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La Siesta

“La Siesta”, one of Mexico’s best-known customs.

What is a Siesta?

A siesta (from Spanish, meaning “nap”) is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those in warm-weather zones. The “siesta” can refer to the nap itself, or more generally to a period of the day, generally between 2–5 p.m. This period is used for sleep, as well as leisure, mid-day meals, running errands or other activities.

Siestas are historically common throughout the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, the Middle East, mainland China, and the Indian subcontinent. The siesta is an old tradition in Spain and, through Spanish influence, most of Latin America. The Spanish word siesta derives originally from the Latin word hora sexta (‘sixth hour’, counting from dawn, hence “midday rest”). In Mexico, it’s very common for entire streets full of storefronts to close while the store owners take a break. This is typical during the high heat of the afternoon when customer traffic is typically slow.

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