The recorded cry of “tamales oaxaqueños, tamales calientitos” and the ringing bell of a garbage collector are among the sounds featured in an online audiovisual story that explores the cacophony of noise on Mexico City’s streets.
“The Sounds of CDMX: How informal street vendors define the sonic landscape of Mexico’s capital” was published by the digital publication The Pudding in late 2022.
Hear the voice of Elias Zavaleta, whose recording of himself hawking tamales ended up becoming the sound of Oaxacan-style tamale vendors in the capital.
“In Mexico City, many notes in the city’s soundscape come from itinerant merchants,” observes the story by United States visual journalist Aaron Reiss and Mexican academic and photojournalist Oscar Molina Palestina. “… Each type of merchant calls out to potential customers with a unique, identifying noise or cry. … Each of their sounds give another layer of meaning to the din of this beautiful metropolis.”
While scrolling through the interactive story, readers — virtually transformed into Mexico City residents – encounter a range of noisemakers typical of the capital, including a knife sharpener and his pan flute, a garbage collector and his bell and a vendor and his audio recording that touts hot tamales from Oaxaca.
The music of the capital’s iconic organ grinders is also featured in the story as is the well-known recording of the ubiquitous collector of unwanted domestic items: “se compran colchones, refrigeradores, estufas…“
The unique sounds of Mexico City “can delight, annoy and inspire,” acknowledges The Pudding story, noting that the junk metal recording “has been remixed for many, many, many, songs and transformed into a battle cry for feminist activists.”
It also says that “the soundscape of the city is not fixed” as “it changes as the city does.”
“… Old sounds fade and new sounds arrive as the city and its current inhabitants generate a unique sonic landscape,” Reiss and Molina write.
Their story – enhanced with vibrant illustrations by Diego Parés – comes recommended for anyone interested in Mexico City generally, and its aural idiosyncrasies in particular.
Residents and anyone who has visited the city will likely find sounds with which you’re familiar — and which you may well love or loathe.
The familiar recording of a woman’s voice announcing that she accepts junk and scrap metal is so iconic that one Mexican soccer fan brought it with him to the World Cup in Qatar.
Mexico News Daily