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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Victory dance premature, say Centro noise busters

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Neighbors throughout Mérida’s Centro express their disapproval of new after-hours bars that keep them up at night. Photo: Lee Steele

Mérida, Yucatán — Not so fast, Centro dwellers. It’s not time to sleep just yet.

That’s the message from Todos Somos Mérida, the group of Centro residents and hotel owners who have lobbied against bars and nightclubs that have deprived them of peace.

Local media reported Friday that the city is on the verge of approving noise regulations that limit live music and require soundproofing. Some quiet majority-residential neighborhoods have been invaded by raucous nightclubs in the last several years, and until the last few months, the city has been silent on the issue.

But campaigns that emphasize that noise is not an “expat” complaint apparently gained traction. A grass-roots group of both native Meridanos and foreigners was apparently persuasive in an election year with the former mayor of Mérida running for governor.

But the Todos Somos group warned members that the regulations have yet to be signed into law. And residents can’t be sure how well the regulations will be enforced, since previous noise laws were flouted.

Until that happens, “we cannot consider it as an achievement,” organizers wrote in both Spanish and English.

New neighbors running all-night dance clubs emitted music from open courtyards, and their guests often relieved themselves in doorways, residents complained in a series of open forums.

“We hope that the groups of neighbors affected by the different bars will continue organizing and we will achieve more complaints, demands and amparo, that together will collect more strength,” an unnamed group leader wrote to members.

“Do not think things have been resolved because some bars have reduced the noise (although still outside the law) these days, the purpose is to ensure that respecting Mexican law is a constant and not momentary. WE ARE NOT GOING TO ACCEPT HALF MEASURES!” the message continued.

Keeping the Centro quiet after hours is not the no-brainer that many residents have imagined. On social media, both expats and locals have furthered the narrative that the anti-noise campaign is driven mainly by foreigners who have no business throwing their weight around.

One sarcastic meme reads, in English: “Applause to Merida for letting the foreigners living in the Centro do what they want!”

But residents complain that the bar owners are the ones with money and influence — enough to allow them to continue to operate outside the law for years.

Noise problems aren’t limited to the Centro. One new mixed-use high rise in the north of the city has a nightclub on the lower levels and sleepless residents above.

The new regulations, if approved, will apply to the entire city and won’t grandfather established bars.

“As the city keeps changing and evolving, the cultures begin to clash,” wrote one Meridano. “Let’s hope the resentment doesn’t go to far…”

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