The Fair Is In Town!

The annual Fair of Saltillo is in full swing!  It runs through August 5th, so if you’re in town, head out to the fairgrounds!  (On the road to Arteaga.)

Last year, the Tripps documented their experience at the fair.  Click on the video below to see the fair through their eyes.

 

If you liked that, subscribe to their youtube channel here!

Curious about the concerts?  Here’s the official poster!

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Bus Routes Explained!

I stumbled upon maps of many of Saltillo’s bus routes!

This HAS to be shared!

For those looking to hop on a bus for the first time, it costs $11 a ride (July 2018).  So yes, if you have more than 2 people, getting a taxi is more economical.  There are discounts for prepaid cards, students with prepaid cards, seniors with prepaid cards, and handicapped people with prepaid cards.

For full disclosure, I found the maps at transparencia.saltillo.gob.mx

Can’t find the route that runs by your house?  Maybe transparencia.saltillo.gob.mx will have it!  (We can hope.)

Or, hop on a bus and see where it takes you!

 

RUTA 1BRUTA 4Aruta 5ARUTA 6RUTA 7 A NORMAL

ruta 8 morelos directaruta 13Aruta 13BRuta 14Ruta 18 ColoniasRuta ArteagaRuta Los Valdez

Mural Tour on Calle Bolivar

Last May, Colectivo Tomate took to the streets–well, one street in particular–and, quite literally, painted the town.  (OK, they painted the street.)  The effect is impressive, and one that Saltillo can enjoy for years to come.

Murals are one of Mexico’s more notable art forms.  The Mexican mural tradition dates back to prehispanic times, but had a notable resurgence in the 1930s, thanks to artists like Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siquieros.

Weaving Dinosaur
The ultimate Saltillo mural–a dinosaur making sarapes!

The Tomato Colective has been drawing attention to neighborhoods, making murals throughout the country, notably in Puebla, Mexico City, Querétaro, Monterrey, La Paz, and San Luis Potosí.  “It is a project based on the active participation of the community through the creation of murals that will be in their neighborhoods and, above all, on their houses.  This will create a connection between people:  it will tell the story of the neighborhood and, doing so, will result in a healthier society,” explained Liz Raschel, chief of public relations for the Tomato Colective to Zocalo reporter, Christian Garcia.

 

The Tomato Colective‘s artists planned and painted (with help from the community) 50 different murals, painted by 25 different artists.  Some artists are from Saltillo, some from other parts of Mexico, and some came from other countries.  (Scroll down for a list of the participating artists.)

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“The impact of the Tomato Colective‘s work is that all the neighborhood comes together and all the neighbors collaborate.  It’s not just having 50 random pieces of art.  These 50 murals reflect the history of these houses,” commented Mabel Garza, director of the Municipal Institute of Culture last year.  [Quote also from the Zocalo, May 2017.]

Not only do these murals reflect the history of the houses they’re painted on, but the artists worked closely with the families who donated the exteriors of their houses to this project, making sure that the finished products would be a source of pride for the families, the Águila de Oro neighborhood, and the larger community of Saltillo.

 

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Where to find the Águila de Oro Murals?

It’s on Calle Bolivar downtown.  Calle Bolivar dead ends at the parking lot for the Museo de los Aves.  It is often easiest to park on Calle Bravo (the next street parallel to Hidalgo), and then walk the four blocks to where the murals really start.  (There is one on a building near the Bird Museum.)

Towards the end of the Parade of Murals, some streets that cross Bolivar end in a set of stairs that will lead to the Mirador.  It’s a pretty intense hike, but if you’ve made it that far (and are in pretty good health), it’s worth finishing off the mural tour with the best view of Saltillo.

Still not sure how to get there?  Contact Jill Douglas at jilldouglas01@hotmail.com, and we can arrange a guided tour.

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Participating Artists:

 

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Saltillo's downtownmuraltour

Downtown Tour–on Video!

For those who aren’t yet in Saltillo, and are looking to get a feel for the place, I’ve added this video from Hannah and Doren.  They’re missionaries affiliated with SALT church (on Eulalio Gutierrez, just north of HEB San Patricio, and services are informal and largely in English, for those interested).

Doren grew up here in Saltillo, and Hannah moved here last year, and this is one of their many videos showcasing what they enjoy about living in Saltillo.

This one gives us a brief walking tour of Saltillo’s colonial downtown area.

Thanks for sharing, Hannah and Doren!

 

If you enjoyed that, pass on some love and subscribe to their youtube channel!

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If anyone else has photos, videos, or written reflections they’d like to share here, send them to saltilloexpats@gmail.com or send Jill a message through the SaltilloExpats facebook group.

 

 

Guadalupe Day in Saltillo

002A word of warning:  if anyone plans on going downtown this weekend, particularly on the streets just northwest of the Alameda, you might be sitting in traffic for much longer than usual.

Why?  Monday, December 12th, is the annual commemoration of the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  All the little old (Catholic) ladies go nuts for her.  In fact, for many people in Saltillo, Guadalupe Day is a big, fat, hairy deal.

Why?  Nearly 500 years ago, Mexico was in the earliest stages of adjusting to Spanish colonial rule.  To put it lightly, the conquest was rather devastating for just about everyone 005involved.  Indians were being round up and enslaved.  There was even a debate going on about whether Indians had souls–after all, it´s much easier to enslave people if it´s possible to convince others that the people in question aren´t fully people.  (Oh, the horrible things people do for power.)

In the midst of all this turmoil, a man named Juan Diego was on his way to Mexico City when he was stopped on top of a hill by a vision of the Virgin Mary.  She asked him to go to the bishop and ask him to build her a church.  He kept trying to convince the bishop, but understandably, the bishop wasn´t about to build a church for everyone who waltzed through his door.  The bishop asked Juan Diego for some miraculous sign.  Guadalupe appeared to him again, telling him to go to the bishop one more time.  She told him to pick some roses growing on the hill for the sign the bishop asked for.  Roses weren´t native to Mexico, were blooming out 006of season, and had not been planted on that hill–all reason enough to constitute the necessary miracle, right?

Juan Diego gathered the roses in his tunic.  When he met with the bishop, he let his tunic fall open, showering the floor with roses.  Moreover, everyone in the room could see the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on his tunic.  All those present noted that this apparition appeared to be of an Indian woman, which effectively ended the debate of whether Indians were to be counted as fully human in the eyes of God.  Horrible things still happened to the native population, but at least those atrocities weren´t theologically justified.

Juan Diego´s  tunic is still on display in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, just about007 on the very spot where Juan Diego met Guadalupe.  However, since she is so popular all over Mexico, Saltillo has a Sanctuary to Guadalupe on Perez Treviño, just west of the Alameda.

So watch out if you´re headed that way!  Street vendors, food stalls, matlachines, and pilgrims will be blocking traffic all weekend.  But it´s a good time, too.  So–for those not faint of heart–come on down!  It´s a good time to buy a cup of champurrado and enjoy soaking in some culture.
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Matlachines come in and out all day long.  Bring earplugs, because I´m sure everyone inside loses a few decibels of hearing when they come thundering in!

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Museum of Coahuilan Presidents

 

During Spring Break, I took my visitors through the Sarape Museum, and they were still game for more museums.  (My favorite kind of visitors!)  We were hanging out in the Plaza de Armas, so I suggested that we wander through the Museum of Coahuila’s Presidents, which is located in the back corner of the state government building.

Now, for years, I assumed that the state building was off-limits for the public.  Then one day, I was at the Plaza de Armas with a friend and her preschooler had to use the bathroom.  She just waltzed past the security guards at the entrance and that kid was able to use a beautiful, clean, free, public toilet!047

So don´t shy away from entering the state government building on the Plaza de Armas.  The metal detectors and guards are a little intimidating, but it´s well worth a visit.  One reason for visiting is the Museum of Coahuila’s Presidents, which occupies one corner.  Like most of Saltillo’s government-run museums, it´s tiny.  If one reads fast (or doesn’t have enough Spanish to read much), a visit can take 5-10 minutes.IMG_3819

However, if visitors do like to read, it´s a pleasant way to spend a small portion of an afternoon.

Despite the massive size of this state, Coahuila has never had a large population.  So there haven´t been many of presidents from this state.  I guessed that they´d have a lot of displays of Madero and Carranza, and I wasn’t wrong.  (Both were presidents during the Mexican revolution 100 years ago.  Essentially, Madero started the Mexican Revolution, and Carranza was instrumental in ending it.)  What Coahuila doesn’t have in population, it makes up for in larger-than-life leaders!

The second part of the museum seemed to go off on a tangent, singing the praises of
IMG_3821Coahuila’s governors.  Since the museum is called Museo de Presidentes Coahuilenses, does that mean that it focuses on Mexican presidents who were originally from Coahuila, or those who were “president” of the state of Coahuila?  (Otherwise called governors–and I´m not just getting lost in translation.  The word is the same in English and Spanish!)

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Whatever the case, for those who have ever wondered who Perez Treviño and Nazario Ortiz Garza were–major streets are now named after these men–look no further.  This museum will clue us in.

The museum has a third gallery, housing rotating exhibits.  At the moment, there are a collection of photographs and some costumes celebrating matachines.  No festival in Coahuila is complete without a group of matachines, so it was an appropriate exhibit in the state government building.

 

 

However, that which makes a visit inside the state government building most worthwhile isn’t even in the museum.  On entering the government palace, look up, or go up a flight of stairs.  On the second story is a fantastic mural highlighting key events in history and a few of Coahuila’s most famous citizens.

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That mural will bring me back inside the government building.  That, and the free restrooms.  But I’ll swing through the museum before or after, so they’ll continue to keep the restrooms open to the public.

The Tools to Make It Through

Kids whose families are struggling face tremendous pressure to find a job, forcing far too many students to consider dropping out of school to work full-time, even before they´ve finished junior high.

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Many rally to that article in the Constitution that declares every Mexican child is entitled to a free education.  But the reality of public education is that the government pays the teachers´ salaries and the construction of the school building.  The parents are responsible for the maintenance of that building.  So when the school asks for supplies, they often ask for toilet paper and bleach more often than they ask for paper and pencils.

Every school has a registration fee, in the name of parents´ association dues, to maintain the building.  Then teachers ask for bleach, toilet paper, and sanitary napkins, and $10 to $20 pesos every few weeks to keep the school functioning.  Add in the cost of school supplies, uniforms, and backpacks, and this quickly becomes overwhelming!

How do parents who struggle to put food on the table manage?

Seeing the need of these struggling students, the Christian Relief Fund (CRF), founded the community center last year, with the help of a group of full-time volunters from Ft. Worth.  The Christian Relief Fund provides funds for sponsored students to pay their school fees and school supplies, taking some pressure off of parents and providing a safe and supportive place for students to spend their afternoons.

CRF Saltillo birthdays
Celebrating a birthday.

So the community center got the word out, sent around questionnaires for interested families, and those families in the most need now receive uniforms, school supplies, and school fees from the Christian Relief Fund, as well as enrollment at the community center on a regular basis for homework help and enrichment classes.  In Saltillo, the Christian Relief Fund currently sponsors 104 children.

The center is open every afternoon, Monday through Friday, and on Saturday mornings.  Kids can drop in to do their homework and use the computers.  They begin organized activities every afternoon with a short IMG_7628devotion and songs.  Then they offer English classes, grammar classes, reading workshops, a career exploration class, and–everyone´s favorite–a “trip around the world” class, exploring different countries.  A number of the moms like to join in for that one!  On Friday afternoons, they take it easier, playing games and watching movies.  Saturday mornings, they serve breakfast and make crafts, in addition to holding a solid class or two.

The children who attend the community center need to be sponsored by the Christian Relief Fund.  Sponsored students are required to keep up their grades, write letters to their sponsors, and must visit the center at least once a month.  However, many of the kids come just about every day.  A number of the kids´ moms help organize snacks, maintain the building, and participate in classes of their own.

In just over a year, they´ve already met with some sucess stories.  Brian was a bit of a troublemaker in the spring.  The community center offered a day camp program during the summer, and Brian–despite his tendency to cause trouble–came every day.  However, by the end of the summer he was volunteering to serve snacks to the other kids, possibly noticing that he got more attention by being helpful than by causing problems.

CRF Saltillo
A rock climbing field trip during summer camp in August at “La Maquinita”.

While the classes offered by the center are largely secular, the Christian Relief Fund does want this to be a place where participants can learn about God, so they begin the afternoon reading a Bible story and singing praise songs together.  Now, for those who have spent any time in “church-y” circles in Mexico, it´s abundantly clear that Catholics and Protestants mix like oil and water.   So, given the evangelical nature of this project, is the community center more welcoming to Protestant kids?  Not at all!  Of the current, full-time directors, one is Catholic, one is Protestant, and the third is at home in both camps.  It´s encouraging to know that the leadership within this organization is taking a step to stop this inter-religious polarization.  Thanks to the example of the directors, the kids who attend have the chance to learn about God together–regardless of their denomination.

Knowing that expats–particularly accompanying spouses–have a need to get out and get involved in the community, I asked if there were any volunteer opportunities at CRF Saltillo.  They have a real need for a psychologist on a regular basis.  Also, given the number of classes they offer every afternoon, they´d be happy to have volunteers to teach on a regular basis.  They already offer English, and anyone with any kind of passion might be welcome to share that passion with the kids.  For example, they used to have a dance teacher.  But she is no longer able to come.  Is anyone willing to fill that void?

CRF Saltillo
A visitor, talking about her job as a journalist (the kids are looking at samples of her articles that she passed around).

If one´s time is more limited, come and share for their career class.  This involves coming in once, for one afternoon, and talking about one´s chosen field of work.  It´s hard to convince kids to study engineering if they have no idea what an engineer does!

And, of course, the CRF community center would love to have more kids sponsored!  There are currently 14 kids on the community center´s waiting list, and they could easily find more.  To sponsor a child, check out the Christian Relief Fund´s webpage here.

For kids who are thinking about dropping out of school in junior high, and the fact that high school does become an even bigger financial burden, the CRF community center in Saltillo makes it possible for kids to stay in school, when they might otherwise drop out to look for a job.  A high school graduate is now able to continue her studies at the university level–an opportunity she would not likely have been able to take advantage of, without the help she received from the Christian Relief Fund.

The more education kids get, the more likely they are to break the cycle of poverty.  The Christian Relief Fund´s community center is Saltillo is making some serious strides to give these kids the means to a better life.

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photo credits:  Emily Garcia

 

 

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Day of the Dead at the Santiago Cemetery

The Day of the Dead–what is it all about?DayofDead

In many places throughout Saltillo, altars dedicated to deceased family
members or famous people are on display.  If interested in finding some, try the Secretary
of Culture building, on the corner of Juarez and Hidalgo, right across the street from the Casino de Saltillo.  Or Casa Purcell.  Or the art museum that´s on Juarez and General Cepeda, about 2 blocks behind the cathedral.  Museums in general are just a great place to find Day of the Dead altars.  In years past, many of the city high schools sent students to make altars at the Alameda during the last week of October.  I haven´t seen that in a few years, though.

The Katrina Museum draws in a 027huge crowd this time of year, and for good reason.  A visit there is a great way to get an understanding on the holiday.

However, a few years ago, to see how the holiday is really celebrated, I finally took a trip to a cemetery.  Now, I felt a little odd, not having any family members buried in this particular cemetery.  I didn´t want to be an obtrusive cultural observer, crashing a serious party.  But, at the same time, I was dying of curiosity about how families did celebrate the holiday.  My Mexican husband has more “gringo” attitudes than I do regarding the Day of the Dead (as in, it weirds him out), and my in-laws live018 to far away to join them.  (Then again, I don´t think they celebrate the day much, anyway.)

So, off I went to the cemetery, to be a fly on the wall.

First of all, getting to any cemetary on the 1st or 2ed of November is easier said th
an done.  Many bus routes forgo their normal routes and instead, list the cemeteries on their windshields where they´ll leave passengers.  Fortunately, the Santiago Cem014etery (just past the Universitary Hospital on Calz. Francisco I. Madero) is within walking distance for me.  If one wants to drive–good luck.  From what I have seen, parking is nearly impossible.  And the traffic is horrible on these days past any cemetary, so when at all possible, rearrange  normal routes to avoid driving past cemeteries on the way to work, the store, etc.  Outside of every cemetery are numerous flower vendors, further blocking traffic.

Unless, one is looking to buy flowers.  Then they´re a boon.

The cemetery was crowded.  Through some aisles we inched along, rather processional-like.  However, the mood was not terribly solemn.  Families were simply there to clean up their family members´ graves, put some flowers on them, and to say a prayer for their dearly departed.019

Despite my hesitation to intrude on strangers´ solemnities, it turned out to be an afternoon well spent.  Even though I didn´t know anyone buried in the Santiago Cemetery, that afternoon provided me some precious time to reflect on people I´ve lost–healthy reflections that we tend to run away from in US culture.

In fact, this annual national remembrance for those who´ve passed away is no doubt hugely beneficial for most families, providing a regular time to remember those we´ve lost, reflect on our grief, and to heal.  015When I joined total strangers in the Santiago Cemetery, the experience turned out to be more than a cultural observation.  The experience gave me a chance to participate in a healthy time of reflection.  Having learned the value of such a holiday, it´s now a day that I´ll continue to set aside in my calendar from here on out.

Thanks, Mexico!

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Looking for Day of the Dead activities?  The Katrina Museum is sponsoring a few ghost story tours throughout the city, and the museum will be open for most of the Halloween/Day of the Dead weekend.  Check out the calendar for dates, times, and locations.

And if you´re out by the Katrina Museum, get hungry, and want to keep to the Halloween/Day of the Dead theme, stop in at Monster Café, on the corner of Allende and Mariano Escobedo.  The owners are some of our most enthusiastic followers!

An InLinkz Link Up

Desert Museum

High on the list of things to see and do in Saltillo is the Desert Museum.  While Saltillo has an impressive number of tiny, free museums downtown, the Desert Museum is pretty comprehensive and well worth its reputation.  In less than 4 hours,IMG_1998 it gives the average visitor a reasonable understanding of this region.

Furthermore, there´s a little something for everyone.  Which is good to keep in mind, as the first room, where they explain in painstaking detail what exactly constitutes a desert, is about as dry as a Mexican sugar cookie.  (That means it´s pretty dry.)

But hang in there, because it gets much better.  Saltillo is the capital of the state of Coahuila.  Coahuila´s current license plates boast a ferocious T-Rex, because there have been some pretty serious paleontological digs just about an hour away from Saltillo, and throughout the rest of the state.  Again, one of the beauties of the desert is that it preserves dinosaur remains.  IMG_1977

The Dinosaur Hall at the Desert Museum is a sight.  Visitors first view the life-size dinosaur skeletons from above, and then, after learning a bit more about the Jurassic age and whatnot, visitors amble among the dinosaur bones.  Yes, some are replicas, but some are the real deal, and from this very state.

After the dinosaurs, there is a nod to Coahuila´s mining industry.  The state´s current slogan, “Coahuila tiene energia”  has little to do with Coahuila´s limitless potential for wind and solar power.  No, it´s a boast about our coal mines.  Which tend to entomb a number of miners every year.

The next feIMG_2145w rooms are dedicated to the human presence in Coahuila, from a 10,000-year-old well-preserved footprint to the twenty-first century.  As in any Mexican museum´s race through history, the focal points are the native Indians who lived in the area and how they used the land, the culture clash when the Spanish moved in, and the blending of both cultures in the current, mestizo Mexico.

Passing a small art gallery, the Desert Museum shows off Coahuila´s native animals, all preserved in taxidermied glory.  I enjoy noting how they´ve captured animals in the middle of a hunt, posed forever mid-leap.  However, my children are terrified of this room, so the last few years we´ve been running through here as quickly as possible.  Also, it appears that a hunter who frequented African safaris donated much of his collection to the museum.  There is a nice spot for photo ops with a stuffed lion, giraIMG_1980ffe, and crocodile–despite the fact that such animals have never set foot in Coahuila.

Moving on from the dead animals, the Desert Museum mercifully has a small collection of live animals.  Because, really–could one have a credible Desert Museum without a collection of 20 snakes?  No, I don´t think so.  Since this is an excellent museum, visitors familiarize themselves with a variety of snakes, learning which are poisonous, and which are not; which might live nearby, and which are safely tucked away in Asia.

But if snakes give you the willies, close your eyes, run through the hall, and take a few deep breaths by the turtle lagoon.  That room is really a chance to showcase Coahuila´s native plants.  The turtles make the display more interesting.

IMG_2146Outside, more animals await.  First, the prairie dogs scurry about their colony.  However, they tend to avoid the heat of the day, so you´re only likely to see them early in the morning or later in the evening–unless your midday visit is in January, of course.   The museum also has two black bears, who were cubs rescued from forest fires in Arteaga four years ago.  The cactus nursery is the place to get souvenirs, provided the cactus won´t be leaving the country.  Finally, mountain goats bid visitors adios.   IMG_1984

For smaller visitors to the museum, there´s an interactive fountain with water near the bear enclosure.  Kids can climb on it, open and close gates on the fountain, channeling the water down various paths.  On hot days, another patio pours water on visitors in the style of a desert storm.  (So beware, unsuspecting adults!  If you hear thunder, run for cover.)  Furthermore, a museum tour can take the better part of the day, so there is a restaurant with a limited menu, for those who need it.  Or want it.   IMG_1991

For those with limited time in this area, I recommend the Desert Museum.  It´s more or less a three-hour  whirlwind tour of the region.  And for those who have years here at their disposal, for pity´s sake–visit the Desert Museum at least once!

If you´re like me, you´ll come back for more.

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So Many Holidays!

I´ve heard a number of people recently be bewildered about “how many holidays” we have in Mexico.

Now, I haven´t done an exact count (I will soon), but I´m willing to bet that the US has just as many holidays as Mexico.  They simply fall on different days, and if you´re not expecting them, I understand how they can catch one off guard.

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When do standard days off fall?

Days in bold are official holidays, and if one has to work on those days, holiday pay is legally required.

January 1–New Year´s Day

February 5–Constitution Day (now observed the Monday before the 5th)

March 21–Benito Juarez´s Birthday (observed the Monday before the 21st)

Thursday and Friday of Holy Week (before Easter)

May 1st–Labor Day

May 10th–Mother´s Day (doesn´t matter which day of the week the 10th falls on, nearly everyone gets off on the 10th)

May 15–Teacher´s Day (only schools are closed this day, most other people have to work)

September 16–Independence Day (some companies give both the 15th & 16th off)

November 2–Day of the Dead (lots of people do have to work this day, but then they´re                                entitled to holiday pay)

November 20–Anniversary of the Revolution (observed the Monday before the 20th)

December 12–Guadalupe Day (in this part of the country, it´s not observed much.  But                                    elsewhere in Mexico, most companies have Employee Appreciation Day on                              the 12th with open houses at the factories (no work))

December 25–Christmas Day

So if your housekeeper is asking for a paid day off and you think she´s crazy, check the list–I bet she knows her holidays!

(Note:  if you know that you´ve had a conversation with me on this subject, you´re right.  Its not just you.  I´ve had this conversation with a LOT of people in the last few months!)

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OK, so the official count is that Mexico has 10 official days off–not counting Guadalupe Day, Teacher´s Day, those little non-obligatory ones.  The US has 8 official days.  So I guess you´re right.  Mexico has more.  But not by much.

(Unless we count President´s Day and Martin Luther King Day as two seperate holidays.  However, since most people don´t get them both off, I lumped them together.)

January 1st                                                                                                                                     President´s Day/Martin Luther King Day                                                                                 Good Friday                                                                                                                               Memorial Day                                                                                                                                     July 4th                                                                                                                                               Labor Day                                                                                                                           Thanksgiving Day (and the following day)                                                                               Christmas Day

(While I´ve checked with my husband AND the 2015 Labor Calendar, please do correct me in the comments section if you see that I´m wrong or forgot a holiday.)