“No man should live where he can hear his neighbor’s dog bark”. ― Nathaniel Macon.
In Central America there is no etiquette when it comes to noise, and noise levels; anything goes. In most public places, music or advertising can usually be heard blaring out of some turbocharged sound system at an ear-piercing volume. It’s also not uncommon for people to have their smart phones set to ‘loudspeaker’ to listen to their music in a cafe or on public transport. I find this later habit particularly irritating.
Unfortunately, Panajachel, where I have been lodging for the past three weeks, is one of the noisiest places I have ever stayed during the whole of my Latin America travels. Most families, in this tightly packed community, appear to have at least one dog and/or one cockerel. Ironically, these particular creatures seem incapable of making a sound during the day but come the early hours of the morning they manage to reach the peak of their vocal capacity. Frustratingingly, by 7am silence once again reigns, just as it’s time to get up.
This, however, is nothing compared with the ‘crescendo’ experienced at Christmas and New Year. Not content with setting off fireworks on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, it would appear that anytime between these two dates is also perfectly acceptable, and there are no taboos when it comes to ‘acceptable’ times of the day. In fact, it would seem the more unsociable the hour the more justifiable it is.
In reality it’s not just Guatemala that has such issues. A month ago, during my first night in Cancun, Mexico, I was woken up in the early hours of the morning by the dulcet tones of Bob Marley pounding out “get up, stand up: stand up for your rights.” An apt song I thought, given the circumstances. The music went on for 3 or 4 minutes during which time the windows of my room were almost shaken off their hinges. Most of the time ear plugs suffice but on this occasion it was pointless to even consider them. I mentioned the incident to the owner of my guesthouse, at breakfast, but he just frowned at me and said he’d heard nothing!