Ojo: The "Cholo Word Of The Day" is simply for fun. This is not an academic exercise, therefore I do not spend much time checking for espelling or grammatical errors. Most of the words are not only used by "cholos," but by many people in S. Texas - and their usage can vary. c/s

Saturday, April 30, 2005

English Only - Plis

I spent a good chunk of yesterday calling government offices in Laredo. I was looking for a pickup truck that was seized along the border last week. I called the Laredo Border Patrol, U.S. Customs, D.P.S., Webb County Sheriff's Department and a couple of others. During my conversations I found myself reverting to my old ways of talking (at least, the way I talked when I lived in Laredo). I always found that the more jokes I make and the more Spanish and English I throw in, the better reception I get. I mention this because I also made a couple of calls to the Williamson County Sheriff's department and although I did make one joke, the conversation was much more stuffy (and professional). In both cases I got the information I needed.

I learned while working as a reporter in Laredo that people feel at ease speaking to someone that talks like them. It's just the way it is. I guess adapting to the environment.

That wasn't even the point of this post. I noticed that with all of the folks I talked to on the border I always heard chatter in the background. The chatter was always in Spanish and English. I was calling THE BORDER PATROL and they were speaking Spanish, not because I was requesting it, but because that's the language they were comfortable using. The same thing happened at U.S. Customs, the folks in charge of keeping people out of the country, and even more so at the Sheriff's department.

I'm not sure why all of this caught my attention, because when I lived there I never thought twice about it. Most of the people working in those offices grew up along the border and speak like border people. I guess this is just part of the conflict that Raza faces everyday along the border. Our cousins are border patrol agents and undocumented immigrants. Our brothers are D.P.S. troopers and jail inmates.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Bueno, Hola, Hello, Bueno, Juan, Estas alli?

I'll probably go to hell for this and a couple of other things I've done, but I'll go ahead an say it. Have you noticed Mexican people 60 and over are cell phone and answering machine challenged? Now, I know many people have problems with technology, regardless of race or age, but older Mexican folks trying to figure out cell phones and answering machines are hillarious. At least those are the people I've seen.

Today I was checking my brother's office messages and an old woman left three messages. The first one you could hear kids in the background yelling.......then click. The second message...."Bueno, bueno, Raul, Raul, Raul, me oyes...ah, yo no se usar esta cosa." Third message..."Si, Licensiado, habla Maria, por favor me llama."

I called the lady back and she told me, "ay me choca dejar mensajes. No me gusta mi voz."

Then there's my mom. She knows how to answer the phone sometimes. She doesn't know how to check messages and half of the time she's got the phone off. "Hello, hello (yelling), me oyes.." "Yes, mom..." "..ME OYES..."

ok. I'm out. I have to call my mom.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

In The Slammer

I went to jail today. One of my brother's clients is being held at one of the Travis County Correctional Centers and I needed for her to sign some papers. I've visited plenty of jails and prisons in the last five years mostly as a reporter. I interviewed women in Webb County about the time they get to spend with their children. I talked to Americans being detained in Nuevo Laredo declaring, "I did nothing wrong." Yea right. I talked to drug dealers at the same Prison in Nuevo Laredo just after a riot. The Mexican Federal Police (Policia Judicial Federal-PJF) busted in, arrested the director of the Cereso, and transferred El Borrado to Almoloya, a Maximum Security prison. The inmates rioted because El Borrado paid many of them, including the directors. I walked into a holding cell with 100's of inmates at the Cameron County Jail to interview a suspected serial killer. The guard pulled him out of the cell as I shoved my microphone in his face and he pleaded his innocence (i'm sure plenty of laws were broken).

The point is that in every facility I've visited there's always a group of wives, moms, dads, kids, and husbands waiting for their loved ones. It seems that it's harder for them than it is for the folks locked up. Maybe they're thinking that they should have done something else or did something wrong. The inmates usually aren't depressed or at least don't show it. Maybe because it would be a sign of weakness. Maybe because a lot of them are there for a reason.

I just feel for the families. They show up so that a guard can tell them visiting hours were over 2 hours ago. They sit in the sun for 3 hours before they can get inside to see their family member. They sit and ask questions and talk. "He's my brother." - "He's my son." - "We can't afford a lawyer." etc...Unfortunately, many of these people leave the waiting room only to come back six months, a year, or even days later. That's the sad part. That's what sucks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Working The Yard and No Kids In Sight

My brother takes good care of his lawn and since he's out of town I'm in charge of watering the yard and flowers. Tonight I did just that. A couple of days ago I took it upon myself to cut the grass at the house. I haven't done yard work in a while partly because of my allergies, but mostly because I don't own a house with a yard. Now I've done some yard work two days in one week. I miss it.

Don't get me wrong. I hated cutting the grass when I was a kid. Especially because my mom would wake my ass up at about 8am to get started. During the summer the temperature in McAllen, Texas loves getting into the 100's. I could see the sun smirking while I pushed the Briggs & Straton lawn mower, carried the gas weed eater (much better than electric), or used a simple asadon to work the yard. The sun would then laugh as it saw me hunched over ripping the weeds out with my bare hands, without fear of espinas sticking me.

My older brother would somehow convince all of the barrio kids that it was cool to cut the grass and trim the trees, when we lived in El Campito, the McAllen labor camp. I guess everyone figured the sooner we finished with the yard, the sooner we would all get to play. And that's the thing. We were always outside playing. We finished as soon as possible on the rare occasion that the kids didn't help so that we could join them in playing baseball, marbles, football, stickball, or bote sonado. Even when we moved out of the campo and lived out of the projects - the kids were still there. I'd crank up the lawm mower and there they were. Riding their bikes or throwing the football around.

Not anymore. Not here. My mom was in town when I was cutting the grass and she looked across my brother's neighborhood and said, "porque no salen los niños?" I don't know. I wonder if it's a South Texas thing, a Mexican thing, or maybe even a poor person thing.

The neighbors here say hi to each other, but they don't know each other. My friends' parents in Dallas don't even know their neighbors. I bet my sister in Dallas couldn't name three of her neighbors. I go to McAllen and my dad is across the street talking to Juan, or Jaime is out working on his yard next to us taking his time because he's stopping to chat with my mom, or Ivan and his three junior high friends are out waving around a woman's calzones which they've placed on a stick all the meanwhile making sure my mom doesn't see them. Who knows where they found them. The point is: it's a community. People are outside. Talking. Evesdropping. Getting to know each other. Getting after and keeping and eye out on each other's kids.

I lived in a pretty swanky area in Dallas, so I never saw families. I had a little brother though and he lived in East Dallas - the barrio. People were always sitting out on their porches when I would go pick him up. The kids were running around. It was 10pm - but they were outside. Maybe the house was too small for all of them to be inside. You know, some families cram chingos of people. Maybe the kids didn't own an X-box or a Nintendo, but I suspect they did. Maybe they didn't have A/C. Who the hell knows. All I know is that they were outside.

I miss seeing kids playing outside. I usually take my brother's dog out for a walk or just play fetch with her after work. There are no kids. A mom will brisk by pushing a stroller every now and then. She turns her head the other way in order to avoid eye contact. I don't know what's going on.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Cholo Word Of The Day - Alivianate

I heard my sister of all people say this word the other day. I'm not exactly sure why she said it, but I think she told my mom.


Meaning According To DT:
calm down, relax, take it easy, don't worry

Used in a sentence:
"Goyo, alivianate ya! El Lore como queira va a brincar a el Secundino."

"Yo se, pero se debe de alivianar con todo ese pedo. Al cabo que su sister ni lo pela."

Translation according to DT:
"Gregory, please relax yourself. Mr. Lawrence is still going to quarrel with the dry one."

"I know, but he should relax with all of that nonsense. It's of no consequence because his sister pays him no mind anyway."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Fast Food Movies

I finally finished reading Fast Food Nation, but that didn't stop me from eating a #1, no onions, from Whataburger for lunch and dinner on Saturday and lunch again on Sunday.

My last Cine Las Americas movie was a doozie. Temporada De Patos is another great film.

Flama and Moko are two 14-year-old boys planning to spend their Sunday afternoon playing video games, ordering pizza, and taking advantage of their parents’ absence from the apartment. Their adolescent plans, however, get interrupted by a power outage, a pretty teenage neighbor who stops by and stays, and a pizza delivery man who refuses to leave when the boys refuse to pay him.

This film about urban teenagers eschews common themes of guns and violence, using the natural performances of the young actors to capture the fun, the confusion, and the loneliness of adolescence.

I think the festival was a huge success. It's the first time I went and I really enjoyed it.

I know I've mentioned that I really enjoy this city, but damn, when I leave I'm going to miss a lot of stuff. I'm going to miss hanging out with my friends. I'm going to miss the easy access to cultural events. I'm going to miss the concerts and live music. And I'm going to miss the new people I've been meeting. I guess - more on all of this later.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Kung Fu Catholics

I went to watch Kung Fu Hustle with some hipster friends last night. My ride made me run late, so in the rush to get inside the movie theater, I blindly led my friend into the wrong showing of the movie. It turns out the flick was showing on two screens, at 7 and 7:50. It was 8pm when we arrived at the theater so we thought the movie had just started. We walked in to the 7pm showing and consequently missed half of the show. We didn't realize till we walked into the lobby, to wait for our friends, who had so inconsideratly not waited for us. Ooops. Then we walked to the theater where we should have been and there they were - two seats, just waiting for us. Too bad we had already seen the 2nd half of the flick.

After the movie we went to have a couple of drinks at Manuel's, which happens to be in the same center as the theater. The conversation somehow led to religion. Two atheists and two catholics (I being a member of the latter). One of the a-friends started talking about cultural catholicism. Hmmm, I wonder if I'm a cultural catholic. This web site is pretty harsh of cultural catholics, but here's what they define it as:

The majority of Catholics in the world probably fit into the category of cultural Catholics. This group is unlike any other type we have considered above. Their identification as "Catholic" is simply more cultural and social than religious. They might rightly be called "womb to tomb Catholics." They often are born in a Hispanic, Irish, Polish, French, or Italian families -- and are therefore baptized, married, and buried in the Catholic church -- but have little or no concern about spiritual matters. Cultural Catholics do not understand Catholicism, nor do they seriously follow its ethical teaching. But they nevertheless have an emotional commitment to the Catholic church. When they attend Mass, it is out of habit or family obligation, not religious conviction. Being Catholic to them is essentially a cultural identity (they may even be secular or humanistic [or postmodernist] in their thinking). This is not unlike how some Jews are merely ethnically or culturally Jewish, rather than adherents to Judaism. It is also like the person who is Lutheran only because he happens to be born into a German family, or the Anglican who is only Anglican because she was born into a British family. You see, it happens in Protestantism as well. Nominal Catholics, like nominal Protestants, do not understand Christianity, and they do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. With all due respect, President John F. Kennedy would seem to have fit well the mold of a cultural Catholic.

The conversation was good, the different points of view interesting, and the chips and hot sauce satisfying. It made for an enjoyable evening.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

La Vida No Vale Nada

They compared Rancheras to Blues. I checked out La Vida No Vale Nada for my 2nd Cine Las Americas event. The flick was a documentary about Jose Alfredo Jimenez.

Mexican music is amazing. The words, the sound, the meaning. I love how you can feel the passion when someone sings. It reminds me of my childhood, and visiting mexico, and being in the valley, and just hanging out with friends. The music makes me wish I was a poet, a singer, and a musician. It makes me want to write love letters to girls. It makes me want to have a girlfriend or a wife, whom I could sing these songs to, just for those 3 minutes at least (i can't add enough disclaimers to this statement). It makes me want to send my mom a serenata for mother's day. It makes me want to explain to all of my non-mexican music listening friends what each song means. It makes me want to do a grito. Mexican music makes me want to sign with my dad - hacerle la segunda. It wants to make me go to my parents church, where they convert old Mexican ballads, into Catholic hymns.

I drove him after the documentary and popped in a cassette (i'm old school, no cd player) of Vicente Fernandez and Jose Alfredo Jimenez. I sang along and I did do a grito. I missed a call on my cell phone, because I couldn't hear it. Then me throat hurt, but it felt great.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Machuca This!

I saw an amazing movie tonight at the Cine de Las Americas Film Festival premiere.

Machuca follows the friendship between Gonzalo Infante and Pedro Machuca, two eleven-year-old boys living in the capital city of Santiago, Chile, in 1973. Gonzalo comes from a well-to-do family, and Pedro comes from an illegal shantytown recently settled not far from Gonzalo’s neighborhood. Their worlds are separated by boundaries that some, in an age full of revolutionary hopes, want to break down.

My friends from Maneja Beto hooked me up with the pass.

Although not as severe, the story reminds me somewhat of my childhood. I think of my friend Kevin who always had the coolest G.I. Joe's. He gave me some, but I always knew we were different.

It also reminds me of some of my current friends. I by no means am hurting financially, but I'm not doing as well as some of my other friends. They don't make me feel any different, but it's evident that there is a difference.

The movie makes me think of human relationships and how people from different places and environments can come together, develop bonds, but there's still something there. What that is, I don't know.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Soy Tio

My oldest sister gave birth to a little mugre today. She was born at 1:25 am. This should be exciting. My sister went old school and didn't find out the sex of the baby until she popped out.

A couple of observations:
1. The first day my mom found out my sister was pregnant, she looked at her and said, "Va ser niña."

2. My other sister noted that my oldest sister's dominant language is Spanish. During labor she never once spoke (yelled) in English, unless she was talking to the nurse.

3. the kid's name is Itzel, of Mayan origin.

4. My sister put together a list of Juegos De Dedos, Cancionces de Arrullo, Nursery Rymes to teach Itzel. Including, but not limited to: Tortillitas, Papas y Papas, Sana Sana, Tin Marin de dos Pingue, etc.

5. I don't see how women do it. Yikes, pain.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Cholo Word Of The Day - Escamar

Escamar can be used in several different ways. I'll try to remember all of the phrases which and context in which I've used it.

Escamar, No te Escames, Se Escamo, Te Escamaste, Se va Escamar

Meaning According To DT:
freak out, get scared, worry

Used in a sentence:
"Lore, viste como se escamo el Tony cuando se dio cuenta que iba tener un chavalio."

"Clarinches Poncho, ahora si va tener que chambiar mas."

Translation according to DT:
"Lawrence, did you see how Antone was a tad bit concerned when he learned he was having a child."

"Of course Alfonse, no he's really going to have to bear down and apply himself more at his occupation."

Update: Sometimes we would sneak up on someone and say, "Pssst, no te escamas," when they flinched. Similar to a "Psyche!"

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Man Date

This NYT article about the man date is hillarious. I think I've gone on plenty of man dates. It's usually a lunch or dinner, and it's funny, we always do seem to follow the same guide lines as outlined in thie article.

Hmmmm, I don't think I've ever gone on a man date with any friends from back home.

The delicate posturing began with the phone call.

The proposal was that two buddies back in New York City for a holiday break in December meet to visit the Museum of Modern Art after its major renovation.

"He explicitly said, 'I know this is kind of weird, but we should probably go,' " said Matthew Speiser, 25, recalling his conversation with John Putman, 28, a former classmate from Williams College.

The weirdness was apparent once they reached the museum, where they semi-avoided each other as they made their way through the galleries and eschewed any public displays of connoisseurship. "We definitely went out of our way to look at things separately," recalled Mr. Speiser, who has had art-history classes in his time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

You've Seen Them!

I had a pretty good laugh reading El Mas Chingon's post Czech Yourself. He talks about young hipster parents dressing their kids like young infant hipsters.

For some reason, I immediately started thinking of Raza that mess their kids up from inception. You know you've seen them! You've seen the family walking around w/ their little 2-year old boy wearing earings. Or the 3-year old little boy w/ some gold chains (probably a cross or virgen mary), bracelets, rings, and sometimes a tooth. Or, how about the little kid with the sweet ass mullet.

I think those people are trying to be hipsters. Cindy thinks brown people can't be hipsters. I may agree, in this instance.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

They Call Me Mijo

I took notice of this a while back. My oldest sister and older brother call me mijo. My oldest sister is 9 years older than me and my older brother is 6 years older than me. The sister that 4 years older than me doesn't call me mijo. I think my oldest siblings do call her and also my younger brother mija and mijo, respectively.

I wonder if most families do this. We have always looked to my older siblings for guidance, for some reason. We still do. I just found it interesting that they use this as a term of affection.

Se Le Queman Los Frijoles

I drove my parents to a casino in Louisianna today. They were worried about my driving, but after some dude passed me up, my dad said: Se Le Estaran Quemando Los Frijoles!

Monday, April 11, 2005


My friend told me she put something on lay-a-way the other day, but made me swear I wouldn't tell anyone. She was embarrased. When we were kids we always knew where the lay-a-way counter was. It was part of life. My mom would go to the store, find some clothes for us, then put it on lay-a-way. She didn't have a credit card and she didn't have the cash, so why not make payments on it.

I hadn't thought of that concept in a very long time until my friend brought it up. There used to be a story in McAllen called Anthony's. That's where my mom would do all of our shopping. We had shorts on lay-a-way, shoes, shirts, pants (husky for my brother, slim for me), and anything else we needed. I know she would go in and give $10 or $20 every week, until we got our stuff. It just seems like such a hassle though, but I think most places don't charge you any interest, so it's better than a credit card. I'm not sure what the terms are now.

However, I'd rather use my credit card, which award me points now. No lay-a-way plan for me.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Selena - Tanto Pedo

I'm writing this at the risk of sounding like a hater. Que tanto pedo le hacen a Selena.

Mind you, I skipped my Literature class the day the Movie Selena came out, stood in line with middle-aged woman wearing Selena t-shirts, carrying roses and crying, just to be there for the premier.

I remember the day Selena died. I remember what I was doing. It was my senior year. I was walking to my class and my friend Cesar, who happened to have a walkman, spread the word. SELENA IS DEAD.

I watched Selena in concert, before she was big. I think my friends and I left the festival in McAllen as soon as she got on stage - they didn't like that type of music and Selena was a nobody then.

Oh yea and I had a Selena cd.

Selena's music was good. I enjoyed it and I was sad when she was killed. She was great. She was beautiful. She could dance.

I didn't know it was the 10 year anniversary of Selena's death until I started hearing radio commercials advertising free tickets to a "Selena Vive" Concert. Then, I started seeing her picture on the front page of every local newspaper.

I admit. She was huge. She was great. She was a pioneer. People loved her. Young Latinas saw a beautiful brown woman perform and it made them feel good. I just don't understand why people devote so much time to this, but don't even remember when the great Cesar Chavez died.

Somebody told me, "Porque le hacen tanto pedo a Selena?" I don't know.

It's sad that mainstream America didn't know who she was until she died. I wish they would have. However, is all the borlote needed? I mean, I was a fan of hers before the death, before the fame, but I just don't get it. Maybe my camarada Lucio is right. He says I'm part of the system, part of the problem, and probably a sellout. Hmmm.

I do think it's good that we celebrate he accomplishments and remember her death. However, I wish it were the same for other greats.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Their Story - Everyday

It took her three months, but she got here. She took the bus, she walked, she jumped on trains, she swam across the deadly Rio Grande, took a bus past the Laredo checkpoint and made it to Austin. The Salvadoran woman told me her story yesterday. This isn't only her story, but yesterday as I listened to her, it was the only story.

She was in the office filling out forms petioning the government to make her young son a resident. "No lo conocia," she told me. Her son came to Austin, from El Salvador, last year on September 16, 2004. He took the same route. It took him three months. I looked at her. She looked at me and repeated, "No lo conocia." I just stared. How could you not know your son? You didn't tell me he was adopted, I thought.

"Es que nada mas nacio, y me vine," she told me, while looking away. She left El Salvador just after her son was born. I'm not sure how long, but it must have been only a couple of months. She had to leave her son because she had no money. She also left a now 18 year old girl and a now 19 year old girl. Her son is 10 years old. She hadn't seen him in 9 years. He didn't know her. She didn't know him.

"Ayer vino con su primera tarea en español," she said. He brought his first English homework. His older sister helped him with it. The mom cried. He told her he felt he was free here. Free, because there's a big playground next to his apartment complex. Free, because he has a bicycle which he can ride around the neighborhood.

The woman mentioned that a gringo had told her he would marry her so that she could fix her papers. He has a house and lives down the street. He said she wouldn't have to pay him. It sounds fishy. My brother told her that if they got married and tried to fix her papers, he would have to go with her to her interview in San Salvador. She laughed.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Law On The Border - The Larger Problem

A State District Court from the Valley killed himself yesterday. 46 year old Judge Edward Aparicio was found with a gunshot to the head. He left behind 5 boys and his wife.

There are many rumors flying around as to why the Judge killed himself. What is known is that last year the FBI raided his home. The judge was the target of an investigation into allegations that he had taking bribes. It's a pretty interesting, but sad story.

This case reminds me of when I was a reporter in Laredo. I covered the corruption trial (i was a t.v. reporter, so no links to my stories) of several men with ties to the district attorney's father. Most of the men, including the DA's father, brother, cousins, and several assistant district attorneys were convicted.

I guess the question that comes to mind here is: Is there that much corruption along the border? Are only Mexican-Americans committing these crimes?

I don't know. I don't know if Raza in office go crazy or if it's that they're not as careful. I've seen cases like this in Dallas and other big cities, but not to this extent. We can make arguments for/against crooks everywhere. We can site Nixon, Clinton, and even Bush. (I threw Clinton in to the mix to please(sp?), my Republican friends)

Is it that gringo politicos are more careful or they just don't get caught? I don't know. Maybe, I pay more attention to cases like this because they are from home. Is it that the feds are all gringos and the politicos getting caught, mostly raza? (these allegations were raised many times during the laredo trial).

One person I talked to about this mentioned that he believes this is due to the the compadre system we seem to follow down there. We exchange favors - and nothing is thought of it. I think it's a beautiful thing in certain circumstances, but it can get out of hand. Who knows? I really don't know the answer to any of these questions. I just know this poor man felt he needed to end his life. That sucks.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Don't Cry! Are You Hungry? Not Any More.

I'm not sure which on of you fellow bloggers had a picture of a woman breast feeding her kid while she met the President of her respective country, but it came to mind today.

I'm filling out some forms for this 82 year old woman accompanied by her grandaughter, when the young girl decides she's going to breast feed her kid. Now, I'm no prude, but damn, that was freakin' weird. The young girl just took it out, right there, about 2 feet from me. The only thing between me and her was the desk.

I know a lot of you commented that it was a great and natural thing to do, but damn, I'll tell you, I was still surprised. I didn't even pay attention to it after about 30 seconds, but it did stun me. The kid stopped crying, so I guess that's good. And I reckon' good for her that she's comfortable enough to do so. I won't lie though - it was weird for me. Maybe that's something I should work on.

Things to do: don't be surprsied when a woman breast feeds next to you.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Rock, Helmets, Action

Three games out of the year the band, football players, cheerleaders, and any other student organization attending away football games were given the same instructions by teachers: Leave all bus windows closed at all times and always keep your helmets on. (i don't know what cheerleaders did).

The three towns: Rio Grande City, La Joya, and PSJA.

My friend and I were talking about this a couple of days ago. For some reason, win or lose, after every football game played in any one of these towns, the fans (kids) would decide to throw rocks at the bus. It's actually pretty funny, but I guess could have been dangerous.

That's why every year we had to follow the same procedure. I do remember getting pelted. Nobody got hit and I think someone in my bus actually mooned the students first. Either way, it was pretty damn funny.