Caló: A Borderland Dialect

Caló is the latest addition to Marfa Public Radio’s programming. Created by Oscar Rodriguez, who sometimes goes by the name “El Marfa,” the series honors the Texas borderlands patois commonly called Caló.

Oscar grew up speaking this language in Ojinaga and Odessa. He remembers the unique dialect filling the barrios and countryside of his childhood in West Texas. Each week on Caló, Oscar will feature words and phrases from Caló then explore their meaning with a personal anecdote.

Oscar Rodriguez hosts Caló, a new series on Marfa Public Radio. Hear it at the start of Dos Horas Con Primo every Tuesday.

Oscar was born and raised in Ojinaga, West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. He has lived in and out of Texas since he graduated from Ector High School in Odessa in the late-1970s, including a couple of years in the 1990s when he lived in Marfa and taught at Sul Ross State University. Oscar is also an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Tribe and an avid researcher of Native history in Texas and New Mexico — specifically in the La Junta region. 

He hopes by sharing his knowledge of this colorful language, he can help keep it alive.

Recently on Caló:

Caló: No, you were looking to do a big favor?

Órale, the Caló word for this episode is ‘no.’ In Caló, the word is often used with double meaning. It both marks a notice and requests acknowledgement. And it’s delivered simultaneously in English and in Spanish with the exact same meaning. The only complication is that there’s a regional difference in its use. Among Caló speakers north of Albuquerque, no comes at the end of the statement, as in, “You didn’t get that at Walmart, no?” South of ‘burque, no comes at the front of the statement, as in “no, you didn’t get that at Walmart?”