Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What’s the noise all about?


I don’t know whether it has ever been scientifically researched, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hondurans are the loudest people on Earth.
A Honduran event without a lot of noise is as unlikely as a Honduran meal without tortillas. Hondurans really like to indulge in making a racket. The more the merrier!

For starters, there’s fireworks for every special occasion (Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, New Year, among others). And I’m not talking about a beautiful fireworks display, but heavy duty bombs that rattle the windows, make the dog dive under the bed and even get haughty frowns from my cats. At dawn, of course. Or actually, they start at dawn, but from there on there’s no real pattern.

Birthdays are preferably celebrated through serenades at 5am. Loud ones, too. And in order to sell a product, you need a whole wall of speakers in front of your business, preferably with heavily distorted punta or reggaeton. This makes shopping in malls an unbearable experience and unfortunately this trend has made it all the way to the previously (relatively) quiet town of Copán Ruinas.
I just crossed the central park and it completely baffles me how people can actually stand it without suffering from noise induced hearing loss. (Or maybe they’re already deaf and that’s why they turn up the volume). On each corner people are selling one thing or another through their amplifiers, backed up by a few businesses in adjoining streets that also loudly announce their products, because it is weekend and the neighbours do it, so they do it too. Does this really work? What happened to a gentle and generic elevator tune on the background? For me it definitely doesn’t work. I go a mile out of my way to shop somewhere in silence. (Which means I’ll probably starve to death very soon.).

I lost count how many times I moved because of Religious Noise Pollution: a church in the neighbourhood is normally very tolerable until the congregation grows and enough money had been raised to buy a sound system, usually with more speakers than church members.

Oh, and there’s the honking.

And parents yelling at their children.

Radios and TVs that are perpetually turned on. So what if you can’t hear yours because of your neighbour’s, you just turn your own volume up a bit!

Indecently loud cell phone ring tones.

My neighbours’ dog tied up on the patio that barks and cries all night long. (Seriously, am I the only one to be bothered??)

The rooster on the same patio. (I don’t think they even have chickens. So what’s the rooster all about?)

And now, to make matters much worse, there’re the primary elections that instead of a battle of visions seems to have become the Battle of Noise. The Liberals are loud, so the Nationalists need to be louder, and so on…

Am I overly sound sensitive here? Or just not Honduran enough?

I do have a theory about this: I grew up in an apartment above a carpentry workshop and until this day I find the hammering and whining of a chainsaw a comforting sound. As a matter of fact, I find it so familiar, and soothing, I sleep like a baby right through it. So what if the sound you grow up with is what comforts you??? That would explain why Hondurans get so uncomfortable when there’s no noise around. Have you noticed how they produce incredible amounts of decibels wherever silence might reign? On beaches, picnic areas, parks: open the door of your car and crank up the volume!
So to go back to my theory, it would mean that Hondurans need noise in order to feel comfortable, because that was the environment of their early childhood. It also means there is no solution to the problem unless we can create a new generation of children that will grow up in silence (or at least a no-noisy ambience). But how to do that? Maybe get Coca-Cola involved with a campaign aimed at young parents: The Silent Generation…

As for now, it has started to rain, so at least the sound of rain hitting the zinc roof drowns out the noise of the rest of the world. It also means the power will go out shortly. But that is a whole different theme…



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