Festivals and Events, Living

Bridges To Cross

Bridge over Rio Balsas, Mexico

Starting this month, Mexico is introducing the concept of bank holiday Mondays, or long weekends. The measure, passed by Congress, will affect three national holidays: February 5, which celebrates the 1917 Constitution; March 21, which marks the birthday of 19th Century President Benito Juarez; and November 20, which celebrates the 1910-1917 Revolution. In future those holidays will be celebrated on the first Monday in February, the third Monday in March, and the third Monday in November, respectively.

The March 21 holiday switch won’t actually go into effect until 2007, because this year is the bicentenary of the birth of Benito Juarez. The May 1 Labor Day holiday was also to have been included, but lawmakers thought the date too important nationally and internationally to be moved.

Tourism officials are delighted with the change and estimate that each long weekend will generate additional tourism spending of $250 million. Hoteliers like it, since the fixed long weekends guarantee higher occupancy rates.

So, too, probably, do businesses in general.

Some years, when holidays fall on weekends to collective groans from the office and factory bound, the new holiday Mondays will guarantee some extra leisure time. Other years, when the holidays fall midweek, it will encroach on the time-honored tradition of the puente or ‘bridge’.

The puente makes a bridge from the national holiday to the nearest weekend — the previous weekend if the holiday is on a Tuesday, and the following weekend if it’s on a Thursday. (Wednesdays are a bit more complicated.) In the business place, companies that can afford to will often give people two days off. Those that can’t will risk, and probably suffer, high rates of absenteeism on the bridge day.

To illustrate, puentes can play havoc with the vital statistics on which so much time is spent contemplating, turning over, squinting at, adjusting, looking at from a different angle, etc. In 2005, the March 21 holiday fell on the Monday of Easter Week, in which Thursday and Friday are always holidays. To the trained eye of the employee, that called for some serious truss design. Industrial production that month fell 4.7% from the same month of a year earlier. Some of it, but not all, was made up in April.

Other national holidays will remain much the way they are. May 1 this year is on a Monday, anyway. The following Friday is May 5 — the Battle of Puebla — not an obligatory holiday but take-able and one more closely marked by Mexicans in the U.S. than in Mexico for reasons unclear. The 1862 battle was, after all, against the French. The September 16th Independence Day holiday will emerge from the weekend with full bridging rights in 2008. Christmas this year is on a Monday, but in 2007 it will be on Tuesday, a natural puente if ever there was one.

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