"Why are all of these buses coming here?"
It was Sam. An American who spends three or four weeks in Melaque each year. I have known him since 2012.
He was watching the long line of buses streaming into town. Each filled with Mexican families. He stood there as if it were the darnedest thing he had seen in his life.
"Do you think they are here for the Super Bowl?"
I thought he was putting me on until the look he shot let me know my chuckling was not well-received.
"No," I said, "they are here for Constitution Day. It is the 5th; but Monday is the holiday."
"Why would they be celebrating our constitution?"
I swear this stuff just writes itself. He had never heard of the constitution of 1917 -- the constitution under which Mexico now operates. But that verb is not really accurate.
Most Americans think the rest of the world has a constitution like ours -- an operating manual to describe how the engine of government should chug along. As well as a list of delineated rights that the people retain against government intrusion.
The Mexican constitution (and plenty of constitutions in other nations) is quite different. It is primarily aspirational. Especially, when the rights of the people are described.
The 1917 constitution revoked the liberal federalist constitution of Benito Juarez in favor of a centralized form of government. The revolution was still being fought (and would continue for another 12 years) when the constitution was approved. That constitution included a list of changes supported by one group or other under arms.
- Reelection to office was prohibited -- the issue that started the uprising.
- Foreigners were restricted from owning property in certain areas and were prohibited from owning interests in Mexico's natural resources.
- The Roman Catholic church was further restricted, beyond Juarez's reforms, in ownership of property and public displays of faith.
- Haciendas were to be broken up and the land used for land reform -- including the recognition of ejido land rights.
It is a bit ironic that the current president of Mexico -- and his revolutionary party -- are in the process of dramatically changing the constitution to look far more like the constitution of Benito Juarez. A liberal constitution that will allow reelection to office (other than to the presidency), that allows foreign investment in Mexico's natural resources, and that will allow foreign ownership of land in the restricted zone (if that amendment manages to pass).
That is why Mexican families are filling the streets of Melaque -- to celebrate that constitution. Well, they are here to spend a long weekend at the beach. Mexico, like it neighbor to the north, has decided federal holidays should be moved to Mondays, without regard to the actual day of the event. As far as I know, there will not be any official celebrations.
But there are celebrations aplenty in town. Every year Villa Obregon has a five-day rodeo celebration. I can hear the band playing in the bull ring as I write this. The gardener tells me the best night to attend will be tomorrow. If I go, you will be the first to know.
And with every fiesta comes a carnival. I was walking past the village square tonight about 10:30 and caught a glance of what looked to be a combination of Camelot and a Turkish harem. The horizon was unusually exotic for this part of town.
Despite the late hour, mothers and fathers were squiring their children around this wonderland. Dads were helping little boys aim and steady air rifles. Teens were scrambling on and off of various whirling devices designed to make tonight's tacos tomorrow's pavement. Small children were squealing in delight as they pretended to be riding fancy motorcycles through town.
I know why I love these events. The children are experiencing exactly what I came to Mexico to enjoy. The sense that it is a miracle to be able to thrill in the small details of life.
Of course, other people came to Mexico to enjoy other pursuits. Such as, last night's rather boring Super Bowl. All of the watering holes were filled with people looking for a good football game. What they got was the equivalent of watching the American army advance through Iraq.
What I got out of it was a corn dog and a scoop of black cherry ice cream. And that is good enough for me to celebrate this Constitution Day.
Happy 97th birthday, Señor Constitución. In the next few years, we may not recognize you.