MEXICO CITY — Everybody loves mothers, but Mexicans? Maybe more so.
In the annual celebration of the mother cult, Mexico is especially devout, and every year on May 10 (they don’t move the date around to fall on a Sunday), the entire nation stops what it is doing in the afternoon and eats some serious lunch with Mom.
“For us Mexicans, first there is the Virgin of Guadalupe, and second there is our mother,” said Maxine Woodside, radio host of the popular TV show “Todo Para La Mujer,” or “All About Women,” and herself a mother of two boys.
“Mexicans are very attached to family, not like in the United States, where they throw the kids out of the house at age 18,” she said. “Here we see men in their 40s who still live with their mothers, and why not? Their moms still do their laundry!”
A popular Mother’s Day gift? Irons. Also big: Blenders.
Mexican thinker Octavio Paz, in his classic work on the national psyche, “The Labyrinth of Solitude,” spends a lot of pages mulling Mexico’s worship of saintly, suffering, giving mother figures.
In Mexican slang, to insult the mother, to take in vain “la madre,” is to swear with serious intent.
On Thursday, in honor of the maternal, outgoing Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard invited Paul McCartney to play for 200,000 fans at a free concert in the capital’s central square.
“Hola, D.F.!,” the former mop head said, speaking Spanish to the Distrito Federal, Mexico’s version of D.C., saying how happy he was to be here on this special day. “Estamos muy contentos de estar aqui en el Dia de las Madres!”
Mexicans are Beatles fanatics. There are radio stations that play nothing but Beatles music. But McCartney was wise to have on stage some mariachi players, since crooning mariachis are central to the celebration of mothers here. The musicians pack the restaurants, but another tradition, especially in the countryside, holds that the mariachis (and the adoring children) gather outside their mothers’ homes for a serenade.
The most popular song is the sweet, sugary “Las Mananitas”:
“Awaken, my dear, awaken/ and see that the day has dawned/ now the little birds are singing/ and the moon has set.”
Having 80 over for lunch on this day? Not unusual.
“It is, without a doubt, the most important day for restaurants, our busiest day of the year, when we sell double, triple what we would on a normal day,” said Manuel Gutierrez, president of the national association of restaurateurs.
, who has worked in and around commercial kitchens since he was a boy.
Gutierrez estimates that for this one day, Mexico puts 200,000 extra waiters to work.
The most popular restaurants are, naturally, family-style, where kids can run around and families eat from big long tables, piled with kilos of carnitas and barbacoa.