Category Archives: Safety and Security

Our Trip to PA

It has been 10 years since I have flown anywhere. We’ve become quite the homebodies in La Yacata. So this trip was a tad stressful.

It started with making sure our papers were in order. My passport is good for another 5 years, but my son’s passport expires in July. I did some research and panicked a bit, but found out that he can travel on his passport up until the expiration date. Mexico does not require 6-month padding like some countries. Besides, he would be returning to Mexico as a Mexican citizen, not a US citizen. It never hurts to be prepared though.

So then onto the airport adventure…

When we entered the building in CDMX, a young lady asked if we wanted to have our bag wrapped and weighed. I did need to know how much it weighed but I wasn’t sure what the wrapping was all about. She said it would be a good option since we had to change planes. As our suitcase wasn’t new, I decided to go ahead with it.

She saran wrapped the heck out of our poor suitcase. The wheels had been damaged on the bus trip from Queretaro, so now the weight was unbalanced and wheeling it around was more difficult. Oh well. We only had to check it in and be done with it.

So we headed to the United check-in area. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do since I didn’t have any actual tickets, just a confirmation number. The young lady at the post asked for my documentation. I had no idea what she meant. She asked again what the airline had given me to enter the country. So I said I was a permanent resident in Mexico and my son was a citizen. She grabbed two forms and handed them to us.

We then proceeded to the machine that looked like an automatic teller. I entered my confirmation number and it printed out my tickets. The guy behind the counter took our bag. Overall, it was a little stressful but not overly so.

We headed to the food court to eat and fill out those forms. I went to Subway and stood in line. While I was waiting, a devout Muslim and his Mexican companion fell into line behind me. The Muslim spoke English which the Mexican companion was translating for the food preparer. He asked that she change her gloves and not cut the bread since the knife could have been used to cut pork. The Mexican didn’t translate that last part so I jumped in and told the sandwich preparer not to cut the bread seconds before it would have happened. Scared the bejeezus out of her, but the tuna on white was not contaminated with pork residue.

After that bit of stress, my son and I filled out those forms while we ate. We weren’t sure where we needed to go next, so we asked the cleaning lady. She wasn’t sure either. We wandered around a bit and saw people going down a long hallway. So that’s where we went.

My son’s bag triggered a search. We had brought Oxy cleaning face pads with us and the searcher had never seen such an item. It was eventually approved and we headed through the duty-free zone. We didn’t need any of that crap, so wound our way to the gates.

We sat and people watched for a while. One passenger, Alejandro, had been paged at least a dozen times. We speculated on that, especially when this wild-haired older man was driven at high speed down the hall in one of those airport dune buggies. We thought perhaps the duty-free alcohol samples had gotten the best of him. Several minutes later, a rather heavy-set man sprinted by. We imagined he was the assistant and didn’t rate the dune buggy ride. We had a good chuckle.

Our gate was changed because of another plane that arrived late, but it was in the same area. The pre-boarding check was called. My son’s paperwork was just dandy, however, I needed my form stamped by immigration. I hadn’t seen any sort of immigration check-point, but back we went. It was at least a 1 / 2 mile from where we were at a sort of round kiosk.

The bored attendant stamped my paper and sent me on my way. This time we jumped on the moving sidewalk to make up for the lost time. Wasn’t there a video game that had those in them? We didn’t have time for any of these shenanigans though.

Regardless, we got just as the boarding began and everything was hunky dory. The flight was slightly turbulent but uneventful. Passengers clapped when we landed in Chicago. I filled out a customs declaration form on the plane but no one ever asked for it.

Then we had to pick up our bag and go through customs. We stood by the turnstile as the baggage handler tossed our suitcase into the air. It was rather worse for wear but the saran wrapped kept it together. We checked the bag and headed to the customs kiosk. Our passports were scanned and our faces were photographed. We handed the paperwork to the clerk and headed to the front door.

I wasn’t sure what we had to do since we needed to head to another terminal. A guy in a reflective yellow vest sent us to a tent to wait for a shuttle to the other terminal. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to get off at terminal one or two. A flight attendant on board the shuttle helped me out there.

Then we had to check in at the United counter again, get in line and go through security. This took longer than anticipated. We were behind three different families with limited English skills and babies in strollers. Shoes off, food out of the bags, nothing in pockets, laptops exposed, voila. I even got a “good” from the cranky security guy on my article arrangement in the bin.

Then we had to get into this airlock to get scanned. All of this was new to me. It seems it zeros in on bulges. My sports bra sent up a bulge signal and I got the patdown. I suppose it could be worse?

Then we went the wrong way and spend a frantic 20 minutes looking for our departing gate. The flight was delayed anyway because of electrical problems. There was a Starbucks by the gate and we took advantage of a caffeine hit. Did you know you could get bottled water from Fiji for $5?

A rather large group of high school students were on our flight. Most of them went through by running their phones over the scanner. We were old school and had paper boarding passes. All this new technology!

This flight was equipped with personal TVs. The controls were on the hand rests which I didn’t know and kept inadvertently changing my son’s channels. The safety demonstration was done right on the TV too. The flight was quite bumpy. My son said it wasn’t, but they stopped serving drinks at one point and told the flight attendants to have a seat.

The Philadelphia landing was rough. Nobody clapped. Maybe that’s just a Mexican thing?

We headed out to pick up our bag which would have been battered beyond all recognition except it was the only one with the blue saran wrap. We must have walked another mile or so before we reached the pick-up area. My little brother arrived after a brief wait to pick us up.

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Huachicoleros in Mexico

If you’ve been following the news on the current gas crisis in Mexico, you may have seen the word huachicolero in reference to those that buy and sell illegally obtained gasoline. This is a word that originally referred to people who knocked fruit from trees using a huachicol which is a long-handled instrument with a basket at the end to scoop the fruit in. Huachicol can also refer to watered-down liquor. Thus huachicoleros are those that sell the watered-down liquor. Which brings us back to huachicoleros in the news these days who are dedicated, and I mean dedicated, to obtaining and selling water-down gas. These are the people that AMLO intended to bring down with this change in distribution methods.

Pemex, the government owed petroleum mega-giant, has been losing money hand over fist in recent years. It is estimated that $7.9 billion USD has been lost because of gasoline theft in the last 7 years. AMLO believes previous presidencies have been in colusion with the theft. No surprises there!

So how is so much gas stolen? Well, it’s not nearly as exciting as this scene from the Fast and The Furious.

Long pipelines crisscross the country running under both private and government-owned lands. It isn’t so very hard, although sometimes quite dangerous, to tap a pipeline and build a warehouse around it where trucks can come and go unmolested and is much less difficult than stealing what would amount to 250 20,000-liter tanker trucks each year.

Central Mexico was hit hardest with this new distribution regulation. Large sections of the pipeline run through rural areas in Michoacan and Guanajuato which are not regularly monitored. For example, “everyone” knows there is a pipeline tap in nearby Cuitzeo, just outside of Morelia, Michoacan. It’s run by the cartel with the complete cooperation of local officials.

So how did things get to this crisis level? Gas stations that were in the habit of buying large quantities of this water-down gas, had scheduled low numbers of tanker truck deliveries from Pemex distribution centers this month, as they have had every month previously. With the pipelines shut down, the huachicoleros lost their supply of illegal gas and have been unable to make their regular deliveries. 

You might already know that the previous president Pena Nieto opened the petroleum market up for foreign investors. So now, Exxon and Mobile stations have sprung up all over the place, even taking over formerly owned Pemex stations. In our area, these foreign-owned stations ran out of gas long before the lone Pemex holdout. Now in the third week of the gas crisis, this single Pemex gas station has been receiving regular shipments every 2-3 days, which is not enough to meet demand with the other gas stations in town being effectively closed. So many people are still camping out in their cars awaiting the next gas shipment that an entire lane of traffic has been closed to accommodate them stretching for miles. Traffic has been entirely rerouted.

That’s not to say that only foreign-owned gas stations have been buying stolen gas. I think there might be an inherent bias in the distribution system these days. AMLO has been vocal about Mexico for the Mexicans. Foreign importation of gasoline has already been reduced. So it’s no far stretch to believe Pemex is taking care of its own first.

Gas ahead.

What will happen next? According to AMLO, the pipelines will remain closed. The income loss experienced by the huachicoleros won’t be taken lightly. There are bound to be violent repercussions in our cartel-run area. In fact, in some areas, the regular ol’ Joses and Josefinas have taken up the call of the huachicoleros and tapped their own pipelines

In the meantime, enjoy the La Cumbia del Wachicol by Tamara Alcantara while you can.

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Would you like to read about my own experience with governmental correuption in rural Mexico?

Check out La Yacata Revolution: How NOT to buy a piece of Heaven in Mexico.

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Filed under Driving Hazards, Economics, Politics, Safety and Security

The Honduran Migrant Caravan in Mexico

Families, women, and children, young girls, teenage boys….these are the desperate and hungry people who make up this caravan of refugees crossing Mexico with the hope of finding safety in the United States.

It’s not an invasion, no matter what the hysterical president might say. And it’s entirely legal. Under both U.S. and international law, those fleeing violence from Central American countries are allowed to apply for asylum in both Mexico and in the U.S.

For safety, these families have banded together to search out a secure place for their children to go to school, play, grow up. This human caravan is reported to have begun in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, known as the murder capital of the world. The group grew to more than 1,600 Hondurans by the time they reached the Guatemalan border. Although Guatemala first attempted to deny the refugees entrance, the government later relented. By the time this caravan reached the Mexican border, it was a group of over 4,000.

On October 19, these desperate men, women, and children were attacked with pepper spray by Mexican forces at the border. Nine children, 18 women, two of them pregnant and six men were injured during the attack. Although Mexico has since allowed the caravan to enter, even issuing 45-day visas with the idea that they should be able to reach the US border within that time frame, the government is not making any official efforts to assist the group. In fact, an arrangement that would have allowed the group to take buses to Mexico City was denied, with many saying it was government pressure that caused the plan to fall through. Although the first caravan has finally arrived in Mexico City despite it all. 

The residents of small towns in Mexico along the route have been generous with their support. Volunteers have been providing food, clothing, and medicine to the refugees. The Mexican President has also made some concessions. As long as these migrants remain in Chiapas and Oaxaca, two of the nation’s poorest states and far, far from the U.S. border, they will be given temporary ID cards, work permits, medical care, schooling, and housing in hostels under the Estás en Tu Casa proposal.

Of course, this proposal doesn’t take into account that some areas of Mexico are just as dangerous as the countries these refugees are fleeing. Or address the fact that the U.S. has commissioned Mexico to keep these migrants from its borders. It is estimated that 950,000 Central Americans have been deported from Mexico in the past few years and there is reason to believe that thousands more have disappeared. The enormous number of mass graves found in Mexico give credence to that. Even with these reasons against staying in Mexico, many have applied for permission to remain. Others, however, are determined to reach the U.S.

There are an estimated 2,300 children in this huddled mass of homeless humanity. Some are ill, all are hungry and tired, yet the caravan moves on step-by-step. These parents must know that the chances of their families being allowed to stay together is remote. Perhaps, their thought is that even if their children are taken from them, maybe adopted or placed in child detention centers, as awful as that may be, there is a chance that their children will survive, something these parents did not believe would happen in their native countries.

So instead of all this mass hysteria, why not take a moment to walk a mile in the shoes of these anxious parents and exhausted children and consider the lengths you would go for your family?

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Filed under Politics, Safety and Security

National Preparedness Month

Did you know September is National Preparedness Month? Now, you may know that I am denial about my Prepper tendencies. In fact, I’ve been known to poke fun at the bunker building types in the past. Today I’m going to confess a few things you may have already guessed if you’ve read my blog for any length of time.

I’ve watched 8 seasons of the Walking Dead and was thoroughly disappointed with season 8. Michone hardly had any action at all although Carol is still there battling both the dead and undead!

My favorite Game of Thrones character is Arya, because she’s a survivor. Her direwolf Nymeria is also AMAZING leading her own pack now that winter has come.

My favorite historical figure in Mexican history is Malinche. Although slandered with slurs of traitor and whore, the fact is she rose above her position as a slave and used her intelligence to survive the turbulent conquest years.

And I’ve written a Prepper book about Mexico (which is free for the next few days in honor of my coming out as a Prepper).

Just to feed my hysterical Prepper side a little bit more, I’ve been watching the award-winning 2014 series Years of Living Dangerously. Each episode is sort of the Hollywood version of the dangers of climate change (which existence the current U.S. president denies emphatically). Harrison Ford, Jessica Alba, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, America Ferrera, Michael Hall, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Munn, Thomas Friedman, Ian Somerhalder, Lesley Stahl, Chris Hayes, M. Sanjayan and Mark Bittman are the commentators in the first season 9-episode documentary which was awarded an Emmy for outstanding nonfiction series–take that alternative fact Mr. President. World-renown journalists, not from Fox news, share the events, scientific causes and human toll of drought, hurricanes, global warming, deforestation and more. Let me tell you, each episode moves me just a little further on down the lane towards my secret Prepper alter-ego and bunker building inclinations.

It’s shameful to be an American these days. Not only do I adamantly oppose government-sponsored child abductions, but the fact that the United States is a knowing contributor towards global climate change and has gone so far as to repeal the several key environmental protection laws and encourage more fossil fuel exploitation makes me glad that I am living in exile.

Of course, I am well aware that what happens in the U.S. and other nations will ultimately affect my life and my child’s life and my grandchildren’s lives (when and if they make an appearance). My hope is that I will have Prepared enough and Prepared my son enough so that at least this branch of the Flores family won’t become extinct. To that end, I still have my eye on the lot next door. We need a larger garden if we expect to make it through the apocalypse and beyond.

So Happy Preparedness Month everyone! Although it might be more in line with the event to caution–Be Prepared! I encourage you to check out Years of Living Dangerously if you haven’t already and download my free book if Mexico is starting to seem like a better alternative to where you currently live.

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