Driving Hazards–Crossing the Border

The aduana (customs) at Matamoros, Mexico

The aduana (customs) at Matamoros, Mexico

We crossed at Brownsville/Matamoros entrance to México. We spent 6 hours at the aduana (customs office.) My part was easy. I received a visa for the maximum time a tourist can be in México (180 days) and went to the next window to register the truck and trailer for the same amount of time.

However when it came to our personal items, that was a whole different story. First, we were told to go to the aduana (customs office) who told my husband to go to the paisano (Mexican citizen) office, who told my husband to go to the aduana (customs office). And around we went. Finally, my husband told me to get out of the car and wait for him while he went with an official and our vehicle. So there I stood in Matamoros, no passport, no money and no idea what was going on. After 20 minutes I started getting worried, but my husband and my son did return on foot for me. He told me that the police could make a deal so that we wouldn’t have to pay more or unload the trailer, which would have taken all day. We would pay $7000 pesos and in return receive the permit to import personal goods, no inspection and special locks for the trailer that would need to be cut off. There really wasn’t any choice but to pay up.

We did not have the cash readily accessible, so my husband sent me with another person to the bank in Matamoros to withdraw money from an ATM machine. They kept my husband, son, vehicles and personal items safe for me while I went to make the withdrawal. How considerate.

Driving through the checkpoint at Matamoros.

Driving through the checkpoint at Matamoros.

We drove back into the US, then back into Mexico. Well, I had to drive as the truck was registered in my name. We stopped at 3 places and showed our paperwork. At the first one the helpful police officer had us wait until we were sure to get the green light (no checking) before we drove up. The second, no problem. The third verified that the sticker I had obtained at the office was the same as the paperwork I had. Again, not a problem. So basically, every official is in on this little game. And everyone gets their little slice of the mordida.(bribe)

Those locks that had to be cut off came in handy when we were stopped outside of Matamoros by another customs agent. He offered us two ways to go about this. The first was to unload everything in the back of the truck for inspection. We would not have to unload the trailer because of those special locks. The second option was a discrete $200 pesos. Since it was late in the day, we handed over the mordida (bribe) and continued on our way.

I won’t say this is the same for everyone who crosses the border into México. It may have been since we had a mixed family, since I was a US citizen and my husband and my son were Mexican citizens that targeted us for this little side adventure into Mexican bribery. As I mentioned, my part, as the US citizen was pretty easy. It was the importation of household goods that was the problem.

In comparison with the experience of my sister-in-law, my entrance into México was pan comida (a piece of cake–literally bread already eaten). She and someone else drove two trucks and two trailers from Nebraska to the Mexican border. Her driving companion bailed on her at the last minute and left one trailer sitting on the U.S. side of the border in the parking lot.

My husband and her husband had driven up with our truck and were waiting on the Mexican side of the border. They loitered around for hours until finally someone asked who they were waiting for. When they described my sister-in-law D, the official said that she had been there since the morning crying and crying on the U.S. side.

Entering México

Entering México

No bribe was offered this time around. D had to drive through customs, unload the trailer, reload the trailer, unhitch the trailer, return to the U.S. for the other trailer, unload the second trailer and reload it.

One trailer was attached to her truck and the second trailer was attached to my husband’s truck. This presented a problem a little ways down the road. They were stopped by the police (who were probably called by the customs police) and asked to show their documentation. As both trailers were registered to the truck that came from Nebraska, both must be attached to that truck, which wasn’t possible.

D, being an aggressive sort of woman, got down out of the truck while this conversation was being held. This wasn’t the appropriate thing to do and annoyed the police. (See Driving Hazards–police stops) D didn’t speak any Spanish, which further aggravated the situation. She became frustrated and even more belligerent in her attempts at explanation. Her husband didn’t help much as he kept assisting that the paperwork that they had was good. The police told M that he didn’t know how things worked in the U.S. but that they were in México now and that he’d better take control of his wife or both he and his wife would be detained. My husband took M aside and told him that he was just angering the police and to be quiet. My husband then went and negotiated a mordida (bribe).

But, apparently the police radioed ahead. Wouldn’t you know it, a second police stopped them not an hour later with the same issue. My husband negotiated a second mordida (bribe). At this point, as funds were getting low, he insisted they sell the second trailer and pile everything into the back of the truck. They parked at a gas station and asked motorists if they would be interested in buying it. Finally, someone agreed to buy it, but they would have to drive it to his house, which would risk another police stop, but as there was no other option, they did it. Then when they arrived, the buyer didn’t want to pay the price agreed upon, but again, there wasn’t much choice if they wanted to get back to Moroleón sometime in this century. Without the trailer, they were not stopped the rest of the journey. Go figure.

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One response to “Driving Hazards–Crossing the Border

  1. Pingback: Driving Hazards–Police and Military stops | Surviving Mexico

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