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The raza didn’t like it

Órale, the featured word for this episode is raza. In modern Spanish, it means race or breed. In Caló, it’s a catchall term for a social group or category, as in your friends and acquaintances or the people in your barrio. It’s intentionally imprecise, where agreement on the boundaries and/or membership is assumed but not critical. Raza can mean a gang, a cohort of average Joe’s, your workmates, the people sitting around you at the baseball stadium, even the people who mostly think like you. You know, the raza.

After hearing the two raqueteros tell their stories, each with hidden—and not so hidden— partisan mockery, the raza grew nervous. Their rhetorical blows landed hard and spattered the crowd. And, since they each wanted to have the last laugh, the storytelling went on and on and grew edgier and edgier.

Of course, it was the (sureño) southern raquetero who first invoked violence. His northern counterpart seemingly dared him to go there and, once the dogs were loosed, responded a la brava in norteño fashion, biting sureño (southern valley) mothers, children and races horses, which sureños loved very much.

“And because it always lost the big races, they changed its name from Chicapú to simply Pupú, which confused a lot of their children cuz many of them had been named after that horse,” the norteño raquetero ended his story.

“Chale. They were fooling you norteños. There were actually two horses, the Chicapú, a thoroughbred, to run the long races and the Pupú, a similar-looking quarter horse, for the shorter races. Of course, the norteños’ bets were always to the finish line while the sureños always bet to the quarter mile, which often left norteño children hungry cuz their parents lost their food money,” the sureño retorted.

Eee! The norteño raza in the crowd seethed at that ending. The sureño raza braced themselves in the expectation that there would be reprisals.

There was not much more left to the burning fuse. An explosion was imminent. Only a bigger spell than the ones the raqueteros were spinning could possibly calm things down.

All the raza, norteños and sureños, looked for a way out.

They say that as the raza grew restless, the few clouds overhead came together and formed a single round gray cloud. That cloud then grew darker and darker as it migrated from the middle of the valley to the western foothills, just above where the mitote was happening. Then all of sudden, a bolt of lightning shot out of that pregnant cloud and struck a nearby abandoned Catholic chapel, knocking down all the raza standing close to it.

This broke the spell. The raza turned their attention away from the raqueteros and toward the sight of those who had been standing next to the chapel slowly getting up from the ground. As these people got back on their feet, they saw that their fingernails had turned black. Now panicked, they ran down to the crowd below. With that, the crowd dispersed just as panicked, including the two raqueteros.

They say it was the spider that lives in the big cave on the eastern side of the mountain that caused the lighting strike. Why? Cuz it didn’t like the huato the two raqueteros were raising.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.