenure in prison.

A torso corresponding to the body of a big man, El Low Rider’s short legs presented him at first glance as a much smaller man.

The guard took El Low Rider’s resistance as a sign of disrespect and shoved him again, harder this time.

Same result.

The guard took note, desisted and merely ordered him to move into the cell.

El Low Rider slowly complied. The guard turned to his fellow guard, and they both nodded as if tacitly noting the infraction. They walked away when the cell door locked.

“You better get clecha, vato,” an inmate across the hall said from the back of his cell.

“I’m clecha de amadres, already, ese,” said El Low Rider.

“Pos we’re gonna see then?” the man said.

“Simón,” said El Low Rider.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.