On Caló this week, the word writer Oscar Rodriguez explores: “Apéate” — get down, get off, get on your feet.
You can hear Caló every Tuesday on Marfa Public Radio during “Dos Horas con Primo.”
By Oscar Rodriguez
The conversation was getting hot at the backyard pig killing party.
It was late morning on a bright Sunday in mid-October. The party was just starting. Mon was trying to explain the concept of city limits to the men crowding around the fire pit, and it wasn’t going well. It was an abstract concept they had never thought about, and Mon was coming off to the men — all of them him his elders — as if he was talking down to them or, más gacho (worse still), pointing out something only rancheritos (country bumkins) like them didn’t know.
Don Panchito, an elderly but spry and ramrod straight man, asked incredulously: “So across the street they don’t have to worry about a permit for turning a pig into an asado, but here we do?” He looked away annoyed. He was the matanzero, the one designated to kill and quarter the pig.
“Sí,” the city limit is the street,” said Mon. “You could get fined or they could break up this matanza.” He was dressed in church-going clothes. He wasn’t there to help with the asado.
“But it’s Sunday,” responded Lilo, the matanza host’s son. “There’s no city limits, because they’re not working today.”
“It’s not about office hours,” I thought to myself. But I wasn’t going to say anything because I was way too young to cut in. Besides, they weren’t so much arguing against the idea as pushing back on Mon’s impertinence of talking like a chota (cop) with license to threaten them.
“It’s not about office hours,” said Mon shrilly. “The law applies all the time in the city limits.”
“Well, even if a chota comes, we’ll tell him to prove the city limits cuz I don’t see anything,” insisted Don Victoriano, his clothes covered with wood chips from chopping the firewood.
Mon rolled his eyes at me. I acted like I didn’t see him. Mon was on his own.
“So if this is the city limits, how come it looks like the countryside,” asked Lilo, who caught Mon’s condescension. “The street’s not paved and look how far the nearest house is.”
“The city limit is like the border between Mexico and the U.S.,” said Mon, “the line is invisible but it’s there whether you’re in the countryside or in the middle of a big city like Juarez-El Paso.”
“Ya, ya,” said Don Hilario, the matanza host. “Stop talking about la chota,” he commanded as he hunkered over the fire heating up the galvanized tub holding the water that was going to be used to scald the hair off the pig once it had been killed.
“Maybe the law won’t come, but they could,” said Mon to get in the last word.
Don Hilario waved his hand one time to end the conversation for good. “If anybody comes around here talking like that, we’ll tell them to get off their high horse,” he added. “Apéate del macho, because there’s no city limits here, only asado.”