Culture

What The Hell Was That, Sounds Of Mexico City Edition

Cities are notoriously noisy chaotic places. They’re filled with the soundtrack of people going about their daily lives, pets jockeying for attention, the sounds of commerce and industry…now imagine these sounds in a Mexican city of more than 20 million people.

Welcome to Mexico City.

All cities are noisy. But Mexico City takes it to another decibel. The capital is full of sounds that could be rich, beautiful, and also as annoying AF. After all, it’s the most populous city in North America — and quite likely the loudest.

Here are some of the most Mexican sounds of CDMX:

Some sounds have become iconic, such as the voice blasted from the recycling trucks that slowly circle the city, seeking mattresses, appliances, and other household items too bulky for the garbage truck. The truck drivers used to signal their presence themselves via loudspeakers until one of them thought to record his daughter making the announcement.

The recording spread and is now heard across the country and in some Mexican immigrant neighborhoods in the United States. The young girl’s whiny plea for “colchones, tambores, refrigeradores” was even remixed into an electronic dance song that has become a hit at parties.

Even the way Chilangos (people from CDMX) take out their trash is noisy AF.

Take the high-pitched hand bell that rings incessantly each day, signaling that the garbage truck has arrived in the neighborhood and it’s time to haul out the trash. In many Mexico City neighborhoods, this is the most common daily sound – so common, many use it as their daily alarm clock because the guys are so punctual. They arrive on your street with the clanging of a cowbell and possibly some yelling and it’s your responsibility to get your garbage out to them before they haul off.

And natural gas…now that’s a scream I won’t soon forget.

There is the guttural cry of “gaaaaasssss” from the man who sells canisters of fuel. Most buildings in Mexico City don’t have a pipe connection to a central gas line so we all have gas tanks on our rooftops (super safe, I know!) Thankfully, guys come in their trucks often enough with the downright eerily scream of “gaaaaaaaaass” to sell you refills for your gas tanks.

Or the flute whistle of the knife sharpener, passing with his pushcart.

You’ll hear him before you see him and you’ll need to gritar down at him to get him to stop. But are you sure that’s the knifeman and not a cute sounding bird?

There’s the deafening steam scream of the camote man.

The blood-curdling loud hiss that announces the arrival of the camote man, who sells hot sweet potatoes sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with condensed milk, is many people’s favorite sound to hate.

He doesn’t yell words at you. His pushcart literally screams and hisses at you. Loudly. For elongated periods of time. To the point where you flinch and cover your ears if you’re too close because he must have blown both of his at a cumbia concert. His cart is decked out with a wood-burning stove that generates the steam to cook some of the best tasting roasted sweet potatoes and bananas you’ll ever have. And they come covered in la lechera with a side of “omg my poor ears!”

And the borderline creepy organilleros.

Think of a jack-in-the-box. The one old-school kids used to crank and could never quite tell when a frighteningly happy clown on a spring would pop out. Remember that tune? The creepy music that was meant to be cheerful, but was always put into a minor key and inserted into scary movie trailers? The organillero is a real-life version of all of this.

It didn’t always use to be, though. Back in the 1890s, when it first made its appearance in the city, men would play charming melodies, even accompanied by monkeys at times, as people strolled along on a Sunday afternoon, requesting popular tunes (since radio didn’t exist yet) and tipping an extra ten pesos into the hat of the monkey.

Nowadays? Not so much. Doing some research, it appears that the instruments are easily damaged due to rain. And with the abundant amount of rain that this city sees, it’s no wonder that almost everyone you hear is out of tune. Most of the people still cranking them can’t afford to fix them and have no other way to make money. Though annoying, it is pretty sad. The next time you’re in a plaza or a hear one in the street, think of the 75-pound instrument on their back (yeah, these things are heavy) and consider having some sympathy.

Plus, there’s a constant reminder to buy tamales.

Any man who knows me knows that food is a pretty easy way to win me over. (Buy me a wheel of cheese over flowers any day.) So naturally, you’d think the tamale man would have a masa-wrapped key to my heart. Right?

Wrong. I’ve never slept with the tamale man, but he’s woken me up at least three times a week since I’ve lived here. He’s also constantly outside blasting his recording a la Say Anything.

Another automated recording, the tamales Oaxaquenos sellers pedal through Mexico City’s streets starting at dusk and long into the night selling warm Oaxacan tamales wrapped in sweating banana leaves and hot atole from giant Gatorade coolers. Mostly young men, the tamal guys always seem a little lonely to me as they pedal through the streets to this nasal theme song.

And we can’t forget how much Chilangos love honking their car horns.

This is the worst one. A city of more than 20 million people means way too many cars for one place, and with a traffic system worse than any Hot Wheels track I built as a kid, people have no idea what else to do besides honk. All. The. Time. And always for longer than just a few seconds. They also just love mimicking a honk when someone else does it.

Beyond those sounds, Mexico City is also characterized by the constant hum of music — the cumbias that thump from taxis, the street performers strumming acoustic covers of 1970s rock and the mariachis roaming the streets, looking for the next table of sentimental drunks to serenade. It can cause conflict — after all, not every person wants to hear the reggaeton hit “Despacito” played on repeat at the store beneath their apartment.

Chilangos are sometimes said to sing their Spanish.

Unlike in the Caribbean, where Spanish is spoken in rapid fire and the ends of phrases are sometimes skipped altogether, words here are lovingly drawn out, the vowels accentuated, each sentence teeming with life.

The city sings too. Unless you’re in a rotten mood, in which case it sometimes seems to scream.

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Residents Cite Negligence After Mexico City Train Collapse Leaves At Least 23 Dead

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Residents Cite Negligence After Mexico City Train Collapse Leaves At Least 23 Dead

A segment of a Mexico City Metro train line with a history of structural problems collapsed on Monday night leaving nearly two dozen dead and many more injured. As the dust begins to settle, many residents of the city are already pointing fingers at local officials who have done little to ensure the line’s safety.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador has said that his government will allow for a transparent investigation and will “hide nothing” from the public but many have little faith in the government to do what’s right.

Mexico City Metro train collapses and leaves 23 people dead and many more injured.

A metro train traveling on an overpass in the southeastern part of Mexico City collapsed late on Monday, killing at least 23 people and injuring more than 70. One person trapped in a car underneath the wreckage was pulled out alive.

The two train carriages were seen hanging from the structure, above a busy road. This is the deadliest incident in decades in the city’s metro system, one of the busiest in the world.

A crane was sent to the scene to stabilize the carriages amid concerns they could fall onto the road, which forced officials to temporarily halt rescue efforts at night.

In chaotic scenes, anxious friends and relatives of those believed to be on the train gathered in the area. Efraín Juárez told AFP news agency that his son was in the wreckage. “My daughter-in-law called us. She was with him and she told us the structure fell down over them.”

Gisela Rioja Castro, 43, was looking for her 42-year-old husband, who always take that train after work and had not been answering his phone. She said the authorities had no information about him. “Nobody knows anything,” she told the Associated Press.

Mexico City’s metro system is one of the world’s busiest but has long suffered from underfunding.

Mexico City’s metro system is one of the most used in the world, carrying tens of millions of passengers a week. In North America, only New York’s subway carries more people every day. Yet the incident did not occur on one of the older lines, which have been through at least two major earthquakes in the past 35 years. Rather it happened on Line 12, completed as recently as October 2012.

There will be difficult questions for the mayor’s office to come about the construction of the line, including for several former mayors.

They include Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who was in office when Line 12 was unveiled and who championed the metro’s expansion. He called the accident a “terrible tragedy”.

Mexico City’s current mayor has promised a thorough investigation.

The tragedy puts the spotlight on Mayor Sheinbaum and Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard, two key allies of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who are both seen as early front-runners to be Mexico’s next president. Lopez Obrador said at the Tuesday briefing that his government would “hide nothing” from the public about the accident.

Sheinbaum, who has been mayor for more than two years, said the city was going to inspect the entire Line 12, on the southeast side of the city, which she said had been undergoing regular maintenance. She said the rest of the subway lines are safe, though she pointed out that as recently as January, the metro system had had another major problem, a fire in the main control room that stalled operations through mid-February.

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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