Then there are police checkpoints to contend with. Arriving in Celaya, on our trip from Moroleón to San Miguel de Allende (See Getting Legal–Trip 1) we were stopped by the transito (traffic police) because our truck didn’t have a current verficación (inspection) sticker. I put my head down and pretended to be invisible while my husband negotiated the mordida (bribe). On the way back, we were stopped yet again by the same group of transitos (traffic police). Being tired and cranky, my husband made the mistake of complaining that we had already paid our dues in the morning. The transit cop had him get out of the vehicle and then gave him a dressing down for being chismoso (a tattletale) before sending us on our way with his mordida (bribe) of course.
To bribe or not to bribe, that is the question to consider.
Transitos are open to bribery. However, whether you offer a bribe or not depends on who you are. If you are female, typically no bribe is offered and no ticket is given, you may not even be stopped. Unless, of course, you are an aggressive female, then you are treated like any male in this machismo power play. (See Driving Hazards–Crossing the Border) If you are a non-Mexican male, you must understand this an alpha male thing and if the phrase “se puede reglar esto” (this can be resolved) is used by the transito (traffic police), discretely hand over $200 pesos. Transitos (traffic police) will stop you for missing inspection stickers, missing or out of state plates, for the driver not wearing a seatbelt, for anything that might be not working on your vehicle, like a tail light or just because. They will ask you for your license and tarjeta de circular (permission to use the vehicle in the country), so it pays to have both current. A transito (traffic police) can take either card or your placas (license plates) and hold them for ransom until you go and pay the fine.
The next level up is the random inspection typically done by the state police. These officers wear large pistols, and are sometimes masked, so are not to be confused with the transitos (traffic police), who do not wear guns and never wear masks. Los del estado (state police) may stop you for having out of state plates, for vehicle identification number (VIN) verification to see if you are driving a stolen vehicle, for a license or tarjeta de circular (permission to drive in the country) check, for driving a nice vehicle, or whatever other reason occurs to them. The mordida (bribe) is much higher and trickier to negotiate. They may take your vehicle or any other items that aren’t permanently attached as part of the “inspection.” It doesn’t to any good to go and file a complaint. (See On Safety and Security).
Los federales (federal police) cruise around looking for vehicles to confiscate. High risk vehicles are newer cars and chocolates (vehicles that have U.S. plates because they were never legalized at the aduana (customs)) We had more problems when we had a newer truck, but now that we drive a Mexican national that we like to call Butch (Chevy circa 1980) they stop us less. When stopped, the feds ask for the paperwork for the vehicle issued by the aduana (customs). Know that only the registered owner or direct relative may drive a vehicle that has been imported into México. We have had to show our marriage certificate along with the other paperwork to prove that my husband is permitted to drive the truck since it was registered in my name to facilitate border crossing.
Then there are los militares (military police). This is a complete barrier stop for all vehicles. All motorists are subject to search and all vehicles are inspected, for guns or drugs. Civilians do not have the right to bear arms in México, but many have guns. It just isn’t prudent to carry them in your vehicle, even for personal safety. We carry a machete in our vehicle, which is not illegal, and can also be used to cut grass along the side of the road for our animals when the occasion presents itself.
The guns these guys tote are eye-popping big. You can determine whether it is a legitimate inspection or not by whether the police are wearing their cappuchis (masks) or not. A legitimate inspection is done by unmasked military and nothing is removed from your vehicle. Well, the other type, it’s best to just grin and bear it and not give too much information about yourself or risk being marked as a prospective kidnapping target. (See On Safety and Security).
Fortunately, only the transitos (traffic police) stopped us on that first trip. (See Getting Legal-Trip 1)