Aaah, the sweet cacophony of León is a special sort. Here stores use giant speakers with LOUD, upbeat music as marketing. Church sermons are pop concerts for Jesus. Late night live music from across the street lulls me to sleep as all sounds echo off walls and into open-air homes. There is a siren that goes off at 7am and at 12pm every day, precisely the type of siren that indicates something horrible happening at home like a tornado or flood, or perhaps the zombie apocalypse. But when I asked a local what it’s for the answer was, “I don’t know…to tell you what time it is?” I have since been told the sirens used to indicate a coming attack during the revolution and now they remain as a reminder of the city’s history…and also to tell you that it’s time to wake up and time for lunch. Add these sounds to the fireworks and near daily parades (more on those later) and I’m beginning to think that Leoneses just like loud noises.
Then there is the music of the streets, which are a truly exciting place. These seemingly lawless roads hum with fast motorcycles, pickup trucks with giant speakers in their beds yelling things in Spanish, and the constant honking of taxis (honking at others on the road but especially at non-locals who are walking but clearly need a ride and will realize it once honked at). People yell the names of the foods they sell while balancing baskets of it on their heads or pushing or cycling it on a cart through the streets – it’s kind of like being at a baseball game..always. Don’t forget the rickshaws, “chicken buses” (trucks with awnings and benches in the back and people hanging off the back) adorned with Jesus decals, and the horse- and oxen-drawn carts…yes, I said oxen-drawn carts.
The skills I’ve witness on the streets of León are quite remarkable. Ne’er before have I seen so many people in the bed of a truck or on a motorcycle or bicycle. One of the most impressive feats of transportation I’ve witnessed thus far was two men on a bicycle, the man in front pedaling and steering and the man in back sitting on the seat whilst balancing a table (not a small one) upside down on his head with a chair stacked on the underside of the table. That’s talent.
All of these people navigate the streets with hardly a traffic sign. Who has the right of way you ask? Not pedestrians, that’s who, so you best watch your step! And so I often do as I love to explore these old, narrow, vibrant streets that are alive with León’s rich culture.