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Pinche placoso


Órale, this episode’s about the word placoso(a). It’s a noun that comes from the English and Spanish word, plaque or placa. In Caló today, a placa is commonly understood to be a tattoo. It’s also an adjective—really a pejorative— that generally means gaudy, and it applies as much to someone’s behavior as to an object and tattoo. The image the term placoso evokes is that of somebody with a lot of shiny placas strung—or tattooed— on their neck intended to project importance, success and, perhaps more importantly, high class tastes. The moniker fits influencers who use bling to draw attention to themselves via social media for the purpose of driving their viewers to buy their sponsors’ products. While the products they hawk may be gaudy, that alone doesn’t earn them the label of a placoso(a). Their behavior has to be pretentious and exaggerated, as well as gaudy, to earn that dubious distinction.

Boy was at church. He rarely went to church, although he’d been to all the churches in the Southside and OJ over the years. In this case, he was in church—at the very back to be sure— on a first date. The girl he was following thought she would park him on the back wall while she sat with her family in a middle pew during service.

Boy was game.

“Órale. I’ll just sonsear here and wait for her,” he told himself.

Everything was going a toda madre until that pinche placoso came by.

A vato with faded tattoos, prison placas for sure, a lone gold tooth and a big gold cross that looked small on an even gaudier gold chain stepped up to him.

“Hello, son,” he said to Boy in English in the middle of service.

“Hey,” Boy responded right away.

“You’re new. Haven’t seen you here before. Here to join our community?” the placoso said.

“Invited by a girl,” Boy and responded, noting the strong smell of cologne.

The placoso was bigger and middle aged. White hairy bulging arms.

Boy looked straight into his eyes and saw the sun had marked the vato’s sunglasses on his face. Pale owl eyes on an otherwise dark tan face.

“Must be a nice girl if she brought you here,” he said to Boy.

“Simón,” responded Boy.

“Then I know she’s gonna want you to join our church,” he said.

“Órale,” Boy said.

The vato was standing very lose, as if he were a jura.

“I’m Tommy,” he said to Boy and extended his hand.

Boy shook his hand—a big hard hand. And the man squeezed hard. It hurt. Boy tried not to wince.

Boy didn’t give his name, but Tommy didn’t seem interested. He just smiled, his gold tooth shining brightly.

“I expect you at our luncheon after service,” he said to Boy.

“What they serving?” Boy asked him.

“Tuna salad,” Tommy answered.

“Eeee. I don’t eat fish,” Boy said.

Tommy smiled widely but didn’t say anything. Then he stepped away and weighed into another young vato like Boy.

“Pinche placoso sura,” Boy thought.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.