It has been more than 12 years since Mexico introduced the concept of ‘bank holiday Mondays’—long weekends created by moving three of the country’s national holidays to the closest Monday.
In making the changes in 2006, legislators thought the May 1 Labor Day holiday too important to be moved, since it’s also observed internationally; and the September 16 Independence Day holiday was never even considered a candidate.
The three dates chosen for commemoration with long-weekend holidays are:
- the February 5 holiday commemorating the 1917 Constitution, moved to the first Monday in the month—which is usually the day after the Super Bowl U.S., thus convenient for American Football fans, of which there are many in Mexico;
- the March 21 holiday marking the birth of 19th century president Benito Juárez shifted to the third Monday in March;
- the November 20 holiday marking the start of the 1910-1917 Revolution which is now observed on the third Monday in November.
The ‘bank holiday Monday’ concept has advantages and disadvantages.
On the one hand, it guarantees at least three long weekends each year even if the historical dates fall on a weekend or in the middle of the week, increasing the practicalities for travel and stimulating domestic tourism. Colonial towns and cities within an easy drive of the capital have been notable beneficiaries of this, as chilangos like to use the long weekends to escape from their frenetic routines to take some fresh air, country food, and enjoy a change of scenery. Hotels like the long weekends as it helps them to sell more rooms, and those running AirBnBs from their home also get a fillip.
On the other hand, the long weekends have reduced the possibilities for creating “puentes,” or bridges, which for many years have been an informal tradition linking the holiday date 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.) That literal “puente” —or bridge— to the weekend has fallen away somewhat in modern days where time is money and squeezing an extra day’s leisure from the daily grind has a habit of showing up as a minus in the month’s high-frequency economic indicators. In response, people have taken to calling the three-day bank holiday weekend a “puente.”
From a practical perspective, Mexico’s long-weekend holidays offer an opportunity for residents to explore a new colonial town or revisit an old favorite, or take a well-earned break to the coast for some sea air and a swim in the ocean. You’ll need to plan ahead as bus stations and airports get busy, and the best accommodations tend to sell-out ahead of time. These are also three weekends of the year when you’ll also need to build-in some extra journey time to your schedule, and pack some additional patience for the roads, especially those which lead to Mexico City.
Since 2011, the November Revolution Day long holiday weekend has been tied-in with El Buen Fin, “The Good Weekend,” a commercial endeavor set up to emulate Black Friday in the U.S. and in the process, drive the local economy through consumption. The Buen Fin event —which starts on the Friday and ends on the bank holiday Monday— tends to lack the spectacular throwaway prices seen in the U.S., and many of the promotions are offered in the form of interest-free payments in partnership with Mexican credit card companies, although there are still widespread discounts on goods and services and some people here use the weekend to buy big-ticket items for their home like furniture and appliances at a worthwhile discount. It’s also a chance for retailers to unload stale inventory ahead of the Christmas shopping season, which begins in earnest across Mexico as soon as the Halloween costumes have been packed away.
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