More Mexico City street sounds: The wandering curtain-fixer

I was at the nail salon in Polanco yesterday when I thought I heard a rooster crowing. Then I realized, wait — that’s not a rooster, that’s a man. He was yelling the same phrase, something unintelligible, over and over.

I asked the nail lady who he was, and she said, “Oh, he fixes curtains.”

A wandering curtain-fixer! We don’t get those guys near our apartment. Even though I live next door to a fabric store.

When I left the salon, I found him: a guy maybe in his 30′s, wearing a backpack and nice jeans. To yell, he’d cup his hand on one side of his mouth. Then he’d walk on, whistling a little tune.

Listen below — I think he’s saying “Arreglo cortinaaaaaaaas!” Sometimes he’d throw in a “persianas” as well, which is the Spanish word for venetian blinds. You can also hear him whistling.

I’m not sure exactly what “arreglo cortinas” would mean in this instance. Does he hang curtains? Measure them? Fix broken curtain rods?

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21 Responses to “More Mexico City street sounds: The wandering curtain-fixer”
  1. Susan

    I LOVE hearing this!!!! Brings me back to DF until I look around and realize I’m here stateside ;)

  2. This blog is a Nicho.

    My Mexican boyfriend just listed to this and confirmed that this man was calling “Arreglo Cortineros”, “Arreglo Cortinas”! I also asked if he’s ever heard someone like the curtain guy before….he said no!

  3. This blog is a Nicho.

    Listened…I meant listened!

  4. Miguel Ángel

    Lesley,

    Love your “daily life” posts.

    A surprise every day, no?

    Actually, just as the nail lady said, “arreglo cortinas” means he fixes curtains. I’m sure that will include measuring, hanging and fixing rods also.

    http://www.wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=arreglar

    Saludos

    • Lesley

      MA: Again with the Word Reference! Actually, I know what the word “arreglar” means, but I thought it meant in this context fixing the actual fabric. My thought was: what could possibly go so wrong with a curtain that it needed fixing? Plus… aren’t curtain rods generally fixed in one place, like, for years? This whole thing confuses me. I really want this guy to find work. He’s yelling so much. Are there really that many people who need their curtains hung?

      • Beth

        Hi! I just recently found your blog, and it’s bringing back many fond memories of the year and a half I lived in Colonia Cuauhtémoc, doing dissertation research. I think I may have heard the same guy a few times, and I was equally perplexed. I’ve since wondered, though, if maybe the “cortinas” he was referring to are the metal doors that shops pull down at night. All the stores in my neighborhood in DF had them, and I could imagine those needing more “arreglamiento” than fabric curtains. Do you think that might be it?

        • Lesley

          Hi Beth: I’m glad I could bring back a few memories for you! Puede ser on the cortinas being the metallic variety. I actually posted this question on Twitter and a Mexican guy answered. He said the cortinas man repairs curtains that have been hung badly, or blinds that have been messed up by a pet. Made sense to me, although I’m still wondering if there’s really that much work for him. Can he make a living off of it?

  5. Juan Carlos Cruz

    This is new to me, because I’m from Mexico City and during all my years living there I’ve never heard about someone who fixes curtains :/

    Saludos

  6. Daphne Loyola

    If you liked the cortina man, you must also love the camote vendor in the evenings, the gas man and the garbage guys. Each with their own ‘song’.
    Daphne

    • Lesley

      Hi Daphne: I admit I love the jingling bells of the trashmen. It’s a nice break from the incessant horn-honking in the morning.

  7. geraldine Blouet Otte

    me encanto oir esto! De regreso a Polanco donde vivia, hace anos! entre el senor de las cortinas, el del gas, el de la basura, el de los helados, …..bueno, no para!

    Geraldine

  8. kay curtis

    In Guanajuato we have a person who goes around with what sounds like a very old fashioned penny whistle and trills 5 notes up and then 5 notes down and, when you hear that, you know that the knife sharpener is in the neighborhood.

    • Lesley

      Hi Kay: We have the knife sharpener too. I love his sound. He doesn’t beat “hay tamales oaxaqueños” though. That’s my favorite Mexico City street sound ever.

  9. Steve Vender

    Lesley,

    Your post made me think of one of those whimsical things that made us fall in love with Mexico. We go to Melaque every year in December, and there’s a propane truck that travels through the streets playing this great cheesy music, then it stops, a pause and then you hear, “De gazzzzzz…” It’s famous among Melaque lovers. Go to youtube.com and type in “Melaque Gas Truck” and tell me you that you’re thinking of your curtain man when you hear, “De gazzzzz…”

  10. Arthur

    Arreglo cortineros y arreglo cortinas eso entendi! I love your blog!!!! Though the first time I heard, Arreglo bastillas…huh?

    The worst vendors are at soccer stadiums.

    “smias, smias, smias”

    (Semillas, semillas, semillas) seeds, seeds, seeds.

    GO FIGURE

  11. Esperanza

    I love the sounds of Mexican neighborhoods. My favorites are, in no particular order-
    the elote man

    ELoooooOOoooooOoooOOOOOootes! (over and over again, all evening long).

    The gas company that got a jingle made “A mi me gusta Potogas/Por su servicio Potogas”
    They splice it with Celia Cruz’s “La vida es un carnaval” and that obnoxious El Mechon by Banda MS.

    The first time I came to Mexico (seventeen years ago) it was just men screaming “El gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!” OOH, and the water man who also just yelled “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaguaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

    As I was writing this, I heard the man selling elotes. <3

  12. I remember in Venezuela the man would come to sharpen knives…and the one selling verduras.

  13. Celia Rodriguez

    Oh, i love your blog, Thanks to your blog I am able to reconnect with a country that is so familiar yet so unknown at times. I moved to Atlanta when I was 11 from Cuernavaca :)

    These great people, como el señor que arregla cortinas, are great inspiration. To think that they are willing to go out into residential areas and yell out for work, its amazing. A sign of resilience and willingness to move forward.

    As I sit here in my home office in a middle class American neighborhood, i chuckled at the thought of having someone go through my neighborhood asking for work in such manner.

    Thanks

    • Lesley

      You’re welcome Cecilia. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. Appreciate your comment!

  14. Enrique

    Lesley, I was born and raised in D.F. and I work in Polanco. I listen to this man almost everyday and gives me the chills every time. He has something special in his voice that, in all my life living in Mexico City and the suburbs, I’ve never heard any other wandering vendor with such thing… ever. I like his calling very much.
    The reason I found your blog was because of this man. I thought someone anywhere in the www would have written something about this man… and here you are.

    Thank you very much and enjoy NY.

    • Lesley

      Hi Enrique: You’re welcome. I just listened to this guy again, probably the first time since I posted this, and it made me smile. Good memories. I love his whistling!

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