When I first moved to Mexico City my good friend Javier Burillo was so great to me and helped to guide me through those first few weeks, and showing me around the city. One thing which I can remember Javier talking about was the sights and more importantly, the sounds that I would hear on a daily basis. I wasn’t sure what he meant at first, but I quickly learned that this is a city which is pretty noisy and there are some sounds which have gained iconic status in the city.
Here are just some of the noises which you can expect to hear in the city.
The city doesn’t have any kind of system whereby you leave the trash outside for it to be collected on an evening or the morning, and so you have to keep an ear out for the ringing of the bell. Two or three times per day the bell will sound and you have to go out and give your trash to the guys on the truck.
Gas, Gas, Gas
There are some properties here which have gas that comes straight from the mains, and there are others which will use large gas tanks on the ceiling of their home to provide them with an alternative solution. When the time comes to replace these gas cylinders you can either call up someone local or you can wait for the daily shouts of gas, gas, gas, to get your replacement. This is often shouted in a very low tone and very loud so that everyone can hear.
The Iconic Shout
There are small trucks which come around looking to take any old junk which they may be able to repurpose, things like old electronic equipment and beds. One man recorded his daughter shouting the following, to let residents know what they would be happy to take:
“Se compran colchones, tambores, refrigeradores, lavadoras, microondas o algo de fierro viejo que venda”
This chant became widely popular and is used by many of these trucks throughout the city. The New York Times listed this as one of the most iconic city sounds around the world.
Tamales are delicious snacks which are made from dough and spices, which have been steamed in a banana leaf. Tamales can be sweet or savory and they are generally sold each night and each morning. Every night you will hear the tamales chant coming from the speakers of the vendors, to let everyone know that there are tamales in town. The chant let’s people know that the hot and delicious Oaxacan tamales are in town, with the following call:
‘ya llegaron sus ricos y deliciosos tamales oaxaqueños, acérquese y pida sus ricos tamales oaxaqueños, hay tamales oaxaqueños, tamales calientitos’
These are the sounds which you will hear throughout the city when you come and spend time in the capital, and there really is no escaping them.
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