Órale, the word for this episode of Caló is ‘chaquetear.’ It’s a verb that means to switch sides or betray your side. It comes from the English word, jacket, which has been adopted in many Spanish-speaking countries as ‘chaqueta.’ The literal meaning is to don the opposition’s color or style of jacket while abandoning that of the side or party you at first belonged to.
By Oscar “El Marfa” Rodriguez
Chabelita, Boy’s childhood neighbor sidled up to him when the wedding band took a break and everybody on the dance floor went back to their tables.
Boy looked over at her and smiled. Chabelita didn’t return the gesture.
“What’s wrong?” asked Boy.
“Just checking on you to see if you’re in one piece,” said Chabelita.
“Huh?” said Boy.
“I see you’ve been dancing a lot with that ruca from down the block—used to live down the block,” said Chabelita.
“Yeah. So?” said Boy.
“Pos, she’s a chaquetera,” said Chabelita.
“How can that be? She grew up with us,” said Boy.
“No. She lived down the street for a little bit, then left—even before high school,” said Chabelita.
“But she…” Boy started to say, but was interrupted.
“She never came back,” Chabelita said disdainfully.
“No, she’s back now?” said Boy.
“Now. Tonight only. And she’s dancing with you cuz you’re the only boy her age she knows here. Oh, and her cousins are all too old or too young to dance with her,” said Chabelita.
Boy looked over at the girl he’d been dancing with most of the night. She did indeed look out of place at her table.
“And then she’s gonna head back to the rich part of town tonight and forget about you,” said Chabelita.
“Anyway, how does that make her a chaquetera? No, if she was never one of us, as you say, she’s simply on the other side, the one she’s always been on,” said Boy.
“Chale, she once was one of us. We were best friends. My jefita and hers were best friends—still are. When her family first moved away, we used to talk on the phone a lot. And she always came with her mom when she came to visit my mom. Then she got other friends, and that was it. Her mom still comes, but not her,” said Chabelita.
Boy didn’t say anything. He glanced again at the girl Chabelita was talking about. She looked back at him and smiled.
“I once saw her at the mall with her friends, and she acted like she didn’t recognize me. All sura. You’re not going to do that when you go to college, are you?” Chabelita asked.
“Nel, esa, I’m not going to chaquetear,” said Boy. “But people do change. That doesn’t mean they’re against you.”
“Change is fine. A little change would do you some good, vato. But turning your back and looking at your old friends like they’re old history? That’s sura. If you chaquetear me, and I’ll cachetear (slap) you,” said Chabelita.
“Eeee! I better watch it,” said Boy.
“Simón,” said Chabelita.