Tag Archives: mordidas

Christmas in México–La Aguinaldo

dino christmas

It is customary for employers to give their employees an aguinaldo (Christmas bonus) the last working day of the year before the official start of the extended Christmas vacation.  By law, the aguinaldo must be paid by December 20.  The amount varies for each employee as it is based on the total number of days worked during the year and the current salary of the employee.  Typically, however, it ends up being about one quicena which is one paycheck when the employee is paid on the 15th and the last day of the month.

Therefore, about the middle to end of December finds the average Mexican temporarily flush with cash.  Of course, this is known to all and results in some extra fleecing by the police in the form of mordidas (bribes).

Last year, my husband went out the first day of vacation to load us up with water so that we wouldn’t have to worry about running out on our days off.  (See Water Woes)  Only he didn’t come home that night.  Needless to say, my son and I were beside ourselves with worry.  He arrived with the truck around 7 a.m. the following day.

It seems what happened was that in El Ojo del Medio de Agua where he was filling our water storage tanks, there was an alleged robbery of a stereo.  The police arrived and searched the truck, my husband and the vehicle and person of another man who was also there filling up water containers.  Not being content at finding nothing of value either in the pockets of the accused or the vehicles, they took both men into custody.  They were taken and held in Yuriria.  My husband didn’t have any cash on him, nor did he have a phone to call me to bring any, plus he hadn’t stolen anything, so did not make the customary mordida (bribe) offer.  The police tried to force him to pay una fianza (bail) before releasing him, but again, he didn’t have any money.

He walked from Yuriria back to where the truck had been left, about 5 miles as the crow flies and drove back home, without a full water load though.

This is not the first time something like this has happened to us around the Christmas season.  The second year we were here, my husband and his brother-in-law were stopped by the police, who had removed any tags that might identify them, although they did not wear capuchis (masks). (See Safety and Security or lack thereof) Even after my husband showed them our permit from the Aduana (customs), his driver’s license, and our marriage certificate, the officers threatened to impound the vehicle.  Between the two of them, they had about $2000 pesos on hand, and that was accepted graciously by said law enforcement with a Merry Christmas to you too.

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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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