Photo: Freepik

By RICARDO CASTILLO

This is an article I should have written many years ago, but, at the time, I did not have enough reason to do so. Not until now, when it just so happens that in the natural calendar year of 2020, the second Sunday in May falls on May 10. That, of course, is this coming Sunday.

What makes this worth writing about, you might ask? The answer is that once in a great while the United States and Mexico commemorate Mothers’ Day on the same date. This is a rare occasion, indeed!

The great difference – similarity this time – is that in the United States, Mother’s Day always happens on the second Sunday of May.

In Mexico, the date for Mother’s Day is a fixed one, May 10, whatever day of the week that might be, and indeed it changes just about every year.

But the one coincidence to celebrate in tandem is when May 10 hits on a Sunday, as is the case this year.

And yes, there is a story behind the difference in celebrating in the United States and Mexico. In the United States, the holiday is thanks to the repeated efforts of Anna Jarvis to have a day to commemorate both mothers and motherhood. Her efforts paid off in1914, when then-President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday of the month of May as the day to celebrate.

In Mexico, the story is different in terms of events, but equally emotional because it came in the midst of women fighting for their freedom after the end of the Mexican Revolution, which the men who drafted the Mexican Constitution did not award women. Never mind the right to vote, women were not even allowed to participate in politics. regardless of the fact that women fought shoulder-to-shoulder along with men to win the Revolution, which began in 1910.

By 1922, the owner-editor of the daily Excelsior newspaper, Rafael Alducín, sensed there was something lacking in the recognition to mothers as a duty of their sons.

On April 13, the then-still young, four-year-old daily, founded in 1918, published the first announcement calling for the establishment, official or otherwise, of a date to commemorate mothers.

“Excelsior proposes that May 10 be consecrated by children to exalt in life or in memory those who brought them to life,” the paper read.

Alducín argued in his front page editorial that in the United States celebrations had been going on for over 10 years and was an official holiday after the designation of the second Sunday of May.

“This is not happening in Mexico,” he said.

“This in a custom we should painstakingly imitate, that is, to dedicate a day to exalt the mother figure, to pay a homage of love and tenderness to the one who brought us into being, to manifest in word and deed and, in a very special manner, all those sacrifices a woman’s heart is capable of when it comes to her children.”

Public response to the announcement was huge. Letters to the editor supporting the idea poured into the newspaper, including letters of two political personalities, that of then-President Alvaro Obregón and his Education Secretary José Vasconcelos, both of whom showed open support for the proposal.

Then, on May 1, 1922, among its many articles promoting that Mother’s Day be celebrated on the following May 10, Excelsior published a list of ítems that could serve as gifts for Mother and where to get them, bringing about the first true advertising scheme concocted by a newspaper. Ads from all of Mexico City’s then-fashionable stores poured in until May 10, when the daily published a fat paper with advertising “suggestions” of gifts to give mother. It worked

And Mother’s Day was born in Mexico.

Please notice two things: Even if Alducín was aware that this was an imitation of the U.S. version of Mother’s Day, he did not copy the second Sunday date, nor for that matter, the first Sunday of May, which had been been established as Mother’s Day in Spain – Mexico’s “Mother Country” in the early 1900s.

Why May 10? Why not 9 or 11? There is indeed an accounting catch behind the answer.

Needless to say, Alducín was considered the most brilliant publisher of the day in Mexico. After all, beyond idealism, there’s always the need to make a profit. And at the time, the customs for Mexico City business in general was to pay every 10 days, meaning the 10th, the 20th and the 30th of each month.

So Wednesday, May 10, 1922, was pay day! The 27-day long advertising campaign Alducín had launched on April paid off big time.

And the stores were jampacked with “children” purchasing a gift for “the woman who loved you even before you were conceived.” It may sound like a tear jerker, but it sold.

But in 1922, Alducín’s Excelsior wiped out the completion due to his surprise idea of proclaiming a holiday without it being one.

And so it became customary to celebrate motherhood in Mexico every May 10.

By 1923, every daily newspaper in Mexico was celebrating Mother’s Day with odes and poetry, as well as articles on motherhood, all sponsored by the major stores of the day.

A custom added later to the May 10 celebration was on the eve of the day, May 9, for musicians to show their love through musical serenading.

And it was an idea that even today, at age 98, keeps paying off in trade, but also brings families together around the one and only woman “who will love you forever.”

…May 7, 2020

 

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