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In Mexico, beach bands apparently emerge victorious after noise complaints

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Bands who play the thumping tuba-and-drums songs of northern Mexico on beaches in the resort city of Mazatlan appear to have emerged victorious this week after noise complaints had threatened to silence them.

But anybody who planned to witness the April 8 eclipse in a moment of awed silence will likely be disappointed. Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast, will be first place in North America where the path of totality will be visible.

Because of complaints from foreign tourists who like to observe the resort’s sunsets in peace — or with a bit of soft music — a local hotel owner had suggested limiting the time or places where the bands could play. The bands usually wander the beaches, asking for a few dollars per song to play.

Their music is hardly conducive to reflection or relaxation — think of a frantic, speed-fueled polka with lots and lots of brass and snare drums, earning the bands the nickname of tamboras, or drums.

But after a protest march by the musicians turned into a violent scuffle with police last week, efforts to limit them appear to have been abandoned.

“The people are very conscious now, and they are defending their rights,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday. “This is how they make a living, and besides, this is a long-standing tradition … and for that reason they protested and managed to get it reversed.”

“What isn’t good is the violence,” López Obrador said. “But the Sinaloa bands, or the musicians of the Sinaloa bands, are completely within their rights to protest, just no violence.”

While there never appears to have been any city-wide ban, at least one hotel had put up signs prohibiting the bands from offering their services to beachgoers.

Videos of the scuffles between musicians and police went viral last week, with some band members hitting police with drum sticks. Drums were turned into weapons.

Rubén Rocha, the governor of the northern state of Sinaloa, where Mazatlan is located, wrote in his social media accounts Thursday that “I do not share the idea of prohibiting the musicians of Mazatlan from carrying out their honest dignified work, that allows them to feed their families.”

The issue came to a head when local hotel operator Ernesto Coppel posted a video urging that the bands be limited as to when or where they could offer to play.

“They are a disaster on the beaches of Mazatlan. They don’t allow people to rest,” Coppel said. “I have a lot of complaints from hundreds of American tourists who say to me ‘I won’t return to Mazatlan because of the noise.’”

The ideas apparently included designating certain spaces on the beach for musicians, rather than having them wandering up and down the sand, playing to people in beach chairs in front of hotels.

Sinaloa, which is home to the drug cartel of the same name, is not exactly known for restraint. An unusually high number of exotic animals like lions and tigers have been seized there, ornate mansion are the norm, and the main tourist attraction in the state capital is a graveyard featuring the lavish tombs of drug traffickers.

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