A Salsa Serenade

2011 October 2011 Suzanne A. Marshall

By Suzanne A. Marshall from the October 2011 Edition

Over nine years ago back in Canada, sick of the traffic, city noises and growing population density, we decided to sell our downtown townhouse in the big city and find a quieter life in a small resort community within commutable distance to our work. We found a great place complete with all amenities, great neighbours and a wonderful social life. A place one could actually retire in eventually. At first the absolute darkness at night filled with brilliant stars; the smell of bonfires on the weekends; the stillness and incredible quiet were a source of constant amazement and sheer joy. We hadn’t realized just how jangling and nerve racking the city was until we left it.

Six years later we are happily toying with retirement and a mutual dream of finding a winter home in Mexico. Having vacationed in a number of locations and researching our list of ‘criteria’ we looked to Manzanillo as our dream location and eventually found a wonderful spot right on the beach. There were new adjustments for us to say the least on our first winter sojourn. It wasn’t difficult to absorb the sights, warm air and smells of Manzanillo or the sound of the surf and the beautiful languid evenings complete with reliable and dramatic sunsets over the bay.

What we found to be most dramatic on our evening walkabouts on the boulevard and having a bite to eat at a local café or restaurant was the chorus of noises and the way in which sounds reverberated everywhere. Music from shops, car sound systems, groups of young people laughing and singing and so on. This became a topic of conversation over many a dinner and we concluded that the most significant contribution to this environment was the construction and materials so common in Mexico: concrete, stone and brick. Even the streets are paved with concrete.

These solid surfaces make for amazing amplification, with sounds bouncing off the hard surfaces and drifting on the humid evening air. And no one seems to notice, so again it’s a matter of adjustment and familiarity. Also the Manzanillans seem to like their music really loud. Once we retreated to our beach side refuge complete with high concrete compound walls, the only thing we could hear was the lulling sound of the surf and sometimes our lovely neighbours socializing on their terraces. This was not to be the case for long.

One Friday night we’re preparing for sleep around eleven o’clock. Suddenly, the loud sounds of a nearby salsa band are drifting in via our bedroom and bathroom windows which face opposite the bay. This was going to make sleeping quite difficult and we wonder where this music is coming from and why after two years it was starting now. Down we go to the streets to find the source of the music somewhat miffed and wondering what happened to the 11 o’clock noise curfew that we were assured by staff existed. Previously, there had been some trouble with a local car wash that insisted on entertaining the entire neighbourhood until 1 AM, speakers blazing and no one there but the attendant, until the police showed up and served a warning.

We discovered that a late night club about one block away under a huge open-air palapa has opened. And as we drew nearer to the location that the volume wasn’t as loud as it seemed when it drifted over to our condo. We determined that a large vacant parking lot and a low rise of homes across from our location allowed the sounds to freely drift unimpeded upward through the wide open space to our second floor location above the walls that seemed to insulate the garden levels so well. And another mystery was now solved as we had noticed that several units on our floor had closed up their bedroom windows on the street side with brick and concrete. Live and learn.

Too late to do anything until the next day we returned home and proceeded to apply some intellect to the situation. We turned on the air conditioner in our bedroom to create ‘white noise’ though we didn’t really need the cool air. It wasn’t enough. We put the ceiling fan on high for added ‘hum’ and that seemed to mute the sound enough to eventually fall asleep though it was somewhat akin to sleeping behind a jet engine. However, we awoke later nearly frozen to death!

Well, relative to Canadian winter I am exaggerating but let’s just say we were really uncomfortable, cranky and sleepless in Manzanillo that night! What would we do?

The next day we spoke to our staff and asked them to phone the city police about the problem, hoping something could be done. That night at exactly eleven o’clock it starts up again but by now we have been told that the club has been licensed for 11 PM to 3 A.M. for late night partiers. Oh boy, what to do now? Well after some experimentation, we decided to baffle the windows with pillows. I kid you not! And even at that I can still hear the band but it’s somewhat muted in the background. The good news is that the club is only open on the weekends. Yahoo.

So a few weekends later, I’m in bed lying quietly and I find myself actually listening to the band. You know they’re really very good and the girl doing the lead singing has a fabulous voice and I find myself rather enjoying them. The next thing I know is that its morning and I actually fell asleep listening to salsa music. Ok, so time to count our blessings and be positive about this: it isn’t a heavy metal band; they don’t play during the week; it stops at 3 A.M. and I can consider the music a nightly salsa serenade. With a better attitude we will probably sleep quite well to it. And indeed we did. Mind over circumstance perhaps?

If the band is still playing when we return this winter, I have vowed that now and then we will gather a group of friends and head over there and watch some dancing, enjoy the music and go with the flow! There are just so many wonderful joyful aspects about Manzanillo and our part-time life here to let a little red hot salsa get in the way!


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