Wednesday, March 22, 2023

MAS QUE SALTA A LA VISTA – The Sounds of Zihuatanejo

Beautiful Zihuatanejo, this enchanting Pacific Coast town in the Mexican state of Guerrero, inspires a rush of sensory impressions. What always hits me first are the visual ones, the colors, patterns, forms and textures of a place that’s not afraid to flaunt them all.

I’ve often likened these visual excitements to a feast for a starving man, and this year, having just escaped a monochromatic, snowier-than-usual Minnesota winter for a while, I’m snarfing down the sights even more eagerly than usual.

       Their embellishment—the weft, if you
       will—is an array of softer, more
       and richly
textured fibers.

But we possess, after all, five senses. I derive great pleasure from exploring them all. So let me feature another with some praise for the winsome sounds of this place.

Many are those one might hear in any developed-world town: the chatter of people’s comings and goings, the clack and clang of light industry, the hum of traffic. Sounds I don’t consider especially pleasant.

But that’s where the sound tapestry of Zihuatanejo takes a turn to the exotic. If the warp of the cloth, its strength, is those workaday strands of noise, their embellishment—the weft, if you will—is an extraordinary array of softer, more colorful and richly textured fibers.


The soft breath of the Pacific surf; the shy coos of Inca doves; the haunting little flute ditty of the itinerant knife sharpener; strains of ranchero music animating the work of painters and carpenters.


There’s also the laughter of kids splashing in the surf along Playa La Ropa; the traditional música costeña of strolling musicians; the “Peta, Peta, Peta” call of the young attendant hanging out the door of the rickety bus to Petatlan.

And the rustle of palm fronds; the barely perceptible whirr of a ceiling fan; and the bird-like chirps of geckos as they stalk bugs on the ceiling.

        Even the Spanish word for German makes
        the German word for it sound severe.

And then, of course, there’s the language.

My family roots are German. Naturally, offered the choice of just French or German in high school, I took German. I’m sure that made my parents and perhaps the spirits of a few long-gone ancestors very happy.

But in my mid-50s I decided I’d been a Mexican fisherman in a previous life, and that “Ich bin ein Fischer” just wouldn’t sound right coming out of that character’s mouth. So I took up Spanish, and have become, if not a great fisherman, a passable hispanohablante.

Spanish, with its softer, romance-language color and lilt, is another of those weft strands that make the tapestry of sound here in Zihuatenejo so rich and vibrant. I mean even the Spanish word for German—aleman—makes the German word for it—deutsch—sound severe.

So, while I still think of Zihuatanejo’s visual blessings as good enough to eat, I think I’ll digest them wrapped in the fine serape of its audible ones.


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