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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

PEOPLE & VOICES - La Huerita

A Joyful Noise
by La Huerita
Cartoons and general lore would have you believe that roosters crow at the crack of dawn, when the sun comes up. That’s a wretched lie, as anyone who has lived in smaller communities in Mexico can tell you. The foul fowl start crowing HOURS before dawn, in the dead of night, and they never stop. Worse, one rooster crowing sets off a chain reaction and soon every rooster within a 10-mile radius is cock-a-doodling at the top of its lungs with operatic fervor.
As often as not the roosters will wake up a dog or two, whose barking then wakes up other neighborhood dogs and a brief cacophony ensues. Brief, that is, if you’re lucky.
Then there are the fireworks, frequent, ubiquitous and of the merely noisy kind rather than the beautiful-to-watch kind. The echo of city buses belching their way up narrow cobbled streets. The fiesta down the street that doesn’t end until dawn, when the last drunken partier takes his accordion home. Old, battered cars with loud speakers on top, belting out promotions for one thing or another at over 100 decibels just as you’re drifting into siesta mode.
Mexico can be a noisy place, and it can drive you nuts if you don’t keep it in perspective. But a recent stay in a large city in the States reminded me that noise is relative, not just to where you live but to what you have conditioned yourself not to hear.
I've heard it all . . . trains, planes and automobiles. Sirens at all hours. Helicopters. People shouting. Car doors slamming. Occasional gunshots. Skateboards. Garbage trucks. Leaf blowers. And underneath it all, the constant background hum of thousands of air conditioners, traffic from a distant freeway, the normal buzz of millions of humans living together in a relatively small space.
Yeah, it drove me nuts. It also gave me new insight into the amount of stress such an environment places on people, stress they aren’t even aware they carry. It’s no wonder that when they arrive in a quieter place for vacation their shoulders relax, they breathe more easily, they smile more. It isn’t just the respite from work, it’s the respite from noise.
So it didn’t surprise me much that returning to Mexico brought a greater tolerance for the noises that had once so annoyed me. Let the dogs bark, let the fireworks crackle, let the neighbors sing all night. Because what I hear beneath those noises are other sounds, sounds that soothe. I hear the slap of waves against the shore, the soft rattle of the wind in palm fronds, a distant mariachi band, a sudden dull thud outside that means an iguana has fallen out of a tree, a vendor walking along the beach singing out his wares, “Camarone! Camarone! If I’m lucky, a pack of coyotes will sing me to sleep.
And when those roosters start crowing at 2 a.m., it just makes me smile . . . because what I’m hearing isn’t noise, it’sWelcome home!