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Los City Limits


Órale, in this episode, we’re going to explore how the world of Caló assimilates new theoretical concepts. The path to understanding is not always direct or brief. Sometimes it meanders, loops around several times, and rarely hits the target right on the bull’s eye. But it gets there eventually, usually by building on what’s tangible— what people can grasp and explain. Complex, multivariate concepts like the limits of authority often prove to be an endless process of continuous improvement in Caló.

The maestro having arrived, the pig killing was now about to begin.

It was a family affair. Boy’s father, Decorado, and his brothers-in-law had pitched in for a pig they planned to divide among their families. To achieve this they had to also share the costs and work effort. They had to board the maestro, whom they had imported from OJ where he normally rendered his services, and do the manual labor, like dig the hole, tend a fire and boiling caldron, cook at least some of the meat, and package and haul it all away. It was a sunup to sundown engagement. All under the direction of the maestro. Who was machín de amadres. Incessantly barking orders and moving about tending to the pig all day.

All the cousins were invited, young and old. No obligation, but it was always a bright party. Sometimes even dancing.

The kids looked on mostly from a distance, only the most arranques among them dared come close and take mental notes.

The mamones stayed inside and left the jale to others. And the others, pos, they did the jale, cameano hard but having a good time too, listening to the old vatos rag each other.

“Watcha, Cora, you know that this is inside the city limits and you need a permit for this,” a vato who was the husband of a prima asked Boy’s father.

Decorado didn’t say anything. He knew the vato was just teasing him. But the maestro did speak up.

“So? What’s a permit?” he asked the vato.

“It’s a license to do what you’re doing?” the vato responded.

The maestro screwed up his face, indicating he didn’t understand and didn’t care what a permit, license or whatever muleta that vato was talking about was.

“If you don’t have a permit, the authorities will fine you, ese—make you pay a ticket,” the vato persisted.

“Nel, ese, I just did a matanza right on the other side of the alley, and the government—nobody— said anything,” the maestro argued.

“Pos, that’s outside the city limits,” the vato said.

“What’s the difference,” the maestro said.

“The city limits makes the difference. It’s a different authority on that side of the line,” the vato said.

“What line? There’s nothing different over there than here. Everybody goes back and forth even to maderease, and nothing happens. And the pig came from over there,” said the maestro.

“Pos, over there is the county government and over here is the city government, watchas,” the vato said.

“Are you with the city authority?” the maestro asked.

“Chale,” the vato said.

“Pos then there’s no borlo? No authority here mamando. Nobody can see the difference. So me vale madre your line,” said the maestro.

“More wood in the fire, Cora,” he ordered.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.