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The Sounds of Silence

13 November 2006

 This is another of those posts that should be attributed to LYN_2 — when I imported from blogspot, they all carried over under my own name.  We’ll get it straightened out eventually.  (Richard)

Is the general population of Mexico City aging or what? Some politicos have gotten so cranky about the noise levels in d.f. that they passed a new ordinance to turn down the volume.

Antonio Olivio of the Chicago Tribune:

Several wondered: Is it even possible to harness Mexico City’s carnival of sound? To quiet the roving mariachi bands-for-hire that sing about lost love until dawn? To silence the sidewalk barkers promoting the latest trendy bars? Or, in a 24-hour society that loves a good party, to undo the fact that one’s stature is often measured by the strength of his stereo speakers?

Government response is the new Environmental Standard for the Federal District, adopted in September, which cracks down on loud factories, bars, markets and other places of business in the capital.To show the government means business, higher fines associated with the new ordinance start around $90 and can climb to $900, Trujillo said.Sergio Beristain ascribed the problem to a mixture of erratic urban planning and a culture that loves to be heard. “The people, they’re used to noise,” he said with some resignation, calling the new law too limited in scope. “I’m not sure they have the resources they would need to enforce this ordinance. It would require a massive education campaign.When people write into Thorntree asking for suggestions of quiet places to stay (in Mexico) where they can relax and write a book, I just roll my eyes. There are no so such places. Mexico is all about noises!

I thought I found a quiet place to stay in Piste. It was a nah off on a dirt road. I had a thatched roof, a bed surrounded with mosquito netting, and a mirror… that was it. The only lightbulb in the room was burned out and no tv/radio or anything. I hadn’t taken into account the critter population. Dogs prowled around the nah all night and barked in unison. A rooster greeted the sun with his friendly call which woke up the mamma pig and her 5 offspring…. oink, oink. At about 6am, the church bells rang and at 6:30am, a big ol’ truck drove past with an impassioned man’s voice booming through a loudspeaker as he was trying to sell a load of mattresses (of all things).

When you’re in a Mexican city (anywhere in Mexico), your ears will be assaulted by belching buses, barking dogs (roaming gangs), honking horns, sirens, noisy vendors, jack-hammers, etc.

It’s not uncommon to be eating a meal in a local restaurant with two tv’s going, a mariachi band playing songs at the next table, a waiter trying to take your order and a cd vendor (with a sound system to rival ‘Twisted Sister’s) blasting away just outside the open doorway.

I’m ok with all of it with one big exception…. the obnoxious ORGAN GRINDER! That sound (noise) grates on my last nerve. It’s right up there with nails going down a chalk board or the sound of bagpipes. One afternoon, I bought a phone card, and walked over to a payphone to make a long distance call. Right after I heard my sister say, “Hello….” an organ grinder walked up and started playing. I looked over at him (thinking he would take a hint), and he just smiled at me and kept on turning the crank. Teaches me to call home from calle de Cinco de Mayo.

The mariachi’s, the barking dogs, the jack-hammers… they’re noises of a bustling society. Coupled with the aromas of grilled onions and cooking tacos, the burning mesquite, the perfume of incense wafting through the churches, and of fields of pointsetias growing in Xolchimilco, the noises in the streets, give Mexico it’s vitality/energy.

The only instance of long silence I experienced in Mexico was when I joined a group of about 100 onlookers (on a Puerto Vallarta beach) as we watched a large sea turtle lay her eggs in the sand. For about an hour, you could hear a whisper.

Babies and working men on the buses have learned to sleep right through the daily commotion. Only old men in suits, who are trying to distance themselves from their roots, want to muffle the noise. Noise is the music of the young.

Meanwhile, let’s have a little fireworks with that marimba band!

photo by: ogal

One Comment leave one →
  1. 20 November 2006 6:57 pm

    this is another one i’ve bookmarked to come back and savor with my wine, or tea. i really love these posts that express the flavor of mexico.

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