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Mothers Day in Latin America

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SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- Mother’s day in El Salvador is a day for men to get drunk. Apparently. A day for men to get drunk and ride horses, play soccer, sit on street corners singing drunken tunes with other drunken men, and then possibly even topping the day off by passing out in the streets, drunk.

This was how Mother’s Day celebrations go here.

It is a day to surely show mother’s how proud they should be of their masculine creations. You’ve done well, mothers, that cute little baby that crawled out of you is now crawling on the sidewalk, barfing, drooling. Perhaps mother’s day is a celebration which triggers some switch in men to revert back into children, babble . . .

Or at least this is the way it seems to me, a pedestrian observer walking around Suchitoto and Lago Suchitlan for the Mother’s Day festivities of 2010.

I went to a rodeo. Well, not a rodeo exactly, but something called something like chinto caballo. It consisted of men riding horses really fast beneath a wire that had a keychain like thing dangling from it. The rider held a little stick in one hand. The object of the sport was to ring the little stick through the eye of the key chain, removing the little apparatus from the line while riding a horse at full trot. If the rider could do this, he would receive a kiss from a pretty girl and a prize.

The men rode back and forth, back and forth, trying to ring key chains on little sticks.

A drunken man had just been hog collared by another and dragged across a field. The drunker man appeared to be apprehended, actually, he was saved. His drunk ass tried to walk in front of a speeding horse. Like this the show continued. A drunken man bought me a beer. He turned out to be a real dick — trying to alpha male me or something, making fun of how I spoke Spanish. But he bought me a beer.

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Later on in the day, I watched a poor woman — who was more than likely also a mother — spend her Mother’s Day celebration at the side of her man, more than likely the father of her children. A good place to be, except for the fact that he happened to be face down in a field, passed out, puking, lifelessly drunk. The woman sat next to her man with arms wrapped around her knees, waiting for her bread winner to come back to life and, perhaps, for her day to end.

“Why is everybody drunk on Mother’s Day?” I had to ask.

“Because there is something going on,” came the response.

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Mother’s Day in El Salvador: the people who are not drunk seem to be in church, or out at the lake with their moms. Outside of the drunken male fringe — which is one of the more visible elements of the day, are the standard sons and daughters (daughters mostly) out strolling with their moms. I went to Lago Suchitlan with my wife, who has newly become Petra’s mom this year. There were suppose to be mariachis performing there, and Mother’s Day festivities.

We took the back way into a Mother’s Day festival, we crossed through five cow pastures, over half a dozen barbed wire fences, through muddy run off streams of liquefied cow shit flowing into the lake, and tip toed between the good and proper cow patties. Some of these patties looked as if the cow had also turned around and puked on its own droppings after shitting them out, or maybe puked on the droppings of one of his friends. Either way, the crap was mucusy, wet, gross. Our tip toeing was finely tuned.

Cows near Lago Suchitlan in El Salvador

The cows looked at us dumbly, blankly. My wife declared that she did not want to get trampled by a cow on her first Mother’s Day. I reassured her that I would punch them in the head and protect her. I am a country boy, one of our favorite games growing up had something to do with attacking cows (I am a little unsure now why we would do this, though remember it being fun anyway). But these cows on the banks of Lago Suchitlan did not seem to want to be attacked. They just watched us pass by, with hardly more than a glance paid in our direction. Come to think of it, these cows were probably much too preoccupied searching for blades of grass to eat in pastures whose surface area was neatly covered with an even layer of plastic bags, disposable forks, plastic bottles, half crushed pop cans, potato chip wrappers, litter. The ground went crunch, crunch as we walked over it. Sometimes it went plop, plop if we stepped in cow shit.

Entering like this, we were not charged an entrance fee. We saved 50 cents, gained an adventure. We were more interested in the adventure than saving 50 cents.

Within the gate there were mothers everywhere. Maybe they were hiding out from all the drunk guys on the outside. Either way, on the inside, it was Mother’s Day as I remember it.

Chaya, Petra, and I sat in the grass, looked out at the artificial lake that takes in 8.5 million pounds of San Salvador shit each month. I looked at my wife, she looked at her baby, baby tried to eat a spider. Mother saved the baby.

Chaya earned this Mother’s Day. As she probably will from here on out.

It is a good thing I bought her that piece of gourmet cake, a plastic flower, and baked her pancakes in the morning. I owed her a Day.

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The events described above took place on a Sunday, a day of Mother’s Day festivities in El Salvador and the day of the holiday in the United States. But the actual Mother’s Day in El Salvador happens every 10th of May, unlike the USA’s “second Sunday of May,” and regardless of what day of the week it falls on.

I suppose this works out to the advantage of the cultural as a whole. Family holidays on Sundays mean a lot of drunken men who have the day off from work. It seems to be a first reaction of men all around the world to reach for a beer bottle when they don’t have to go to work and there is something going on. I do.

But on this Monday, the actual Mother’s day in El Salvador, the men seem to limp back home to mom. The Mother’s Day festivities of the day before seems to have taken its toll on many of the men here. Walking only one block down the street to pick up breakfast this morning was enough to spot three freshly blacked eyes — the typical battle wound of the holiday soldier in Central America.

Mother’s Day in El Salvador was actually a quiet affair, the day passed with little notice. Without drunken men, you perhaps need to strain to notice a holiday anywhere.

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Thank you, Chaya. Thank you for dealing with at least one drunken man on Mother’s Day.

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Filed under: Central America, Culture and Society, El Salvador

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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