Climate and Environment, Living

When Night Doesn’t Fall

The spring clock-change has never been particularly popular in Mexico, a country with plenty of year-round sunlight

Cathedral in Mexico City

Daylight Savings Time in Mexico’s Central and Pacific time zones – which encompass most of the country including Mexico City – starts on the first Sunday in April, several weeks later than in the U.S. where the clocks go forward one hour on the second Sunday in March.

Usually this creates a time difference for three weeks, although in 2019 the gap stretches to four weeks because of a calendar effect. (April 1 falls on a Monday this year, so the horario de verano, or summer time, doesn’t begin in Mexico until April 7.)

There are some exceptions, one being most municipalities on Mexico’s northern border which move their clocks forward at the same time as the U.S. to make life easier for people who cross the border daily to study or work. (Sonora state, which borders Arizona, does not move its clocks.)  The state of Baja California synchs its clocks with the US, and the state of Quintana Roo, home to the country’s most-visited tourists resort including Cancún and the Riviera Maya created its own time zone in 2015 and, like Sonora state, does not move its clocks each year.

Daylight savings time has never been particularly popular in Mexico, a country with plenty of sunlight all year round, although after nearly a quarter of a century of it being applied — since 1996 — complaints and efforts to overturn it have mostly died out.

The principal argument in favor of the measure is that it saves electricity by extending the hours of light in the evenings. This is debatable and in Mexico as elsewhere in the world, many people are unconvinced that it is true. Mexican households see no noticeable effect on their individual utility bills.

Mexico has dithered with different ways of applying daylight savings, including using it for just five months — May through September instead of April through October — in 2001. This Solomonic solution, aimed at addressing widespread dissatisfaction with the clock change, was short-lived. The airline industry said it would cause havoc at Mexican airports—which it didn’t. The Mexico City mayor of the time — who is now the Mexican president — took the case to the Supreme Court arguing that the executive branch didn’t have the authority to decree the change in the capital. The Supreme Court agreed and said only the Congress could authorize it—which it did. Thus, since 2002 Daylight Savings Time has been observed in Mexico for seven months each year.

When the US extended daylight savings time to eight months a year in 2007, Mexico did not try to follow suit. But the Mexican stock markets — now there are two — open and close an hour earlier in local time until Mexico’s clocks catch up so that trading hours coincide with those in the US.

Horario de verano has its fans in Mexico, particularly among office workers who get to go home while it’s still light. There are even people who say they wish daylight savings applied all year round.

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