Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The early bird makes lots of noise

Back when I was living in Chicago, I sometimes had trouble getting to sleep at night. My old neighborhood, Wrigleyville, was what some people might call acoustically interesting. The neighborhood surrounds Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and thusly is a mecca for late-night baseball, crowded post-game bars, screeching sirens, big buses, and, of course, the occasional pair of drunk Cubbie fans engaged in a rowdy rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the street. It's noisy.

During my stay in Wrigleyville, I was going to grad school and working a full-time job, so I wasn't getting that much sleep anyway. I was already awake at 3 am, studying or working or otherwise stressing myself out, so what was the bother in a little extra noise? I kind of liked the company, the thought of someone else awake at that God-forsaken hour.

Now I live in Huajuapan, a city that seems to go to sleep by about 8:30 pm. Long gone are the days of police sirens and drunken serenades. The place is dead quiet at night, save the chirping of crickets or the occasional dog bark.

Mornings, however, are a different story. On my first Sunday in Huajuapan, I woke up at about 6am to the sound of what I thought were gunshots. Big, explosive gunshots fired off at five-minute intervals. Given the fact that I'd moved to Huajuapan to escape a drug war in my former home of Culiacán, I was less than thrilled with the notion that the narcotrafficantes had followed me to Oaxaca. I lay stiffly in my bed, paralyzed by fear, anxiously waiting for the shooting to subside. Later that morning, when I worked up the courage to leave my apartment, I asked my neighbors about the noise.

Turns out it was coming from the church.

Wait, gunshots at the church?

Nope. It's actually fireworks. At 6 am. The folks running the show at the cathedral here in Huajuapan use fireworks (called cohetes -- rockets -- in Spanish) to call people to Sunday services. Something about the tradition dating back to the Spanish conquest, when the conquistadores used 'em to call folks down from the indigenous villages in the mountains.

Okay. But c'mon people. It's 2008, and the Spanish conquest wrapped about four centuries ago. Don't we have church bells to do that job now? Or maybe a simple, quiet announcement that church services start at 6am? But I'm here as an outsider. I'm here to learn, not to judge, so whatever. Fireworks at dawn is just dandy. At least it's the weekend, so I can roll over and fall asleep again when the fireworks wrap.

But lately, there's been more: Following the fireworks, there's now a full hour of loud organ music, singing and clapping at the church. Hymns at 100 decibels. Every Sunday for the past five weeks or so. So much for sleeping in on Sunday morning, but still, I can't judge.

This week, however, brought on the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. December 12 marks the celebration of Virgin of Guadalupe (Mexico's Virgin Mary), so now there's a fair going on in the street, building up to the big day. Normally, I'd be pleased with the prospect of a street fair -- it'd add some excitement to this little city. But the thing is, the fair starts up every morning with fireworks, a parade, and singing.

And by 'every,' I mean every day until December 12.

And by 'morning,' I mean 4:30 am.

Now I'm all for people celebrating their faith. I'm happy that they're happy, singing in the streets and banging drums and shooting off fireworks and whatnot. I'll even ignore the irony that all of this noise is coming from a religious celebration, instead of from drunken revelry like it was back in Chicago.

But 4:30 am?!? It's not even light outside, folks. And the drums wake up every damn dog in Huajuapan, so you have barking and howling on top of the parade noise. Wouldn't the Virgin be just as honored by a celebration at a more civilized hour, like 9:30 am? Or better yet, noon?

As the cliché goes, the early bird gets the worm. But not if you've made so much damn noise that you've scared all the worms away. La güera needs her beauty sleep, y'all.

1 comment:

Quinto Sol said...

Oh your post reminds me of my days in Guadalajara; while the second largest city in Mexico, it still had its share of farmer migrants and the occasional rooster. I would be awaken by these birds at the dark-thirty in the morning. Boy did I hate those birds...

12 de Diciembre, Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe. Huge religious holiday that the whole country celebrates. My late mother was born on that day and was named Maria Guadalupe :-)

It also reminds me of the time I spent in Istanbul, where the call to prayer sounded magical and melodious, spiritual and cleansing... not three days later it was getting on my nerves :-)