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Angry residents protest nightclub noise in their once-peaceful neighborhoods

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Banners have appeared on Centro facades protesting noise that has been allowed to disrupt residential neighborhoods. Photos: Roland Seeman

Mérida, Yucatán — Some Centro Histórico residents have been struggling for years — so far with no luck — for their right to live and sleep peacefully.

Some neighbors are born-and-raised Meridanos, while others are expats who paid thousands to salvage and renovate abandoned historic homes.

But the city that sells itself on its high quality of life struggles to reconcile a burgeoning party-hard scene with what until recently was a more mellow, laidback downtown.

And it is precisely these authorities who prefer that the heart of the city be seen more as an exciting area of ​​fun, full of bustling bars and hipster canteens, of clubs with open-air music until dawn. The Centro, however, is inhabited by families with children, the elderly and sick people, says Olga, a Santiago resident and member of the collective Todos Somos Mérida (We Are All Mérida), speaking to a Diario de Yucatán reporter over a cup of black coffee.

Several years have been spent knocking on the doors of the mayor, secretaries of health, the human rights commission, the administrative court and the environmental agency in search of a solution. There were several meetings held with municipal officials. All in vain.

In protest against this official passivity, the heart of the city woke up today with banners hanging on the facades of more than 200 houses, which translate to English as “Where there is noise there is no rest.”

“The protest is not against the bars, it is not against the youth who want to have fun or against the workers of those places, who need to support their families. But the neighbors want to sleep, to work, we want to be able to carry out our daily activities in peace,” Olga says.

Fundamentally, the request is that sites that play music, live or recorded, do not do it in the courtyards, in the open air, but in soundproof spaces, which is totally possible.

Love for Mérida

After traveling the world, Cécile and her husband arrived 10 years ago with the desire to enjoy a quiet retirement. They chose Mérida because from their first visit they fell in love with the city, with its quiet streets. The calm was short-lived, vanished — as is their affection for the city — with the multiplication of bars nearby.

“When you live with such scandal at all hours, you end up going crazy,” she says. And like her, there are many people affected by the noise in this part of the city — the We Are All Merida movement numbers 400 people, alone in the fight against noise pollution.

The revitalization of the Historic Center in recent years and its undeniable attraction have favored the uncontrolled opening of bars and clubs sharing walls with homes.

“The root of the nightmare is that the owners of the establishments do not respect the law, but neither do the authorities, who have even told us that the current regulation is obsolete, that we have to wait for a new one to be drafted. Our situation does not improve because the authorities have never had the intention of taking care of the neighbors. His main interest is ‘incentivizing investment,’ allowing and encouraging the opening of as many leisure venues as possible,” says Cécile.

The main complaint is against noise, but also touches security and public health issues. Some streets are littered at sunrise with cups, urine, vomit and human excrement.

False debate

Olga and Cécile warn that their opponents want to create a false debate, presenting the problem as a confrontation between white, wealthy and idle foreigners against brown-skinned, hard-working Yucatecans.

But the majority of Todos Somos Mérida’s members are from Yucatán, and they have no beef with customers or employees.

Their complaint, they insist, is against the passivity of the authorities and against the excessive volume with which these places turn music into a hellish noise.

“And the authorities are wrong if they think this is a matter of taste. We’re talking about health and laws,” Olga told the reporter.

Adapted from a story published today in Diario de Yucatán

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