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Mutual alivian


Órale, this episode is about the verb, alivianar. It comes from the Spanish word, aliviar, which means to heal, de-stress, or lighten a burden. In Caló, it means to concede a favor or grace. You alivianar somebody when you give them something they ask for or you agree to back off and stop pressuring them or let them get ahead of you in line. It’s a matter of transaction, where you alivianar them by giving them the alivian they ask for, and you get points for heaven. Watchas? In that way, you alivianar yourself by alivianaring them with the alivian they ask for. Simón. A vato walks in all arranque and you say, alivianate, ese, and he says órale de aquellas, so you say, thanks for the alivian, vato.

“You know how to dance, ese,” the vato’s cousin asked him.

“Psht. Simón, ese,” the vato responded.

They were standing together at a wedding dance where all the young vatos hang out silently marshalling the gumption to go out and ask morras to dance. His cousin, who was almost a whole year older than him, looked him in the eye, as if trying to decide if he should believe him or not.

“Where’d you learn?” he asked the vato after a long pause.

“At home,” the vato said, bluffing but putting on his best game face.

“Your jefita, chale,” the cousin said, looking around for an alternative.

“Pos, whatever, ese. Not dancing with you anyway, ese,” the vato said, angry his cousin was judging him.

“Ummm. You’re gonna have to do cuz there’s no other,” his cousin said.

The vato stood silent, not sure how to take the comment.

“Watcha, follow me to go ask those two sisters over there to dance. The one I want will say yes if we both go, and the little sister will follow her lead. Pañas?” the cousin said.

“Siról,” the vato responded.

“Then ponle,” the cousin said.

They walked side by side to the table with the two sisters, coyotas, good-looking, and among the few morras at the dance who weren’t their kin.

Then just as his cousin had plotted, the older sister said yes to him, and the younger one followed her and took the vato’s hand.

“You know how to dance?” she asked the vato as they approached the dance floor.

The vato hesitated a second before he tried to answer. He didn’t want to lie or set expectations too high.

“Alivianate,” she said before he could respond.

“I practice with my sister, but she always makes me lead.”

“You OK to follow me?” she asked as they squared off in the middle of the dance floor.

“Simón!” said the vato a little too quickly.

Then they launched. Awkwardly and too fast at first. But they soon settled into a repetitive pattern, and with every step they fell more and more in rhythm with each other.

Even as their hands were still sweaty, they dared to give each other a “we’re doing it” look.

Relieved, they danced on. Alivianando each other with each step. Eyes locked, each expressing nothing but thankfulness for the other’s alivian.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.