Another Mexican Holiday Is Coming Up. Didn’t we just have six weeks of Christmas?

Woohoo! Us Mexicans are getting ready for our first long weekend of the year. We celebrate the proclamation and signing of our constitution on February 5th, which is a Monday. Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución) is a federal public holiday in Mexico, so banks, schools, government offices and many businesses (including this rag’s offices) are closed. Our boss is too cheap to pay the three times higher wages for the holiday.

Up until 2006, the day was always celebrated on February 5th. However, following the new labor law, the holiday is now observed on the first Monday of February, to assure a three day weekend. Festivals, picnics, music concerts and street celebrations are part of the festivities that take place throughout Mexico on Constitution Day.

In some states of Mexico, the sale of liquor is banned three days prior to the holiday, up until the day itself. Exchanging of gifts and pleasantries is not uncommon on Constitution Day, as this is one of the country’s most important holidays.

The current constitution of Mexico had several predecessors, including a constitution that was established in 1857. This most recent constitution was drafted in central Mexico, following a revolution that started in 1910. It was a long revolution and the new constitution was approved by the on February 5th, 1917. It has been amended almost 500 times in those 101 years. In comparison, the US constitution has been amended 27 times. The Mexican version includedes significant social reforms to labor laws and provided for equality without discrimination, among other reforms. It placed emphasis on land reforms and fair land distribution among the poor.

Both the Mexican and the U.S. constitutions are the products of the cultures which produced them and the times in which they were drafted. Here we do a little comparison, just to give you a frame of reference to better understand the Mexican document.

The Mexican constitution is longer than the US constitution, for several reasons. The Mexican constitution spells out in detail many legal principles, including the responsibilities of local governments. For example, it stipulates that the government of a municipio (more or less equivalent to a county) has to operate a slaughterhouse for livestock.

Mexico has a European Civil law system, where it’s more necessary to spell out legal principles in the constitution. The U.S. has an English Common Law system, in which legal principles are dealt with in judicial precedents.

Listen up, this part is for you! The Mexican constitution spells out the rights and duties of Mexican citizens, and non-Mexicans residing in Mexico. This was a result of some foreign interventions in Mexican history. (Did you know there was an archduke of Austria who snuck in as president of Mexico at one time? The Mexicans eventually executed him.)  Foreigners are forbidden from getting mixed up in Mexican politics. Article 33 stipulates that foreigners who violate this principle can be expelled from Mexico, and this happens from time to time.

To understand either the U.S. or Mexico, one must take into account their constitution. Not that either country completely follows its respective constitution, but it’s the necessary reference point in understanding a country’s political system and much else.