Voting Sober

A voter's inked thumb last Sunday

A Mexican voter’s inked thumb last Sunday

For Mexicans, June 6-7 was a weekend of winners and losers. Among the victors on Saturday, American Pharoah and Mexican jockey Víctor Espinoza won the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown. But Mexican media and sports fans were far more tuned into the UEFA Champions League final in Berlin where Barcelona (Spain) defeated Juventus (Italy) to win the league championship and a prized treble in the European Cup. On the losing end, Sunday, el Tri (Mexico) embarrassed itself, blowing an important soccer game against Brazil, 2-1. The biggest losers by far, though, were Mexicans who wanted to buy alcohol over the weekend.

Friday night beer run

Friday night beer run

With national elections on Sunday, la ley seca, the dry law, went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday until 9:00 a.m. Monday. My husband, Hugo, and I flew into Monterrey a couple of days before for a family visit. Knowing what lay ahead, Hugo and his brother made a Friday night beer run to the local HEB (the Texas-based grocery store chain) that carries a good selection of craft beers. They found the liquor section packed with last-minute shoppers. On Saturday morning, Milenio newspaper dedicated two full pages to coverage of the dry weekend, noting that Friday alcohol sales before an election weekend, are typically 20-30% above normal.

Mexican craft beers at San Pedro HEB

Mexican craft beers at San Pedro HEB

In a Friday Milenio article, Mario Cantú González, the president of the Chamber of Restaurants and Food Industry, said his organization has been working to do away with the hundred-year-old law that impacts 600,000 employees in the state of Nuevo León alone. The results for this election were patchwork. Cantú González noted certain cities, including Monterrey, would allow the sale of alcohol with food in restaurants. At a Saturday evening dinner in the Monterrey suburb of San Pedro though, a member of our group asked for a beer and was promptly reminded of the ley seca.

More craft beers at San Pedro HEB

More craft beers at San Pedro HEB

Dry laws intended to prevent vote buying are common in other Latin America countries, including Ecuador, Argentina, Colombia. They existed in the United States for many decades. I emailed my beer writer friend, Dave Thomas (Of Mines and Beer: 150 Years of Brewing History in Gilpin County, Colorado, and Beyond) for more information. His reply:

And more craft beers at San Pedro HEB

And more craft beers at San Pedro HEB

“The US states started going dry for election days in 1882 and only last year, South Carolina became the 50th state to allow restaurants, bars and liquor stores to sell alcohol on national election days. In the 19th century many taverns served as polling places and apparently some last minute alcohol-induced vote buying was known to occur.”

It will be interesting to see if Mexican restauranteurs, politicians and citizens wanting to repeal the dry law are successful before the 2018 presidential elections.

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Coming Friday: A visit to Cueva Carvajal, Monterrey’s first gastro pub.

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