The Sounds of Mexico
27 February 2018 | Barra de Navidad
When I was a little girl, my friend, Lisa, and I would take listening walks. We would walk around the block and write down everything we heard and then compare to see who heard the most sounds. That person would win the game. What is particularly interesting about this (other than I have never met another person who played this game) is that when I became a TV producer, one of my responsibilities was to oversee the sound mix. On Star Trek: DS9, we had three mixers; one for dialogue and Foley, one for music, and one for sound effects. Their job was to create the best sound for their individual parts. My job was to listen to the mix as a whole. My comments were something like this: raise the dialogue, add more walla, we need a bigger explosion. So, it was no surprise, that as we were walking through town one day, Jay said, "You should do a blog about the sounds of Mexico. Too bad you can't record it and put it on the blog." Actually, there must be a way, but I am not technically savvy. I am a writer, so with my words and your imagination, maybe you will hear the sounds of Mexico.
To begin with, I must mention the birds. Every morning and every evening their songs fill the air. They are not the sweet, musical tweets of New England birds in spring. Many of these birds' vocals are harsh. They caw and whistle and cluck in succession. However, the white egret is silent as she moves gracefully along the dock. Her eyes peer down intently at the water waiting to catch her next meal.
There are many sounds emanating in and around the ocean too. The waves hitting the shoreline, of course. Small fish jumping, running away from some other bigger fish. The dolphins' breath as they swim alongside our bow. Rays doing belly-flops as they dance across the sea. And if we are lucky, a whale might breach, jumping clear out of the water, making a big, thunderous thud as he hits the water.
While we are on our boat, we leave the VHF radio on. That is how we cruisers communicate. In Barra, at 0830, six days a week we hear, "This is your French baker. I am entering the marina." He says this with an authentic French accent. He is here to deliver fresh baked goods to our boats by panga. Ding ding. Ding ding. This is the bell he rings as he passes our dock.
Pangas are everywhere. They are the main mode of transportation along the coast. They are used for tours and for fishing. It is common to hear their motors charging by at all hours of the day and night. Many times, we hear music blasting from their boats. Once, in Zihuatanejo, a panga driver passed our boat and we could hear an opera playing from his radio. He stood tall, (Panga drivers often stand while driving.) with his hand on the tiller and sang along at the top of his lungs. He had a beautiful, deep voice. A baritone, maybe?
The many sounds make us laugh as we walk through the streets of Barra. Fresh water is delivered in five-gallon jugs by truck. The hatchback drives along very slowly. There is a loudspeaker on the hood. Out of it a man's voice bellows in Spanish. I don't know exactly what he is saying, but I'm sure he is advertising his water. It echoes through the town. Propane is delivered this way too.
Mexicans love their music. And so it goes that you will hear it coming from homes, businesses and cars as you walk by. The other day, we were on our way to the Port Captain. We turned a corner and heard loud music. We looked up to see three young girls dancing and singing on the second-floor balcony. When they saw us, they giggled and ran inside. And one Monday night, when we were leaving our favorite restaurant, we ran into a block party. Thirty, or so, people were gathered around in a circle, sitting on chairs in the middle of the street. There was a band playing and some people dancing in the center of the circle. Gail and I just naturally started moving to the music. They saw us and called us over. At first, we were shy. But, as they kept insisting we thought, oh, what the heck. We ran over, entered the circle and danced with them for a few minutes. There were no words spoken, only laughter as two cultures joined together in song.
Motorcycles are another staple in Mexico. They are an inexpensive way to get around. They putter through town. It is not unusual to see a mother with her two children; one on her lap and one behind her, holding on. They wear no helmets. I worry for them.
That same day we walked to the Port Captain we saw two horses clomping down the road. Clickety-click, clickety-click. No one was with them, other than a dog following. A rooster crowed. And they don't just crow in the mornings, either! They banter back and forth day and night.
On the way back through town, we passed the elementary school. We could hear the children's laughter and shouts as they ran around the playground. A child's joy always makes me smile.
Next, we passed the Catholic Church. Three masses a day are celebrated here. It was noon and the parishioners were singing hymns they know by heart. Many years ago, a hurricane hit Barra hard, causing part of the church's roof to collapse, breaking the arms of Jesus. Legend has it that this coincided with the wind stopping. The broken crucifix still hangs in the church, a constant reminder of their faith.
The sounds of life are universal and yet, at the same time, unique to individual cultures. These are some of the sounds of Mexico.