The first four stories are mine. The rest are from cyber friends who wish to share their adventures in Mexico.
Around 1938 while my grandmother was living in Mexico City, my mother went down for a visit. One day in an open air market, they were approached by an Indian woman carrying her baby on her back and holding out her hand for a contribution. My grandmother told my mother to give the woman some money, but my mother refused. Whereupon the woman reached into her blouse, and ... well, shall we say, my mother was left indigently wiping milk off her dress. I have always thought the story was hilarious; but my mother never did.
Christmas seems to be the favorite
season for most people. It certainly is for me. It’s the one time of
the year that my fat belly becomes a fun thing. With it and my
fluffy white beard and long gray hair, I am a great Santa Claus. With my Santa cap and a red shirt, I pass for the real thing around
I had just pulled into town at the end of 300-mile trip and was almost home. It was mid-afternoon. I was hot and tired from the long road and from a poor night’s rest. A cop jumped out from the shade of a building and waved for me to stop. I knew I had not done anything wrong, so I surmised that this would be my first encounter with la mordida. Tired as I was, I was determined that if this SOB wanted money, he was going to have to work for it.
He came up to my window and said very pleasantly, as they always do, “Buenas tardes, senor. Blah, blah, blah.”
When he paused, I replied with my worst Spanish “Lo siento, señor. No hablo español.” (I'm sorry, sir. I don't speak Spanish.)
He looked a little surprised and tried again. I replied with “No comprendo.” (I don't understand.)
Then he used what I guess was his only English word: “Money!” In next several minutes he would repeat the word many times, but the dumb gringo just didn’t understand.
“¿Por que?” (Why?) I would reply. He would launch into a long spiel which I truly didn’t understand. “No comprendo” was my chorus.
“Coke,” he finally said holding out his hand.
Of course, I knew what he wanted, but I pretended to take the drug meaning of the word. That gave us a couple more minutes to get the dumb gringo to understand that it was the drink not the drug he wanted. I was determined to drag it out as long as I thought wise, so I continued to be very nice but very dumb. I was hot, but he must have been hotter in that uniform standing in the direct sun against a white pickup. When the veins in his neck began to throb, I decided it was time to end the game, so I suddenly understood.
“Oh, comprendo. Quiere dinero. Lo siento señor, no tengo dinero.” (Oh, I understand. You want money. I'm sorry sir, I don't have money.)
I though he was going to explode. I reached into my pocket being careful not to extract any folding money, and pulled out two coins – 5 pesos and 50 centavos. (50 cents and a nickel) I offered the coins, saying "No tengo mas." (I don't have more.) He snatched the 5 pesos. Before he could say anything else, I said “Adios,” and drove away chuckling.
Another interesting little encounter with the police
I always have assumed that I stick out like a sore thumb around my little city (Lerdo, Durango). I’m the only gringo in town, and I look a lot like Santa Claus. One day I got a taste of just how much I must be noticed.
A plain-clothes federal police detective showed up at my house-building job site looking for me. It seems that a Mexican guy and a fat gringo with an ear ring and a white pickup (just like me) had sold a bar across the river in Torreón that they didn’t happen to own. The detective had a name, and a description but no address for the hot shot salesman. It didn’t take more than a look at my ID to satisfy him that I was not the crook he was looking for.
But I must say, I was surprised that he knew where to find me based on nothing more than a description of a guy in Torreón, a city of more than half a million across the river in another state. It also kind of dispels any ideas about the police here being incompetent.
From a friend in Chiapas
Don Carlos of Aquacatenango
comes to our house in San Cristóbal for espresso and
croissant on occasional mornings and, over time, we have become sort
of his pawn broker. If he makes one of his primitive, small rugs at
his rudimentary home loom in Aquacatenango and brings it to
the andador or market adjacent to the ex-convento
Santa Domingo but cannot sell the thing, he comes to us and, over
coffee and a treat assigns us the rug as collateral for the fare for
a bus or combi ride back to his Zapatista village of
Aquacatenango and, then, a while later, when he returns to
San Cristóbal, he pays us back and reclaims his rug and that is
just the way things are done thereabouts. Once in a while we may
visit him without being intrusive since Aquatenango is a
Zapatista stronghold and not particularly welcoming of foreign
visitors and there he is in his ancestral shack wearing his typical
Che Guevara T-Shirt and welcoming us with absolute civility and
while this village is not warm and welcoming to foreign strangers,
we always feel at home there for a while as long as we leave when
the welcome wears thin as it inevitably must . Rural Chiapas can be
intimidating but if you are able to overcome that then it ain´t so
bad as long as you do not wear out your welcome.
From Jim in Michigan
My wife and I arrived in Ajijic by taxi from the Guadalajara airport and went straight to the car rental. We picked up a little Aveo sedan and headed to our friends' home in the village. Down the old cobblestone streets we drove, marveling at the old steepled church and the bougainvilleas draped over the high stuccoed walls hiding the village homes. As we turned down this street we saw a plump little man three blocks ahead of us standing in the middle of the street wearing tan rumpled work clothes.
When we got to him he waved us over to the curb and said in English, "I gonna give you a teekit. You are on a one-way street the wrong way!" It was then we realized he was a policeman! He asked for papers on the car and my license. I gave them to him and explained that we had the car only 10 minutes, were unfamiliar with the streets being from Michigan and that I was sorry. I'm sure it dawned on him that I was not going to hang around town to pay a court fine.
So he smiled and said, "Well, maybe you can buy me breakfast." With that, he moved off and turned us over to his underling who was studying traffic control from the master. The young policeman sheepishly held out his hand and I put ten dollars in it, upon which he waved us off and we were on our way. When we finally found our friends' house and related our story, they said, "Welcome to Mexico; you have just experienced la mordida."
From Red in Sonora
Many years ago on the
recently completely stretch of hiway between Manzanillo and PV the bus
I was on pulled in to Tomatlan. The driver said we'd be 15 minutes
so I hopped off to irrigate some porcelain. As I exited the baño
caught a glimpse of my bus pulling out of the station. I ran after
it, hoping to catch it at the first stop sign but had no luck. I
looked around for a taxi, none in sight. I saw a family of gringos
just getting out of a rental car (an odd sight in that neck of the
woods those days, probably came down from PV for the day). I explained
the situation and asked if they could help me run down the bus
before it made it out to the main hiway. They reacted as if I had
asked them to sacrifice their first born.
From Bruce in Oaxaca
different levels of English at a Mexican university. This includes
one class of beginner level students.
From Scott in
From Mike in Pátzcuaro
Yesterday, our car started making squeaking noises, as if a pulley
or belt were loose. This morning, there were more symptoms of
automotive distress. So we managed to drive the mile or so towards
Pátzcuaro, and we pulled into Automotriz Garvez. We were attended to
almost immediately, and Sr. Hugo Garvez himself checked the engine. Then a young mechanic selected a flattened cardboard box, jacked up
the car and crawled under. He was soon joined by two other mechanics
who helped him first remove the belt to the hydraulic pump, and then
replace it. This all took almost an hour. Sr. Garvez had another
look, and told us that he wasn't able to repair it. We needed a
specialist. He suggested one about another mile ahead on the Libramiento outer road. He volunteered to accompany us. Once there
Sr. Garvez refused payment for his services, but we gave him a tip to be passed on to his employees.
From Janice in Pennsylvania, USA
was staying in Puerto Adventuras and wanted to do some shopping up
in Playa Del Carmen. I walked out to the highway and waited by the
side of the road for one of the many collectivos (shuttle vans)
which constantly run from Playa to Tulum and back. I stood under a
tree by the side of the road and was soon joined by a few locals who
had come over seeking shade, and waited along with me. I am sad to
say but I know very little Spanish, so we all smiled at each other
while they curiously eyed me and chatted amongst themselves.
From Melina in Australia
Coming back from a day trip to Taxco, we had gone about 1 minute
along the cobbled road from the bus station. We stopped for a few
seconds while the bus driver was trying to negotiate the best way to
squeeze past a Coca-Cola truck on the side of the road. We
started moving again just as I was about to point out the armed
guard atop the coke truck to my husband. Before I had the chance
....CRUNCH.... The driver hadn't negotiated so well, had hit the
truck and ripped open the last few windows on the bus.
From Linda in Denver
took a launcha trip on Lake Patzcuaro over to the Isla
Janitzio (some years ago). When our launcha docked, we
were surrounded by a dozen young kids asking for pesos. They
were cute as all get out, but very persistent. We walked up
the steps toward the big statue of Morelos and the climb was too
steep for me (thanks to smoking). At the mid-way point, I told
our friends that I'd meet them later. Instead, I followed some
of the roads that twisted around the mountain and had a good
look-see down on the houses and yards of the local inhabitants,
visited a small church and headed down toward the souvenir shops and
From Josephine in Sacramento, CA
I have a story from when we went to Morella last year. We had taken a small stroller for my youngest son who was 3 at the time. That way he didn’t have to walk a lot. Also was good for our plane trip back to Sacramento. We decided to go to Wal-Mart to pick up some things that we could not get in the colonia. We loaded up in a taxi and got dropped off at Wal-Mart paid about 20 pesos. We did our shopping and we came out we had forgot we left the stroller in the taxi. We where for sure that it was long gone. So we went back into Wal-Mart and saw the same stroller that I had bought in Sacramento for only 29.99 for sale at 1800 pesos. Which we didn’t have to pay for a new one so we just left, stopped and had lunch at Mc Donald’s across the street. Then got another Taxi and went back to La Chole . About 10 minutes later we had a knock at the door. It was the Taxi man from the first trip he had went looking for the gringa that was in that colonia and they pointed our house out to him. We told him that it meant a lot to us that he brought it back to us. We gave him 200 pesos, which he didn’t even want to take but we insisted he take the money. I was so grateful that he came looking for us we ended up having a 10 hr over lay in Houston on the way home to Sacramento.
My sister drives a school bus for a living in the USA and related this story to me. One of her fellow drivers was assigned to a bus that was not only one of the district's oldest but also most temperamental buses. For the first half of the school year she fought with this bus and all its quirks and problems. Finally a couple of weeks before Christmas break the district received some new buses and retired the old ones by selling them off.
The woman was ecstatic with her new bus and told everyone that she worked with that she never wanted to see that old bus again. For the Christmas break she took a trip to Mexico, and after reaching her hotel decided to go out and see the city. Imagine her surprise when the first city bus she took, fully repainted on the outside and with the seats re-arranged, still had her name painted on the inside over the drivers seat.
Lyn on Second Class Buses
no standard routine on many of the second-class buses in Mexico.
I've ridden on at least 100 of them over the years.
HITCHIKING in the US is dangerous because Americans are dangerous, but hitchhiking in Mexico is a little different. Yes, I have hitchhiked all over México. Here in southern México where people tend to be poorer and friendlier, its relatively easy if you know what you are doing. The closer you get to the US the more Mexicans become like Americans, unfriendly and less willing to give rides.
A few years ago I stood in front of a rural Pemex station along the Tampico/Soto la Marina highway in the border state of Tamaulipas, and for every car and truck coming out of the station heading north, I stuck my thumb out hoping for a ride. Nobody, but nobody gave me a ride. As the hot sun beat down on my head I decided that I would walk no further and keep trying day after day until I either dropped dead or someone gave me a ride. I was penniless as usual, so I had nothing else to lose.
Finally late in the day after many hours there a man comes walking towards me from the station and I thought "here we go, now their tired of looking at me and their going to chase me off!" But no, he asked me if I was hungry, "Si señor" I said. He invited into a humble little house attached to the station where his smiling wife told me to sit down in front of a plate of eggs and sausage and hot tortillas. After I finished eating the man unfolded a handkerchief on the table that was full of coins. He told me that all the employees of the station as well as a few customers had donated the money to help me out. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing from my eyes. As I write this today, just thinking about it causes more tears to flow! The man then told me to return to the highway and keep trying, but that meanwhile he would try to convince some of his customers to give me a ride. A short while later, one did. God I love Mexicanos -- the people have more of a heart; in all of México the people are light-years better in helping out a poor person than our neighbors to the north.