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: Oh, what a mamón!

Today’s episode is about the term mamón. Sharing the same root word as mammal and mom, it means sucker in Spanish. In Caló, the term describes somebody, man or woman, who always thinks they should have it “their way.” Nobody likes a mamón. Somebody who’s inconsiderate is a mamón. Somebody who goes through life assuming everybody loves them and owes them whatever they wish is a mamón. Somebody who thinks nobody sees their faults or duplicitous nature is a mamón. To be sure, somebody who isn’t a mamón, can commit mamadas. And women can be just as mamonas as their mamón male counterparts.