The “ruidos” in Mexico City

In Mexico City, there is a lot of “ruido” which means noise in Spanish. However, the people here understand “ruidos” not just as the regular noise of a city one might imagine it coming from a metropolis of 18 million people. Here “ruidos” are a special kind of sound; the sound of the Mexican salesmen bellowing throughout the streets. A sound so distinct and loud that you can hear it from a great distance, so that you already know what it is these salesmen are selling before they even arrive in your neighbourhood. For me, hearing this unique noise is something that I have never before experienced in my life.

The first time I heard a “ruido” I didn’t know what was happening in the street outside. I was in my room, very confused and listening to this noise that seemed to come closer and closer. Someone was yelling at the top of his lungs: “AAAAAAA, AAAAAA, AAAA!!”. I thought it was a lunatic wandering around outside. Then after a while the noise stopped and I heard the person dragging a metallic object over the concrete pavement. I didn’t understand what was going on. As soon as the dragging stopped, the person began shouting: “AAAA, AAA, AAA”, again. A few days later, when I was sitting inside with my Venezuelan roommate, we heard the exact same yelling again. So, I asked him who this crazy guy was and why he was shouting “AAAA, AAA, AAA”? Favio (that’s the name of my roommate) explained to me that this was a salesman who was selling gas. But instead of shouting: “GAS, GAS”, somehow he had lost the letter “G” from the beginning of the word “gas” and the “S” from the end. The result, he shouted repeatedly “A” instead of “GAS”. Yet, everyone (except me) knew and understood that this salesman was shouting so that people would buy gas from him. As soon as someone gave him a gas tank, he dragged this tank along the street to his truck and brought another new tank full of gas.
As I later realized there are many more of these “ruidos”. What they all have in common is that they are all salesmen and they all make their own distinct sound. They start their working day around 6am and carry on till around 12am.

I think this method of selling products is quite effective. Because these days when I hear a “ruido”, even from far away I know exactly what this person is selling and I know where to find it. Furthermore, I think it is important that these salesmen work consistently because if they stop working and making their special “ruido” even for a little while, people may forget their particular sound and then no longer recognise it when they eventually return to sell their products in the neighbourhood. Also, this way of selling, walking around in a neighbourhood, bellowing out a unique noise, creates a lot of work for them. So less people are unemployed. It is also beneficial to those of us who are lazy, who prefer to not walk to buy products but rather have them be delivered directly to our door. On the other hand, this aggressive method of selling is definitely a disturbance of the peace during the day and at night. Not to mention that, all the walls here are paper-thin so you can hear them as if you were standing right next to them. Sometimes, when you are in your room relaxing, completely unaware that they are coming, it can really freak you out because it’s so sudden and loud.

There is one “ruido” by a seller for sweets for children. This guy works and shouts until around 12am. Are there really kids out in the street till this time who might want to buy sweets? Is this really necessary?
This producing of “ruidos” to sell things is really different than anything I have ever experienced in my own country. It’s really something that is specific to Mexican culture and adds a unique quality to the city streets. These “ruidos” are all part of experiencing Mexico City, but if I’m honest I prefer the quiet life.

Marc Huldi

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