By Neil Diamond
What a beautiful noise Comin’ up from the street
Got a beautiful sound It’s got a beautiful beat
A man on a motorcycle slowly cruises past our house – he is singing a Spanish love song at the top of his voice, oblivious that we are eavesdropping from our upper floor deck. The sound is beautiful, haunting. We frequently perch on this street-side deck with our feet resting on the aluminum railings, our toes wiggling a hello to passing friends. With a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine in hand we are watching and listening to locals.
We are voyeurs!
This island thrives on noise, and music, and laughter. Early in the morning the honking of a bicycle horn lets us know the tortilla vendor has started his route, followed by the whine of motorcycles as they whiz past depositing teenagers at the college, and still later we hear the squeal of brakes, slamming of car doors and laughter as kindergarten students arrive at school.
Walk through any neighbourhood and you will hear the overhead noise of a rooftop alarm system, the family dog, peering over the edge barking at anything or anyone that infringes on his territory.
As the day progresses the sounds change.
Every vendor or delivery person has their own signal to let customers know they are nearby. Want freshly squeezed orange juice? Just wait for the beep-beep of the moto horn outside your door.
Need a 20L bottle of agua purificada? Two blasts from a truck’s horn and the squeak of the suspension – and you know the Cristal delivery truck has arrived.
The deliverymen for the small portable bottles of propane have a recorded song that reverberates from a speaker; Zeta Zeta, Zeta gas.
The cheese salesman sings a short refrain offering queso queso as he balances the large wheel of cheese on his head. The knife-sharpener tootles a set of Pan Pipes trudging through the various neighbourhoods.
Businesses like Super X-Press and Chedraui hire car-and-drivers with loud speakers to cruise the island advertising the weekly specials. The municipality uses a similar method for advising islanders of upcoming important public events.
The really intriguing part of this boisterous culture is the number of parades that take place annually, complete with music, costumes, decorated floats, and hundreds of marching participants.
We have many photos of Christmas parades, the Night of the Kings, Carnival parades that happen nightly for a week, political parades, Independence Day, Revolution Day, cowboys riding to the bull fight-ring, caged lions and tigers complete with loud music advertising the circus, numerous religious celebrations, and national holidays.
Then added on top of the parades are the five or maybe six annual fishing tournaments, and a music festival that attracts islanders and visitors alike – the noise level just keeps increasing.
And then there are times when the noise is a bit too much; the over-loaded mufflerless dump trucks racing to catch the last car ferry off of the island, the poorly maintained city garbage trucks that blat and grind and wheeze along the roads like old men struggling with a bad case of gas.
Some businesses, like Farmacias Similares, seem to have a corporate policy of annoying the general public with exceptionally loud music piped outside for everyone to enjoy from early afternoon until late at night. Even our favourite store, Chedraui Super Store, has earsplittingly loud music blasting from the stereos, competing with in-store music, announcements of today’s specials, or requests for a manager to call the service desk. Oh joy!
|The ocean-side view at our island home.
We grew up in a relatively quiet country, Canada, where noise is quite strictly regulated. We have lived on country acreages, in rural homes, and in a converted warehouse-condo located on Beatty Street in Vancouver BC. Living here is similar to residing downtown in a big city where the ambient noise level is ever-present, but with a lot fewer people creating the noise – that beautiful noise.
When it all becomes too much for us we can retreat to the ocean-side of the house and listen to our favourite noise of all; the sound of waves sliding in from the Caribbean Sea, swooshing up onto the beach, slowly receding and gently pulling the white sand back into the ocean.