Sunday, November 15, 2020

feliz día de la revolución

You may think that I, like Billy Pilgrim, have come unstuck in time.

That I am five days early with my revolutionary greeting. But I have the Mexican holiday calendar on my side.

Last night, I attended the season opening of Papa Gallo's on the beach in San Patricio Melaque. I knew some big event must be afoot in town.

Several of the side streets were packed with tour buses and the main street in front of the restaurant had nary a parking space. It has been a long time since I have seen that many cars in town for a weekend.

When I saw the beach, I knew where the occupants from all of those buses and cars had gone. The beach was not completely full, but there were more people than I had seen since at least March -- probably for the entire year.

Part of that could be attributed to the fact that Friday was the last day of the Jalisco mini-shutdown. People were now free to leave the confining retritions of their urban lives to head for the beach.

But the real reason is that this a Mexican three-day weekend. Mexico has only three of them: Constitution day on the first Monday in February, Benito Juarez's birthday on the third Monday in March, and Revolution day on the third Monday of November. Even though the day honoring the start of the Revolution is on 20 November, Mexicans will get tomorrow off to celebrate the most important event in the defining of Mexican culture.

Mexico's current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or as he is commonly-known, AMLO) is not happy with the notion that those three very important days have been disassociated from the true day of their occurence.  In February, he declared that the three-day weekends would be discontinued, and celebrations would return to their original days: "I know that it will create controversy, but those who don’t know where they come from don’t know where they’re going." (strike three)

Before he sent the required legislation to Congress, he wanted to consult with educators. Well, that did not happen because of the virus outbreak. Mexico's attention was diverted from switching dates on the calendar to trying to avoid hospital beds being filled with dying patients.

And that is why we are all celebrating Revolution Day on Monday instead of on Friday. Usually there would be merchants on the streets selling Revolution Day paraphernalia: flags, Emiliano Zapata moustaches, Pancho Villa ponchos. I suspect that is because the usual street parades of children dressed up as Heroes of the Revolution Who Would Soon Be Assassinated will not happen this year.

When it comes to patriotic holidays, I am something of a traditionalist. I like celebrating the birthdays of George Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. on the days they were actually born. Not on some random third Monday. And, yes, you are correct, all that is from a guy whose family once celebrated Christmas in July with hot dogs and potato salad.

I am not certain that Revolution Day is the hill AMLO should choose to die on, however. Mexico has chosen to date the start of its Revolution on 20 November 1910. But the events of that day are not quite as propitious as the storming of the Bastille or the Potemkin mutiny.

When President Porfirio Diaz announced in 1910 that he would not seek re-election after being president for almost 30 years, reformers thought they there would be a peaceful transfer of power to Mexicans who wanted to improve their country's social system. Francisco Madero, the son of wealthy northern landowners, announced his intention to run for President.

Porfiro Diaz changed his mind and ran for another term against Madero, and stole the election. For good measure, Porfirio Diaz locked up Madero, who, like all good revolutionaries, escaped imprisonment and fled his country to organize what would be the Mexican Revolution from his refuge in San Antonio, Texas. He had a plan. The Plan de San Luis.

That plan called for all Mexicans to rise up against The Dictator en masse at 6:00 PM on 20 November 1910. (Madero was a bit obsessive about such matters.)

Fully expecting he would be met by hundreds of armed men on the Mexican side of the border, Madero crossed over the Rio Bravo with ten men and 100 rifles at the appointed time.  To find only another 10 men on the other side. He returned to Texas hoping for a reset.

Eventually, the Revolution gained strength. Six months later Porfirio Diaz was no longer president, having fled to exile in Spain -- dying in Paris in 1915 during another great war.

Historians had to pick a date for the start, and 20 November 1910 seemed to be as good as any. The fact that it can now migrate to the third Monday of November does not strike me as being heretical. The date chosen seems to be inherently elastic.

But, that is the reason why so many people are in town -- celebrating the exploits of Francisco Madero, first president of The Revolution and his revolutionary cohorts. 

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