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Bridge closed ahead

9 January 2007

In my 2003 book for foreign teachers working in Mexico, I had this to say about the National Holidays:

Thanks to 19th century dictator, Porfirio Diaz, whose birthday was September 15, the day before Independence Day, Mexican holidays stretch an extra day (el Puente) whenever feasible: If a holiday is in the middle of the week, people will just not show up for class (or work) the days before or after if they can make up some slightly plausible excuse.

Them’s were the good ol’ days… I never resented the “sick kids,” the ‘out of town meeting’ or more ridiculous rationalizations I’d hear for why nobody was around on Monday, when Tuesday was a holiday. Yeah, I would get a little perturbed if the holiday was Wednesday and nobody was around Monday OR Tuesday, but it always seemed rational to me.

Mexicans work TOO HARD.  Even those fresas I generally worked with put in a lot of hours (though they didn’t seem to be real productive for a lot of the day — but then, fresas aren’t the most productive members of society to begin with), had long commutes home (the buses are still crammed at 8:30 pm in Mexico City with commuters heading out to the ‘burbs).  The clerks, the security guards, the janitors — some of them worked even longer hours. And, all those “self-employed” people?  When did they go home?

I know Mexico was the first country to put wages, hours and working conditions into their constitution, and I know the Constitution limits the hours you CAN work, but just like Gringolandia, the trend has been to force office workers especially (and everyone generally) to put in more hours at the same rate of pay.  I don’t think I was particularly subversive in buying into la puente.  Heck, I wanted time off too (and, what the heck… if I got paid to go somewhere at 8 in the AM, knowing full well no one was going to show up, I could plan for my regular trip to the zoo to visit my friends the pinguinos… the zoo’s got a great penguin pen — where you can watch them fly underwater — and I like penguins).  Getting paid to go watch the penguins seemed reasonable to me, considering how much “extra” labor everyone in the country puts in. 

DAMN.  It must be an imperialista plot (“es un complot,” as AMLO always said).  They’ve moved THREE holidays to the nearest Monday in the month (Constitution Day in Februrary; Benito Juarez’ birthday in March; Revolution Day in November — which Vincente Fox tried to do away with altogether, but then I think he was trying to undo the Revolution anyway). Somehow they kept Cinco de Mayo on Cinco de Mayo, but that’s not much of a Mexican holiday… if you want a good Cinco de Mayo fiesta, go to San Antonio or Butte, Montana, not Mexico City (I’m wondering if it was kept for the tourists who expect it to be a holiday). 

Constitution Day was never a biggie for me, and I always looked foreward to the Revolution Day parade:  a military parade in an anti-miltaristic country is a site to behold.  The people would cheer for the city garbage trucks, and boo the cops.  And, the army accountants, smartly marching with their laptop computers were always a hit. 

But geeze, 21 March, not the third Monday in March, is Benito Juarez Day.  Benito, along with everything else, pushed through the separation of Church and State… opening the country to Mormons and Jehovahs’ Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists as well as those strange rituals practiced by God’s Frozen People:  Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc.  Benito himself once floated the idea of bringing in Protestant missionaries, but — wise man that he was — realized that Mexican life is hard enough and folks who don’t have saints didn’t throw good fiestas in honor of the local saint’s day.  People might work harder, he said, but their lives would be poorer. 

But, even Mexican Mormons and Presbyterians need some excuse for a fiesta… and Benito Juarez’ birthday is as close to a Protestant Saint’s day as they’re likely to get.  Since I don’t drink anyway, the Protestant and Mormon blow-out at Parque Alameda was always a must-do for me (plus, the sheer weirdness of an all-women’s Marchiaci Gospel singing group is something you don’t get to experience every day). 

March 21 is something else — Vernal Equinox.  Sacred to all good New Agers, and the pyramids — and the City — are overrun with Norweigan sun worshippers, followers of the Fifth Ra of Switzerland and other very interesting folks.  They always assumed the 21 March fiesta was THEIRS (and, in a way it was) … the Mormons and the hippies and the Baptists and those of us just looking for tequila-free “real Mexico” have been shortchanged.

¡Señor Presidente!  This is a bridge too far! 

One Comment leave one →
  1. 10 January 2007 3:35 pm

    At least there are now three OFFICIAL “Dias del Santo Lunes”, maybe more depending on when the other holidays fall. Do you think that “El Dia del Santo Martes” will now become the norm?

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