If you have never been to Mexico, you will not quite understand the fact that this is a country of a million sounds. At any time day or night, a brass band could strike up, or a gas/ water/ rubbish/ or a-anything else you care to mention- truck could drive past selling its wares from a loud speaker, playing some little ditty, or louding ringing their bells. Dogs bark in rounds, church bells toll, the steam pipe of the cooked banana seller bellows, cockerels sing, and the carpenter saws and drills away until the early hours.
The Gas Truck in Oaxaca, that sings and moos
You can be eating a meal in a restaurant with music playing, a tv bellowing out loudly and busses hurtling past, changing gear just at the restaurants doorway. You can be woken up at 6am by Las Mañanitas (the Mexican equivalent to Happy Birthday) being played by a full band outside your window, because it is your neighbour’s special day! You can walk through the market to the sound of the marimbas, outdone by the stall owners heckles. Firecrackers go off at all hours of the day with such intensity that car alarms start sounding all around the city. And speaking of car alarms, they can go off for so long that you wish someone would actually come and steal the car, and drive the noise far away.
Imagine this at 6am right outside your window!
Getting on a bus you are greeted with the bus driver’s choice of music; anything from Reggaeton to Banda, to panpipe versions of famous loves songs. I once shared a bus ride surrounded by old ladies and people commuting home from work on a party bus with ultra violet lighting and club classics pumping out of the speakers, and in stark comparison to London, when people tut if someone listens to their IPod too loudly on the tube, here no one seems to mind at all.
The amazing thing is that the sounds become so normal that after a while, you barely hear the dogs barking or the gas truck’s song, and if it were to stop I think we would miss it, something would not feel quite right. One thing I know for certain, however is that I never want to be woken at 6am on my birthday by Mariachis singing to me, I would need until at least 11am to be pleased about that!
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in BBC Travel, CNN Travel, Conde Nast Traveler, AFAR and The Independent among others . Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Instagram and Twitter.