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Zorra, no sorry, c/s


Órale, we’re gonna talk about the once-famous term in Caló, con safos. It’s been around for centuries, but it became famous in barrios throughout the US beginning only in the 1960s, when a popular Los Angeles magazine with that expression as its name started publishing. Safos comes from the Spanish term zafar, which means to get loose, escape, untie or unburden oneself. In Caló, it’s a counter-spell you say in anticipation of a curse coming your way. In essence, it says that whatever ill or evil is wished upon you is dissolved or disassembled even as it’s being said such that it’ll come with ways for you to zafar from it. Unlike the common term in American English, “whatever pox you wish on me will come to you,” con safos means “I put up a spell that’ll render your curse useless against me even before you say it.” In its heyday, the term was so well-known that people came to abbreviate it with simple c forward slash s and ritualistically add it to graffiti, cap off poems, and even integrate it into paintings to serve as a protective spell. To be sure, con safos isn’t an innocent or purely defensive spell. It's a preemptive counterattack you lob after you’ve provoked retaliation, as in “I hope your pichirilo breaks down before you get to your date, ese, con safos.”

The vato walked into the backyard party at his ruca’s parents’ house and quickly spotted the mamón from the wedding the previous weekend who had disrespected him.

“There he is, the pinche sura mamón who put his big handprint on my just polished ramfla,” thought the vato.

“Gonna show his face here hacina.”

“Oh, wait…he’s gonna apologize.”

Eee! No. He’s gonna just try and look the other way.”


The vato stared at his challenger briefly then walked over to the ice cooler where the beer was. He picked up a cold can and shook off the condensation that had formed around it and looked into the crowd for his mark to cross his path. Sure enough seconds later, the perp walked between him and his ruca’s brother, Rudy, who stood a good distance away in the background.

“Hey, Rudy. You wanna cold one, ese?” the vato called out to his coñado (brother-in-law).

“Simón, ese!” Rudy called back.

The perp turned away from the vato as if he was preoccupied with someone else.

“Catch, ese,” the vato yelled as he swung his arm a couple of times before pitching the beer over his mark’s head to Rudy.

The can landed safely in Rudy’s waiting hands, but the commotion stirred the crowd. Although he was completely untouched, the perp mistakenly thought the vato threw the can at him and ducked as if to get out of the way. A few people in the crowd laughed.

“Watchale!” he complained to the vato, clearly stung by the humiliation.

“Oh, zorra, zorra,” the vato said nonchalantly but with a big grin.

“Y con safos,” he added loud enough for everybody to hear.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.