Today begins a long weekend for a lot of people in Mexico; we don't to back to work until next Wednesday! Tuesday is March 21st, and, as Benito Juárez's birthday, a civic holiday here. As has been common until just this year, when a civic holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, government offices and many other places of employment just go ahead and take off the Monday or Friday between the holiday and the weekend, doing what is known as hacer puente, "making a bridge." And since I've worked at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional (a government institution) for many a moon now, I've enjoyed many of these bridges over the years. It makes for some great mini-vacations, even if it's not so hot for productivity.
All that is going to end, though. As of this year, five civic holidays will be celebrated on Monday instead of the original holiday date. Benito Juárez day is one of them, though since 2006 is the bicentennial of his birth there are special celebrations scheduled and the traditional date is kept this year.
Occasionally this change from the traditional date to the Monday before or after will be good. Example: Constitution Day is supposedly on February 5th. This year that date fell on a Sunday, and we wouldn't have gotten an extra day off work for it, but for the first time in Mexican history it was changed to the following Monday and we did get a free day out of the deal. Woo hoo!
But mostly this means a reduction in days off, since it strikes a hard blow at the venerable puente system. Yesterday as I was leaving work one of my colleagues said, "Enjoy your puente, people; this is the last one we'll have." How sad! A much-beloved institution is gasping its last. Seems like somebody should be commemmorating this in some way, like it's not right to just let it all pass without noticing.
Actually, this is not the last "bridge." There will be others, taken on non-civic holidays such as Day of the Dead or Christmas or even Mother's Day (May 10th), when the whole country grinds to a halt while everyone takes mom out to dinner. However, these extra-long weekends will be fewer and much farther between. I suppose it's a positive measure, necesary for advancing the country towards first-worlddom. Ay, but I did so love making bridges!