Mexico might share the holiday with the rest of the world, but these particularities make its flair for celebrating love (and friendship) stand out.
If you’ve ever been in a Mexican plaza, you know the scene all too well: street musicians and vendors, families enjoying an afternoon stroll, friends grabbing a snack after school, and of course — the couple showing lots of affection on a park bench. You can be witness to these snippets of the plaza scene any day of the year, but Valentine’s Day (or Día del Amor y la Amistad) takes it up a notch with ballooners, flower vendors, trios, mariachis, friends and googly-eyed lovers in abundance.
Valentine’s Day can be extra special in Mexico, and not just because people celebrate love in all its forms, including friendships (this distinction isn’t purely nominal, friends really do partake in gift-giving and demonstrating affection for each other, more than in other countries). Mexicans also incorporate customs, beliefs, music, and even certain places to their romantic traditions. And while all of these are actually practiced year-round, they do give Mexico’s Valentine’s Day an edge. Some may not surprise you, and some may leave you wanting to get on a flight to Guanajuato to experience first-class charm:
Songs and Serenatas:
Nothing pulls at the heart strings quite like actual guitar strings! For Mexicans, music is so inextricably linked to romance, it is not a stretch to say that lyrics (both classic and modern) have given us the linguistic blueprint for expressing our love. Dedicatorias, or what some may call songs dedicated to a prospect, are commonplace all year long. But some take it to the next level and hire a Mariachi band to serenade their intended outside their window as a declaration of love. The serenata, which **has its origins in colonial times and actually comes from Spain, is traditionally performed for women, but we’re not setting any limits here. You don’t even need a balcony window — just send someone the song that makes you think of them. Some classics of this tradition include Cielito Lindo by Pedro Infante, Gema by Vicente Fernandez, and Si Nos Dejan by Luis Miguel. And you can never go wrong with some Pedrito Fernandez 😉
Poems and piropo culture:
Piropos, or pick-up lines, and albures, a Mexican word play that involves a double entendre, are so baked into the language of love, some have even likened the mastery of these to “mental chess”. While many of these can be considered vulgar, and delivery definitely matters (you don’t want to yell something at a woman who is walking down the street), they are also used casually with a trusted one to express your affection with some humor and ingenuity. The cheesy quatrain is a favorite, and you’ll see lots of these printed on all sorts of Valentine’s Day gifts. Need some inspiration? Here are some examples of a poem and a piropo/albur 🧀 ⚠️
Cuando el mar se seque
y el sol deje de brillar,
ese será el día
en que yo te deje de amar.
El doctor me dijo que nada de dulces, pero como abstenerme de tus besos.
San Antonio de Padua:
In Mexico, as in many predominantly Catholic Latin American countries, saints are everywhere, and there is a saint for everything from embroidery to, yes, finding a romantic partner. San Antonio de Padua (more commonly referred to as just San Antonio) is celebrated on June 13th, but year-round and especially around Valentine’s Day, singles embrace the belief that if you turn him upside down, good fortune in love will follow. But there’s more. Depending on your level of commitment, you can take the pleading up a notch by going into a church with one of his images and offering 13 coins, pray 13 padres nuestros, ave marías, and glorias. Feeling really committed? Do this for 13 DAYS. As religious as the tradition’s origins are, people from all belief systems refer to “poner a San Antonio de cabeza” as a well wish for those finding love. There’s even a popular song about it: El Santo del Amor, by Campeche Show.
There is one tradition specific to smaller towns and villages: el paseo. Initially, it was practiced more formally, where families accompanied their young “available” members to the town plaza so they could walk around with the intention of locking eyes with a love interest. Both boys and girls participate, each gender going the opposite way so they can see all the prospects as they pass each other. The boy gives the girl a flower if he’s interested, and the girl confirms she reciprocates by keeping the flower with her on the next lap, and both proceed to go on a walk together. Nowadays, it’s done a lot more informally, where family members may not always be around, and a rose may not be given in this manner, but plazas remain a hub for those seeking someone to lock eyes with. It is believed that this may be the origin of the term “andar con”, to “walk with”, or date someone. We’re looking at you, Julieta Venegas.
El callejón del beso:
In Guanajuato, the capital city of the central state known for its colonial charm, underground tunnels, and local legends, one picturesque alley is literally carved into the romantic landscape of Mexicans, locals and tourists alike: El Callejón del Beso, or the Alley of the Kiss. More than a tradition, this is a place considered sacred for love. The legend goes that a young woman was kept from seeing her one true love by her strict father, who confined her to one of the rooms overlooking the callejón. Her lover found a way around this and bought the adjacent house. Because the alley is so narrow (27 inches), the two homes’ balconies were almost touching, enough so that the lovers could see one another and kiss. The story ends tragically for those two, but not so much for everyone who believes in the powers of the place: couples who kiss on the third step of the alley are granted everlasting love!
These are just a few of the elements that have contributed to the narrative of love in the Mexican psyche. And while you may not be in a Mexican plaza to see or experience it for yourself, we fully support you replicating your own original scene with these Valentine’s gift ideas at Artelexia.
Finally, we’ve curated a Valentine’s Day playlist to set the mood for your day:
Happy Valentine’s Day!