¡Tamales oaxaqueños!

The sonic signature of a cultural (and culinary) world.


You hear it from a block away: an amplified, singsong call with an uncanny power to slice through the urban din. The tone is cheap and tinny—as kitschy as a sound can be. And it’s my favorite in Mexico City.

Listen now, as it nears, the nasal-toned male voice stretching out syllables and pauses, again and again, into a verse so familiar it could be the unofficial anthem of this vast city, a kind of culinary call to prayer. ”Ri-costa-ma-les oaxa-que-ños!” blares a loudspeaker on the vendor’s tamale cart. ”Tamales oaxaqueños!” ”Tamales calien-ti-tos!

Go to any neighborhood in Mexico City, from gritty to grand, and at some point during the evening you might hear it. The recorded call, always in the same hypnotic voice, is pumped from countless speakers aboard countless tamalero pedal carts. Step up and order your delicious Oaxacan tamales.

from “A delicious sound above the din of Mexico City,” by Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times, 23 November 2008

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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