There’s no shortage of people in Cuba who feel specially committed to their community. I’m referring to those who buy expensive audio equipment and on holidays (as well as other days when it occurs to them to have a party) they point their loud speakers toward the street, sharing the sound with the rest of the neighborhood. It’s almost always loud music, sometimes karaoke but — I’m sorry to say — usually music like reggaeton, which is not my preference.
Such actions have been both praised and criticized in the media as well as by the vox populi, however the criticisms are probably more than the praises.
In front of my building there’s another building where in the apartment closest to my window there lives a fan of Mexican ranchera music.
From time to time — especially on the weekends — we used to hear rancheras blasting from the speakers set up on his front balcony. We didn’t know what to do; one can privately criticize a neighbor for their taste in music, but when the criticism comes out onto the street the dynamics are different…
My mom got sick around that time, though we didn’t know that she had only a few weeks left, and my father also needed an operation.
On one of those evenings of rancheras and dominos, my mother and I were alone in the house. With the volume of the music, it wasn’t possible to hear the dialogue of a Brazilian telenovela that my mother was trying to watch on TV.
I had to take the initiative.
The owner of the “community” audio system wasn’t at home; he had moved a table down to the street and he was participating — livened up by his rancheras — in a game of dominos with some other neighborhoods.
I asked him — politely as I could— “Do you think it’s possible that my sick mother might be able to watch TV this evening?”
And — oh miracle of God! — the man understood the matter perfectly. He immediately went upstairs to his apartment and turned the music off.
That night my mother commended me for my capacity for dialogue. In fact, I myself was surprised at how cordially and peacefully I succeeded at talking with the front neighbor – and he with me.
The most outstanding thing is that since that night, I don’t remember even a single occasion in which the neighbor’s music has bothered us… He hasn’t stopped listening to ranchera (which by the way I don’t dislike, as long as it doesn’t forcibly colonize the acoustic space of my house). But he no longer feels under any obligation to share it with the community.
Sometimes, I’ll wave at him from my balcony over to his, and I can even sense my mom’s smile, up there, in the distance.