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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Mexico City Celebrates Its 500th Birthday Amid A Pandemic And Mounting Violence

Culture

Mexico City Celebrates Its 500th Birthday Amid A Pandemic And Mounting Violence

Most of us are looking to 2021 with optimism, but for Mexico, this upcoming year won’t just be about saying goodbye to 2020. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) says 2021 will be the “year of independence and greatness” for Mexico, celebrating not only 500 years since the founding of Mexico City, but also 200 years since Mexico achieved its independence from Spain.

As Mexico City turns 500, the city faces many challenges and reasons to celebrate.

Pretty much the entire world was waiting for 2021 to arrive, so that we could all say adiós to 2020. But few places were as eager to welcome 2021 as Mexico was.

You see, it was in 1321 that the ancient city of Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City) was founded by the Aztecas, in 1521 the city was conquered and rebuilt by Spanish conquistadors, and in 1821 the nation gained independence from Spain. So you can see why 2021 is such a major year for Mexico.

President AMLO presented a plan to commemorate two centuries of Mexico’s Independence, the 700th anniversary of the founding of Mexico-Tenochtitlan and the 500th anniversary of the fall of the city that became the country’s capital city.

“Next year is the year of the Independence and the greatness of Mexico,” the president said, joined by Mexico City Head of Government Claudia Sheinbaum. In a detailed report on the year’s celebrations, IMSS head Zoé Robledo pointed out that the whole program includes 12 national events including tributes to national heroes, commemoration of relevant dates, exhibitions, parades and the traditional Independence celebration known as El Grito. Other events and celebrations are also expected in 65 cities across 32 states, starting on Feb. 14 in Oaxaca and ending on Sept. 30 in Michoacán.

The nation’s capital has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and faces other serious challenges.

Like many major cities, Mexico City has been severely impacted by the pandemic. It’s the epicenter of the health crisis in Mexico with more than 500,000 confirmed cases and nearly 25,000 deaths. In recent weeks, hospital occupancy has surpassed 90% meaning there’s little to no room for people to be treated. Meanwhile, the government has come under fire for a lack of any economic security to those who have been forced to go without work as the city of more than 20 million people was placed under lockdown. 

In addition to the health crisis, a growing issue of cartel violence has plagued parts of the capitol – a city once thought immune to the cartel wars that rage in other corners of the country. In 2020, violence in the capital broke records with brazen attacks on elected officials and bloody turf wars between long standing gangs and the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación.

But the city also has many reasons to be optimistic in 2021.

Mexico City remains the epicenter of progressivism in the country and that can be seen in the many policies put forward in recent months. With a focus on protecting women’s safety and health and empowering the LGBTQ community, Mexico City is emerging as a safe space for some of the country’s most maligned citizens. 

The city is also undergoing a rapid transformation to a greener society with bans on single-use plastics and a move towards greener policies. From the city’s southern districts to its historical center, the city is also seeing major beautification works to help increase its draw to international tourists – of whom the city has come to rely on for the much needed tourist dollar.

“2021 will be a remarkable year for the city — a city that welcomes all and provides a home for people of all ages and nationalities, which has resulted in a unique cultural hybrid,” says Paulina Feltrin, director of marketing and communications at The St. Regis Mexico City. “I hope this becomes another reason for international and domestic travelers to come celebrate with us.”

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There Are Literally No Tampons Available In Mexico City Since They Were Banned For Environmental Reasons

Fierce

There Are Literally No Tampons Available In Mexico City Since They Were Banned For Environmental Reasons

Few people would argue against the fact that tampons are 100% absolutely an essential item. In fact, many governments are trying to make tampons (among other feminine care products) more accessible to women by offering them for free or low-cost.

However, Mexico’s capital city has taken a different approach by outright banning the sale of tampons. The move comes as a second part to Mexico City’s recent ban on single use products for environmental reasons. And although many are applauding the city for taking drastic action to curb the use of wasteful products, many critics point out that the government should of provided alternatives for women.

Mexico City has banned tampons as part of its ban on single use products.

As of this week, it has become impossible to find tampons in any part of Mexico City’s bustling metropolis. The city that’s home to more than 20 million people no longer sales the single-use plastic tampons that so many women have come to rely on.

The ban comes as a result of the ban on single-use plastics that took effect January 1. The newspaper Milenio reported that it was unable to locate the feminine care products anywhere in the capital but noted that they are widely available in neighboring México state, where disposable plastics remain legal.

Mexico City Environment Minister Mariana Robles asserted in January that single-use plastics, among which are disposable cutlery, cups and straws – and tampons with plastic applicators – are “not really essential.”

Alessandra Rojo de la Vega, a Mexico City lawmaker with the Green Party, said that menstrual cups are an “excellent alternative” to tampons, adding that they are environmentally friendly.

“Let’s incentivize their use to reduce contamination,” she said, asserting that the government should distribute them to women free of charge. But those on Twitter had no patience for lawmakers telling women what menstrual products they should and shouldn’t use.

The city’s environmental minister has argued that single-use plastic tampons aren’t really essential.

Despite officials saying that single-use tampons aren’t really essential, many women across the capital clearly disagreed with the “nonessential” classification and have taken to social media to voice their opposition to their prohibition.

“Stop legislating with privilege, tampons are essential products,” one Twitter user said in a post directed to Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.

“Suggesting the use of a menstrual cup is not the solution,” Twitter user Miss Maple said in a post directed to Mayor Sheinbaum and the Mexico City government.

“I can’t believe how idiotic we are in Mexico,” tweeted Daniela García, a journalist in Nuevo León, above a link to a news report on the absence of tampons on the shelves of Mexico City stores.

“As if women didn’t [already] confront all kinds of problems, now the government imposes a new one on them – no tampons,” tweeted Carlos Elizondo, an academic at the Tec de Monterrey university.

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