I groaned when the first flashes of light illuminated the insides of my eyelids. The explosions that followed pushed just enough consciousness into my sleep dulled mind to recall the grim facts of what lay before me for the day. It would be the 4th day of listening to the loud music of the Banda loving painters working next door. Worse, today would be the climax to the fiesta that had been running for 9 straight days. Considering an all day and all night party populated with every last mariachi band in all of Mexico, a couple of painters and their boom box were pretty small potatoes. However, music down here isn’t just a cultural heritage; it is viewed as a God given right. And the louder the better.

I knew that today would contain the noisiest 24 hours of the entire year and would be quite possibly the loudest sustained day of my entire life and I was almost dull with dread. And I don’t have to think back very far to remind anyone that I’ve been through some noisy times – like here – like Christmas and New Year’s Eves; family house parties that spill outdoors into serious street celebrations that go all night.

 I sighed. It was going to be a long day; a very long noisy day that wouldn’t end until sometime in the wee hours of the following morning. The cannonade of rockets – from all three flanking cathedrals – began long before daybreak. I had been fearing the Fiesta Santiago Apostol for an entire year and here it finally was; the day for celebrating the feast of St. James, known locally as Santiago Apostol.

I don’t mind a good party mind you. But I am resentful of a party, any party, that I can’t just get up and leave. And I also happen to hate noise. I am one of those people who in the words of Trevanian, like to ‘leave a little’; in this case, leave the party before it gets too late and everyone gets too drunk. Unfortunately, this was going to be a surround sound event in every sense of the word; a wrap around fiesta with my street being the epicenter. I am not kidding. The locus for the entire celebration uncoincidently happens to be the Sanctuario de Santiago which is just one block up and around the corner from me. In retrospect I think it is much better to live anywhere other than next to the cathedral named after the city’s patron saint.

You are probably thinking what a Grinch I am. Here’s this old guy who should be enjoying this maybe once in a life cultural event and here he is grousing about a little noise.

No. You don’t get it. First, the procession that marches past my house happens somewhere around midnight or one in the morning. I am serious. It might be even later than that. The street parties started at 11 am this morning which was when I was given my first glass of punch from my lovely neighbors (truly seriously nice people) who live on the corner (and delicious it was). The parties won’t begin (that is begin) to break up until something like 2 hours after the procession finishes passing through. So we are conservatively talking about easily 4 am until things begin (there is that ephemeral word begin again) to wind down. Oh, and the description ‘procession’ doesn’t give true weight to what that really means. Second, there will be people parked in front of my house all night long, drinking, cooking food on makeshift fires (yup), and playing loud music. And as far as the cultural thing goes, I was in Brazil for Carnival. Not just Brazil mind you, I was in Rio De Janeiro – on Copacabana for Carnival; which I think makes me qualified to talk about large cultural celebrations. And for my money, cultural celebrations aren’t very useful unless they include lots of beautiful half-naked women gyrating to the sensual rhythms of samba music. So big guys wearing giant masks followed by drunken mounted cowboys, interspersed with more mariachis than you can bang a drum at doesn’t seriously register on my calendar of significant cultural events.

But I like my neighbors a lot because they smile at me and talk to me like they really care when they don’t have to at all. And I want them to like me. So I am going to participate in this fiesta and do it with a big smile on my face because I think some of these wonderful people really want me to work harder to act like I want to be here and be with them.

And may God bless each and everyone.