Ley Seca in Mahahual

Close-Up Of No Alcohol Sign - Anders Clark / EyeEm / Getty Images

Yesterday was Saturday June 5, and I got a couple of messages from people wanting to know if I knew anywhere they could buy beer.  I thought this was kind of odd, but I remembered it is election day on June 6.  Here in Mahahual you can’t buy beer, wine or liquor 24 hours before election day, or during election day.

In Mahahual, you can buy beer and spirits during Ley Seca, only if you are eating food at a restaurant on the beach.  This is good for tourists, but not so good if you are a local.  In fact there is a big fine by the Mexican government if you are caught selling cases of beer or liquor during this time.

I remember a couple of years ago I was living in Playa del Carmen during election weekend, and a lot of Americans were running around confused because they could not buy beer at any of the local grocery stores or party shops.  I had to explain to them the laws here regarding elections.

I am used to not being able to buy beer and liquor at certain times because I am from South Carolina.  In Greenville, South Carolina, where I am from, you can’t buy beer on Sundays, and bars have to close at midnight on Saturday night.  You can’t buy beer or liquor after midnight on Saturday, and all day Sunday.  This is for religious reasons, so the Baptists will go to church and give money.  Also when I grew up in South Carolina you could not shop at the malls, or basically do anything on Sunday but go to church.  Here in Mexico the ban on liquor sales is politically motivated not religious motivation.

I read the other day that Mexico gets an 85% turnout on election day, compared to the USA, which only gets a 40% turnout on election day in the USA.  People in Mexico take voting very serious, and the whole family usually goes to vote together.  I have seen a number of different hats and t-shirts lately with different parties and candidates.  The other day I saw about twenty school kids walk by with brand new green back packs, given to them by the Green Party candidates here.  Me, I stay out of the politics here, because I am not a citizen and I don’t vote, so I feel it is none of my business.

So here is an explanation of Ley Seca here in Mahahual and Mexico.  Today is election day, and the village is kind of quiet today.


The Ley Seca (literally “Dry Law” in Spanish) refers to the banning of the sale of alcohol for 24 hours before elections and throughout the day on election day in Mexico and some other Latin American countries. The purpose of the law is to ensure that elections are held with the maximum degree of decorum and level-headedness. The law used to be enforced at a national level, but since 2007 it is left to the authorities of each state to determine whether or not they will apply it. Some states restrict the sale of alcoholic beverages for a full 48 hours, some for just 24 hours, and some, mostly in areas where tourism is an important economic factor, do not apply the law at all.

Paragraph II, Article 286 of the Federal Code of Institutions and Electoral Procedures (Código Federal de Instituciones y Procedimientos Electorales reads:


Translation: The day of the election as well as the preceding day, in accordance with the regulations that exist in each federal agency, authorities may establish measures to limit the hours of service of establishments which serve alcoholic beverages.

Establishments caught breaking the law face hefty fines.

When are the elections?

In Mexico, general elections are held every six years (the next one will be in 2018), and local elections are held in different locations in different years. Elections are usually held on the first Sunday of June.

Mexican States and Ley Seca

States which enforce the dry law for the full 48 hours (from the first minute of the Saturday prior to the elections until the first moment of the Monday following the elections) include Campeche, Coahuila, Colima, Sonora,Guerrero, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Jalisco, Tamaulipas and Mexico City.

In some states, such as Puebla, Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur, the dry law is in effect for 24 hours only. In Quintana Roo (which includes the tourist destinations of Cancun and the Riviera Maya) the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited on election day (from midnight until midnight), except in hotels and tourist areas where alcohol may be served provided it is accompanied by food. In Baja California Sur the dry law is enforced on election day, with the exception of the hotels and beaches of the tourist areas of Los Cabos. In the state of Baja California, the law is not applied at all.

Those concerned about being unable to purchase alcohol during the elections may wish to plan in advance and stock up on liquor on the Friday before election day.


Thanks for reading,

Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina




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