street sounds Archive

There are an extraordinary number of street-cries in Mexico, which begin at dawn and continue till night, performed by hundred of discordant voices, impossible to understand at first…. At dawn you are awakened by the shrill and desponding cry of the Carbonero, the coalmen, “Carbon, Señor?” which, as he pronounces it, sounds like “Carbosiu?” Then the grease-man takes up the song, “Mantequilla! lard! lard! at one real and a half.” “Salt beef! good salt beef!” (“Cecina buena!”) interrupts the butcher in a hoarse voice. …Then passes by the cambista, a sort of Indian she-trader or exchanger, who sings out, “Tejocotes […]

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If you’ve ever wandered near the eastern edge of the Zócalo, over by the Templo Mayor, you might have heard them: street vendors selling scarves, hats, sunglasses, purses, desk items and whatever else might be useful from tarps spread out on the sidewalk. As people pass, the vendors call out: “10 varos! 10 pesos mire! Todo le vale 25 pesos!” The vendors all have slightly different cadences, so when they shout at the same time, their voices turn into this sort of chaotic roar, almost banshee-like at times. It’s amazing, annoying and slightly terrifying if you’ve never heard it before. […]

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I heard this guy while I was sitting at my desk a few days ago. Do you know what he’s saying? I think he wants to buy old iron or metal stuff, similar to the La Lllorona lady, but I can’t be sure. Incidentally, I saw a guy in Condesa today pushing a cart full of metal scraps while yelling, “Hierro viejo!” So I stopped him and said, politely: “Excuse me, I’m a foreigner. Do you mind if I ask what you are going to do with those scraps?” He said he planned to recycle them.

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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 […]

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Mexico’s Bicentenario celebration, marking 200 years of independence from Spain, is next week on the evening of Sept. 15. It’s going to be the biggest party of the year. There’ll be concerts, music, and a bunch of people running around in fake mustaches and sombreros. I’ll personally be wearing a tri-colored headband and earrings, which I bought from a street vendor. There’s one big downside to all this fun: the insane, soul-crushing traffic. The city closed off a portion of Reforma earlier this week for “security reasons,” so every major thoroughfare nearby has turned into a parking lot. A few […]

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I’ve posted before about unique Mexico City street sounds. In our old place, the gas vendor yelled “Gaaaaaas!” every morning at 7 a.m., and you had to run downstairs and flag him if your gas tank was empty. There was the pandulce guy who tooted his bicycle horn in the mornings, and the raspy-voiced tamales oaxaqueños vendor who came at night. In the new place, the most common street sound is something I’d never heard before. It’s a woman who says over and over that she’d like to buy old junk — specifically washing machines, mattresses and stoves. The weird […]

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Every morning at 7 a.m., we hear a loud, screechy bicycle horn honking right outside our window. It sounds like this: Originally, I had no idea what this horn meant. Then I checked the Internet and realized it was a neighborhood vendor selling pan dulce. Of course! Every service-provider has his own sound here — the trash man with his bell; the gas guy who yells “Gaaaas!”; the camote guy whose little cart sounds like a teakettle that’s about to explode. I’ve been wanting to run down and meet the bread guy for months, but I’m never awake and lucid […]

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Yesterday some girlfriends and I had coffee in Polanco, and we decided to take a pesero home. I love taking peseros — they’re the rumbly, green-painted mini-buses that go everywhere in the city, usually for around four pesos. Since the routes aren’t mapped anywhere, you usually have to ask the driver, “Oiga! Van por…?” if you want to get to the right spot. Jesica asked, and we ended up on the side of Presidente Masaryk, waiting. (As a sidenote, pesero knowledge is valuable stuff, and exchanged among my car-less Roma and Condesa friends like a good taxi service number. If […]

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Sometimes I forget that Mexico City is an assault on the senses. Everything is loud — the cars honking, the parking attendants whistling, the branches of homemade brooms scraping the sidewalk, the peseros roaring down the street (they are the only thing that moves with urgency in this country), the vendors yelling about their latest deals. In the air, odors layer upon odors: Grease, sizzling meat, car exhaust, dirt, garbage. Maybe urine, depending on if you’re walking through an empty section of a park. Sometimes you get stuck in a truly foul-smelling pocket of air, and all you can do […]

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Spotted this truck yesterday morning while we were walking to the supermarket. We exchanged our tank for one of theirs (the thought of grilling steaks that very day was too exciting to pass up) and they promised to bring our tank back on Tuesday. Unfortunately, when we got home and tried to connect their tank to our grill, the fittings didn’t match. Our tank has threads on the outside, their tank has threads on the inside. We’re crossing our fingers that somehow they’ll fill up our tank and bring it back on Tuesday. If not, guess we’ll start hunting for […]

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