Published On: Fri, Jan 15th, 2021

Rose Burillo: Learning Noises of Mexico City

One thing which most certainly can be said for Mexico City is that it is a noisy place. This of course makes sense given the sheer volume of people who are living here and the design of the city itself, being as densely populated as it is, means that sounds ring through the city at all hours. Beyond the noise of traffic and planes passing overhead however, there are some noises which have become iconic over the years and many people actually look forward to picking them out when they visit. 

These are just some of the sounds you may hear during your time in the city. 

photo/ Michelle Maria

Trash Bell

Because so many services are private in the city, the trash wagons which come around are all operated by different firms rather than the government. All of them however will ring a bell when the time comes to take the trash out and if you have lots to throw then be sure to keep your ears pricked for when that bell rings. 

Gas Shout 

There is often someone who comes around each day with gas tanks to fill up the empties. Many properties throughout the city do actually have gas from the mains, but there are still a great number who use tanks on the roof. This is a sound which won’t take much working out, and usually consists of a man ( I am yet to hear a woman do it) shouting ‘GAS’ at the top of his lungs. 

Knife Sharpener

One of my favorite passers-by in this city is the knife sharpener who comes by on their bicycle and makes a bird-like whistle as they go. If you have knives to sharpen then they will switch the chain to power the sharpening wheel, and do it right there on the street for you. A great service and a cute sound which you’ll hear each day. 


Tamales are a corn snack which are filled with chicken, salsa and wrapped in a banana leaf. These are sold each morning and night in many neighborhoods and they will all announce their arrival with a recorded message played out of a booming speaker. The message in Spanish is saying nothing more than come and get your hot and tasty tamales:

“Ya llegaron sus ricos y deliciosos tamales oaxaqueños. Acérquese y pida sus ricos tamales oaxaqueños. Hay tamales oaxaqueños, tamales calientitos. Pida sus ricos tamales oaxaqueños”

Rag and Bone

And finally, the sound which my roomie Rose Burillo never tires of hearing is the one which the New York Times ranked as one of the top 10 most iconic city sounds around the world, and that is the vans which come around looking to buy or take big items like old sofas, mattresses and general junk off your hands. The story goes that a man recorded his daughter shouting out things that they’d be prepared to take (everything in reality) and the audio recording caught on and is now used by them all. 

“Se compran colchones, tambores, refrigeradores, estufas, lavadoras , microondas o algo de fierro viejo que venda”

Author: James Daniel

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