Christmas is Coming


In the leadup to Christmas, a steady stream of explosions has joined the noise chorus that is Carrillo Puerto.

When they began, I briefly thought they were gunshots and looked around to see if anyone seemed concerned. No one did. Turns out they’re firecrackers and people light them in the weeks before Christmas, really just because.

This morning as I sit outside in my kitchen I can hear the screeee-blam of a bottle rocket going off every few minutes, plus the dogs they’re agitating, and a jazzy version of La Guadalupana—a song I’ve heard either sung or played for the past 24 hours as the Mexicans pay tribute to their patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12 is her special day).

Yes, I think with the holidays approaching Carrillo is getting a bit louder. And Carrillo is never a quiet place.

On the average weekend in my kitchen I can hear:

  • A jackhammer
  • A disgruntled pig
  • A bleating goat
  • Thumping club music that’s been playing since 9 a.m.
  • An advertisement changing volume since it’s blaring out of a loudspeaker strapped to a car that’s cruising slowly around the neighborhood.
  • A yelling child
  • Grackles clicking and then making slide-whistle or honky air-horn sounds
  • Dogs
  • Roosters
  • My landlord barking orders at whoever’s been brought in to rake the yard.

Funnily enough, quiet is what I came here for. When I worked in a cubicle in New York I was virulently anti-noise, wearing headphones that streamed soft static to block the murmuring of my coworkers. I sighed frequently and loudly. To live without constant interruption, that was my dream.

But what I’ve been pondering is the phrase “peace and quiet.” Turns out you can have peace without quiet. If I’m not always in a hurry—and here no one is in a hurry—my skin is less prickly, my noise sensitivity not so high.

And this is a good thing because Carrillo will never be quiet. When it comes to noise here, it’s put up or shut up.

Things I hear regularly:

  • Dynamite explosions. This means that someone is building nearby. The ground is limestone, so if you want any kind of a buildable surface, you don’t just dig—you blast the crap out of it.
  •  Clown horns. Little horns with rubber bulbs being squeezed by vendors pedaling by on adult-sized tricycles selling bread or produce. Weekee-weekee.
  • The world’s shittiest marching bands. I should not call them shitty because they’re actually school children practicing for Monday morning ceremonies, but they’re horrible. Strangled-sounding trumpets and off-beat snare drums, usually practicing around 9 p.m.
  • The sound of a machete. This is quiet but distinctive, a metallic swish-swish that means someone is clearing the attacking plant life from their front yard. The machete is the most effective means for cutting back tangled jungle plants rooted in limestone. To use a lawnmower would kill you.
  • Shakira or Neil Diamond, usually only on Fridays. My across-the-street neighbors like to party and apparently have a limited CD collection. Fortunately I enjoy both options.

I’m finding that with Christmas approaching, the noise in Carrillo is growing in parallel with the freneticism I’m used to seizing New York in the weeks before the holidays.

But here it’s not frenetic, it’s just … more. There’s more traffic, more people in the supermarkets, more people in general. For the past week, groups from elsewhere have been making their way through Carrillo on bicycles wearing matching tracksuits, the Virgin Guadalupe strapped to their handlebars. These are pilgrims en route to a chosen church destination where they’ll pray and implore the Virgin for health or luck (like the guys in the picture at the top of this post).

These additions aren’t terribly obtrusive. I wait a bit longer at the grocery store and am more careful of cars when riding my bike. The pilgrims are noticeable but usually keep to themselves, either lunching or napping in groups in the park. In their track suits they look like practicing dance troops en repose.

Carrillo doesn’t do frenetic. The Christmas lights went up without fanfare, ditto the star-shaped piñatas.The kids finished school and then went home to hang out with their families. No chaos, just a gradual uptick in volume.

Last night a friend and I finished grocery shopping and were sitting in the supermarket parking lot eating donuts when we realized we could hear three different loudspeakers: one playing the store’s theme song (Chedraui cuesta menos!), one from the store’s toy section playing Pitbull remixed with the 50s song  “Sylvia – Love is Strange,” and one from across the street, a soundcheck from a church preparing for Virgin of Guadalupe’s big night (Probando, probando, uno, dos, tres, holaholahola que tal).

A lot but not irritating. Actually a perfectly good soundtrack for eating donuts.


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