The most surprising aspect of Merida is the sound of the town. Never have I ever heard so many loudspeakers at the same time as on those streets. Whatever shop or restaurant I passed, there was at least two up-beat songs screaming in my ears at the same time. When another loudspeaker, even louder than the others, made a monotonic sound, I longed for silence more than I had ever done before. However, the loudspeaker belonged to a stage and the sound was from a drummer, making a soundcheck. This intro may sound like we all were on the verge of a headache, but we had had a good time that day and it would only get better.
It was a street just beside the park where almost all of us students visiting Merida today had been discovering a market-event in Plaza Grande. I had been practising haggling and after the day was done, I found myself with lots of new handmade jewellery. We are all pretty good at bargaining for a good price at this point. Many of us had brand new hammocks and some bought clothes as well. At that point I could have happily called it a day and returned to Progresso but fate hade much more in stall for us this evening.
Who would have thought that every Sunday there is a dance festival on the street beside Plaza Grande? Many seats are placed by the side of the road and between them there was a dance floor. I had been walking around the market all evening and had seen the stage from afar but not thought much of it. When the soundcheck began we were buying ice-cream from a heladeria nearby and decided to stay for the performance. That might have been the best decision we had done that entire week.
The soundcheck was a test of our patience. The ice-cream came and went so we sat on the ground and watched as more and more people gathered around. Then, a man grabbed the mike, and welcomed us all to a night of salsa-dancing and music. The band was called La Sociedad Perfecta and the drummer had merely begun to form a rhythm before an old couple stood up, smiling, and began to dance. They were old but with the music they were flourishing. More and more people joined, and no spectator could stop themself from getting caught up by the rhythm. The people in the street were no professionals, only ordinary people finding joy in dancing. There were old couples, small children and friends dancing in pairs or in groups, laughing over each other’s moves from time to time.
At first, we were watching, then we were dancing. Tapping along turned to nodding of the heads and soon we stood up and danced among ourselves. Suddenly someone in the street were calling us into the dancefloor. I watched my friends standing by some ladies and, laughing, tried to mimic the footwork. The songs finished and they left the street but not long after the new song began, two men asked some of us for a dance. Soon, most of us were in the street, turning and spinning along with the salsa-rhythm. It might not have been very beautiful but somewhere I believe I heard some cheers for our attempts.
The music was loud, and the sun had been replaced with moonlight and streetlamps. We danced for almost an hour and the street was completely crowded. However, we had to leave. We still had to find dinner and catch the bus home to Progresso before ten o’clock. We left Plaza Grande, but the music reached far. We made our way home, dancing.