El Día del Maestro (Teachers’ day) is celebrated on May 15th. Recently, this has been marked by a school suspension granted by SEP which means a day off for teachers. Whoohoo! It was first celebrated in 1918 in Mexico.
According to some, May 15th was chosen because of a celebration in San Luis Potosí. Students gathered every May 15 to celebrate the birthday of a teacher named Isidoro, named after Saint Isidore the Farmer, (San Isidoro) whose Saint Day is May 15, the day of his death in the year 1130 or 1172 depending on the source consulted. Isidore, the farmer, not the teacher, was made a Saint in 1622. Saint Isidore is often depicted as a peasant with a stalk of corn and while apropos for Mexico, not exactly a teacher representation.
Ok, let’s try that again with a little more explanation. It is common in Mexico to name children after the Saint honored on the day they were born. Or at least to have the Saint as part of the child’s name. So you might hear Justin Isidore or Nancy Maria these days. My mother-in-law named all of her 11 children after the saint day closest to their birth. Anyway, the teacher Isidore was born on May 15 of whatever year, which happened to be the Feast Day of Saint Isidore the Farmer. May 15 was Saint Isidore the Farmer’s Feast day because he died on May 15 in 1130 or 1172. I’m not sure how that local celebration caused the national holiday to be commemorated on May 15 though.
Another historical, though an unrelated event, happened in Mexico on May 15, 1867. The forces of Benito Juarez captured the city of Querétaro on this day. Wiki says that this is a secondary reason for the date chosen. Why a military victory should determine when Teachers’ Day should be celebrated is beyond me.
What seems more likely is the following:
Pope Leo XII made Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, the French priest, educational reformer and founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a saint in 1900. The pope gave La Salle May 24 as his Saint day. Pope Pius X added the Saint day of to the General Roman Calendar in 1904, however as May 24 was already taken, he changed the Saint Day to May 15.
The good Catholic founding fathers of Mexico were familiar with the Catholic Saint Calendar and appropriately chose a teacher-saint day as the official Teachers’ Day celebration way back in 1918.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared Jean-Baptiste de La Salle the patron saint of teachers and confirmed May 15th as his saint day. Then, in 1969, Jean-Baptiste de La Salle’s Saint Day was changed by Pope Paul V to April 7, which was the date of La Salle’s death. However, Mexico kept right on using May 15 for this holiday.
Moroléon, up until this last year, hosted a dinner and raffle for teachers. As a teacher, I was able to attend several years in a row and enjoyed the mediocre food, music, dancing but was never selected as a raffle winner. Last year, someone in the Presidencia (town hall) decided that teachers weren’t worth the public expense and canceled the town party, although the raffle still took place. I didn’t win anything and don’t know anyone who did. A bit suspicious that…
In most private schools, the owner provides a lunch or dinner to express his or her appreciation for the work the teachers do on the owner’s behalf. After all, the teachers are who make or break a school. My current employer has been generous with both praise and “extras” these past few years and I, for one, have appreciated it immensely.
May is quite the month here in Mexico. Every time you turn around there is another celebration! For other Mexican May holidays see: El Día de los Trabajadores, Conmemoración del Escuadron de Pelea 201, El Dia de La Santa Cruz y El Dia del Albañil, La Batalla de Puebla, Natalicio de Miguel Hidalgo, El Dia de la Madre, El Jueves de la Ascensión, Pascua de Pentecostés, El Día del Maestro, and El Dia del Estudiante
Sometimes it takes quite a bit of unraveling to find the reason for a holiday!