Calle Zela: Traditional Street Sounds

For the six months after our initial homestay with a Peruvian family, Katie and I have lived on Calle Zela in Yanahuara, a (mostly) quiet street in a historic part of Arequipa.

Looking down on our house. Garden to the left, Calle Zela to the right. 

Of course there are the normal noises you'll get in any city: barking dogs, car alarms, the rattling of the 1968 VW Bug as it backs out of the garage, the honks of the school vans picking up kids in the morning, tea kettles whistling in neighboring homes (usually at 7am and 7pm), occasional fireworks going off for the celebration of some saint, and a neighboring mother/grandmother who yells "¡¡¡MANUEL!!!" with a persistent vengeance—the name of a little boy who lives across the narrow street from us and apparently never obeys the first time. 

Like I said, mostly quiet. And maybe not all of those sounds are expected in any urban area...

It helps that Calle Zela isn't a main through street. So while some cars and motorcycles zip down it, it's nowhere near the amount of traffic a main street would get. We love that we have a patio that opens up to our landlords' garden. We see Peru's big hummingbirds pretty frequently and hear the birds chirping in their pear, fig, and avocado trees.

Apart from the typical street sounds blending into our secret garden-style peaceful soundscape, we've discovered some sounds that at first we thought might be unique to our street, and have since learned make up the traditional street life of Arequipa. I was able to record a few of them for your cultural learning and viewing pleasure. 


On Sunday mornings and on many weekday evenings, you can expect to hear a rousing chorus of tamale vendors. They often will beat a drum and woo their prospective buyers with nasal yells of “Taaamaaalessss.” 

Ice cream

What do you think of when you hear a duck call? I think of crouching down in a duck blind with my father-in-law Kin, and brothers-in-law Sage and Chris in northern Alabama. In Arequipa, it likely means that the ice cream man is making his way down your street. 

El Pueblo

Up next is the newspaper man (or sometimes, a woman). He usually makes the rounds on Saturdays and Sundays with the weekend editions of all the major local and national papers, the biggest of which is El Pueblo (The People). It costs 1 sol (30 cents) on every day except for Sunday, when it costs 2 soles (60 cents). 

His ringing shout of “El Pueeeeeblooooo” bookends the video. In between, I capture him making a couple sales and not exerting any effort whatsoever in catching the coins being thrown to him out the window. 

Milk - Brought to you by Eduardo

You’ve met our friend Eduardo before on Instagram, who comes by every Tuesday and Friday to drop off a couple liters of fresh cow’s milk.

Sharing a smile with Eduardo, our neighborhood milk man.

A photo posted by Jeremy Daggett (@jeremydaggett) on

Most Peruvians drink long-conservation and evaporated milk, which means that’s all that is sold in most stores. Meeting Eduardo and learning how to pasteurize milk has been an incredible treat and increased our quality of life (and cereal, waffle, and chocolate-chip cookie eating) immensely. 

Before taking the above picture, Katie followed meet out the door that leads to the street to capture the transaction. Please forgive my Italian accent while speaking Spanish—I promise I’m working on that. 

Junk on wheels

Anytime you hear a megaphone spouting off monotone lists of random items barely intelligible to the gringo ear, you’re probably about to cross paths with a “chatarrero.” “Chatarra” means junk (also used for “comida chatarra,” junk food), and adding the -ero suffix means something like “one who is dedicated to junk.” When I first saw these motorcycle-pulled trailers pass by, I thought they were shouting what they were selling through the megaphone. Turns out, they’re buying your junk—straight from your door for maximum convenience. 

Here are two videos, one of a barebones buyer with an interesting motorized cart, the second, more of a tricked out setup with an awning for the driver. Points to whoever can tell me exactly what they’re keen on buying. 


Finally, we bring you the trash truck. 

That our trash pickup truck is belting out their favorite radio station is both tame and lame. All over the city, dump trucks belt out tunes on repeat. We’re talking anything from Disney songs, Beethoven’s 5th, Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca, and the intro theme music to the Harry Potter movies. Downtown, the trash truck always played a heavy duty triangle, loudly signaling to the homes in its path that the truck was on its way up the street.

And many, many more 

These are just some of the traditional street sounds that we’ve been able to capture so far. There’s also a knife-sharpener who plays a sort of pan flute and runs his manual knife-sharpening wheel with a foot-pedal. I haven’t been able to get a video from the window of him yet, and when I tried to take one of him from street level he wanted to charge me. I should’ve aimed for a relationship first (amateur mistake). 

I’d like to dedicate this post to my beautiful wife on her 28th birthday. We’ve loved our six months on Calle Zela in Yanahuara and tomorrow move to the district of Hunter. A new home, a new community to be a part of, and many new street sounds—I’m sure of it.