This is a picture of my street in San Miguel de Allende. An ordinary street in a Mexican neighborhood on an ordinary morning.
The gas truck guys are usually the first to arrive.
They have two megaphone speakers attached to the front of the truck which play the same obnoxious ditty over and over, because how else would you know they’re in the neighborhood in case you forgot to order? They will ride your neighborhood several times a day.
Three days a week a guy will hang off the back of the garbage truck and bang on a long piece of metal.
Sporadically during the day a car will come through announcing a party, a special bargain, a social service, or something else I can’t understand. The megaphones will be set to max, in case you didn’t get it the first time. He will come back several times.
Nothing however will quite beat the sound of various people – all of whom are uniformly polite and lovely human beings – banging on your door or metal gates to sell you something.
It’s not at all unusual for men with incredibly heavy furniture strapped to their back to bang on my metal gate on the weekend. Mia goes into a paroxysm of barking. I’m usually alarmed by the insistence of the banging. It ends in a repetition of “No, gracias, muchas gracias pero, no gracias” because, from the point of view of the vendor, it’s a bargain he can’t believe I’m turning down.
Of course, if you live on my street you have an elementary school one block away. The school has a band. They practice every day at precisely 2:10. And, before their current semester, they’ve never seen an instrument in their lives.
I’ve come to think of the hourly buses, the roof-dog poodle across the street who barks all day and into the night, the Mexican rap music that my neighbor in the house beside me plays on the weekends, the occasional neighborhood fiesta, the BIG events with rocket cannons, and the boombox that the handbag tienda across the street occasionally sets on roar as punctuation in a symphony of every-day sound. And, I have come to love the rare moments of silence on Calle Las Flores with an unreasonable passion.
When people tell you that Mexico is a ‘noisy culture’, you should believe them. To my ears their surrounding soundscape is oddly curious, because in my experience, in person Mexicans don’t raise their voices in conversation. Nor in public are they boisterous in the way that Germans on vacation, for example, can be. In fact, for the most part I find Mexicans reserved.
Why they accept a cacophony on their streets remains a mystery to me.
Maybe it’s because, as opposed to the American self-reference to individuality, Mexicans really are self-reliant and they cocoon themselves inside their family homes while flat-out ignoring what others are doing outside their private space.
That’s my best guess, but the poodle across the street is barking and I’m not sure I’m thinking straight.
Happy Soundscape to You!