Culture & History

The Puente Returns with a Vengeance

How the Mexican tradition of the "puente" is capable of withstanding the modern industrialized bank holiday Monday

Bridge over Rio Balsas, Mexico

You never really want to burn your bridges.

As mentioned elsewhere in these pages, the Mexican tradition of the puente  —sneaking in an extra day of rest or play between a weekend and a national holiday—  was capable of withstanding the modern industrialized bank holiday Monday, or its local equivalent.

Experience in the country’s bicentennial year offered some examples of Mexican adaptability to those foreign practices that could be considered “conveniente” for the national cause, without giving up the desirable local aspects of social life.

The 200th anniversary of Mexico’s Independence fell on a Thursday —the “grito” was Wednesday night, and the day off was Thursday, Sept. 16.  But the prospect of people going back to work Friday meant that a number of the special events planned around the landmark celebration ran the risk of being under-attended.

One presidential decree later, and Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were school and government holidays, while Thursday and Friday were bank holidays—and not a peep out of the usual naysayers about competitiveness, the division of powers, Mexico’s position in OECD education charts, etc., etc.

The next holiday in the bicentennial year was Nov. 2, All Souls Day, better known in Mexico as Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos.  This was a  Tuesday and clearly fell into the category of a natural puente, prompting one American resident relatively new to Mexico to ask on Monday: “What’s the deal with these puentes? there was no traffic on the roads this morning.”

As history would have it, 2010 was also the 100th anniversary of the start of the 1910-1917 Revolution. Revolution Day is usually one of the least noted of the national holidays, and Nov. 20 falls on a Saturday this year. But it is also one of the three holidays that was moved to the nearest Monday, or more specifically in this case, the third Monday in November, demonstrating the conveniencia of certain imported customs.

But nothing in this life is free, and even puentes come at a cost. The following three holidays —Guadalupe Day on Dec. 12, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day 2011— all fell on weekends.

Ni modo, se acabó.

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