May 10: Mom’s special day

Flowers say it all -- Florist Honorio Velazquez Perez says he does not spend money on his mother on May 10; he just brings her the best flowers from his stall. Flower sales more than double on Mother's Day in Mexico. Mari Jimenez Diaz was nervous. She was trying to figure out the best way to ask her boss for next Wednesday off. Wednesday, May 10 is Mother's Day in Mexico. Together with her four brothers and seven sisters, Jimenez wants to travel to Union de Tula - a three-hour drive -- to be with her mom on this special day. In the last resort, Jimenez hoped her employer would at least give her the afternoon off, so she could make it to Tula in time for supper. Reverance Mexico's tribute to mothers is, in contrast to its northern neighbor, a reverently observed holiday.

On this day, schools hold dances, concerts, even special masses in honor of mama. Children drive hundreds of miles, spend thousands of pesos and go to tremendous lengths to pay tribute to the women who spawned them. Mother's Day in the United States is thought by many to be a classic Hallmark holiday. In Mexico, however, it approaches religious significance. Instead of being observed on a convenient Sunday, Mother's Day in Mexico is always May 10, and working mothers believe it is their right to have the day off. The average Mexican spends far more on presents on Mother's Day than a U.S. person would, even though most earn much less. Claudia Tello, who works in a Guadalajara jewelry store, said she usually spends around 2,000 pesos on May 10.

Asked if she thought it was excessive, she simply shrugged. "She’s my mother," Tello replied. Gifts follow the same patterns they do in the United States, only there tends to be more of them. Flowers, chocolates, perfume, clothes and jewelry are the most common items bought. But some Tapatios still follow the Mexican tradition of pooling their money to buy something expensive for the house or kitchen, such as a new stove or washing machine. Jimenez is a good example. Her ten brothers and sisters purchased their mother a new refrigerator last year. Just like in the states, people also wait until the last minute to buy their gifts. Tello, who works in the Centro Magno mall, said sales only start to jump the weekend before Mother's Day, when plazas become packed with people searching for presents.

For Adriana Soriano, who works as a shopkeeper at a local convenience store, Mother's Day is an important affair, but spending money is not the priority for her family. Her mother, Maria Concepcion Campos de Soriano, does not have to work on May 10 because her daughter will cover for her. After work, three children and two in-laws will come to the family home and sing "Las mañanitas" for Campos. Serenades are part and parcel of the day, and mariachi bands often do their best business of the year. Mariachi Alma Virgen (Virgin Soul), for example, is booked for eight straight hours between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. on May 10. According to band leader Miguel Chavez, some mariachi groups work from Midnight straight through until 9 a.m., being transported from one serenade to another.

To honor their moms people select a range of songs, such as "Las mañanitas," "Alborada" and the hagiographic "A ti" (to you): "To you I dedicate this story ... to you who fought tooth and nail, valiant in the home and anywhere else, to you tireless fighter, your name is my mother." Often siblings who do not contract mariachi groups (they can cost more than 2,500 pesos per hour) will gather late at night and drive to their mother's house to serenade her outside her bedroom window. A few Tapatios are not so musically inclined. Florist Ricardo Martinez, for example, noted that there is no singing for his mother because, "she would run us out of the house if she heard us." For others who work at the same flower shop, roses say it all. "I'm at a disadvantage. Since she knows I'm a florist I have to bring her roses," smiled Panfilo Vazquez. "And they had better be nice."

San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico