May 1st: Mexico commemorates “Día del Trabajo” (Labor Day)


May 1st, International Worker’s Day, commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world and is recognized in every country except the United States and Canada. This is despite the fact that the holiday began in the 1880s in the United States, with the fight for an eight-hour workday led by immigrant workers.

In Mexico, May 1st is a Federal holiday known as Día del Trabajo (Labor Day) or Primero de Mayo, so banks and government offices will be closed.

At the end of the 19th century, the need for Mexican workers to have more humane and fair work conditions became apparent, but Mexico’s labor movement was repressed in places such as Cananea in the north.

In June 1906, the Cananea Strike, also known as the Cananea Riot took place in the Mexican mining town of Cananea, Sonora. Although the workers were forced to return to their positions with no demand being met, the action was a key event in the general unrest that emerged during the final years of the regime of President Porfirio Díaz and that prefigured the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

In countries like Cuba, May 1st is a major holiday (Photo: Milenio)

During the Mexican Revolution various capitalist factions vied for power whilst attempting to overthrow the dictatorship of General Porfirio Díaz. Meanwhile the Agrarian movement of Emiliano Zapata and the emerging urban working class attempted to defend their own interests amidst the chaos.

This armed conflict is often categorized as the most important sociopolitical event in Mexico and one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century; it resulted in an important experimentation and reformation in social organization.

The Constitution of 1917 instigated significant social reforms to labor laws and provided for equality without discrimination, among other reforms.

In Mexico, May 1st is the equivalent to Labor Day in the U.S.

According to some sources, a Labor Day parade was held in Mexico as early as 1913, but the holiday that commemorates the struggle of the Mexican working class wasn’t officially celebrated until May 1, 1923.

While many countries usually celebrate May 1st in different ways, including the traditional Maypole ceremony, here in Mexico it is a day of rest and reflection.