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Be My Valentine? Global poll says 1 in 5 prefer to spend Feb. 14 with their pet.

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Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

(Read caption) A golden retriever puppy yawns during a Jan. 2009 American Kennel Club news conference.

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Mexico does not necessarily stir great romantic sentiments, the way Italy might, or France. A typical first date here might consist of tacos – with the entire family.

But it turns out Mexicans have an inner Romeo that puts other nations’ residents to shame.

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In a global poll by Reuters/Ipsos, in which 24,000 people in 23 countries were asked about their preferences this Valentine’s Day, 1 in 5 adults said they would rather spend Feb. 14 with a pet than a partner. Yet only 11 percent of Mexicans would choose Spot over their spouse (beaten out just by the French).

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That includes Mauricio Torres, who was walking his beloved four-month-old Boxer named Dogo in a leafy park on a recent day in Mexico City. “It would be great to be with my puppy on Valentine’s Day,” he concedes, but quickly adds, “I would rather be with my girlfriend.”

“They would rather be with their pet?” asks an incredulous Gabriela Martinez, a key maker at a kiosk in the capital who already knows what she is getting her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day: a blue fleece, “because blue is his favorite color and he is always cold,” and a Looney Tunes stuffed animal. “He loves the duck,” she says. “Everyone gets each other presents on Valentine’s Day.”

Is this just an adherence to tradition in a country where compatriots would never dream of forgoing the food offerings on Day of the Dead or the elaborate dinners of Christmas Eve? Indeed, in an international survey by PayPal last year by Ipsos Public Affairs, Mexicans topped the list of gift-givers worldwide on Valentine’s Day.

But Mexicans say there is more at play than mere ritual or obligation or outright consumerism. “We like to show our love,” says Martinez.

Mexico, after all, broke the Guinness Book of World Records last Valentine’s Day for the most people kissing simultaneously. There were nearly 40,000 of them locking lips in a plaza in the middle of Mexico City. And for all of its machoism, its national music is fraught with tales of love and unrequited love. Mexico City even has its own version of Venice. True, most of the boats plying the canals in the south of the city are full of entire families and mariachi bands, not lovers, but still.

Yet before you think Mexico City is about to take over Paris as the city of love, the country has its share of skeptics of modern love – and quietly wonder if a dog really is their best bet. Mr. Torres, for one, is taking his girlfriend to a romantic dinner on Sunday, but does not dismiss that he might have different Valentine’s plans in the future.

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“She is still my girlfriend,” he explains. “She’s not yet my wife.”

For more on love and marriage, check out American attitudes toward fidelity.


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