Little Stories about
Life in Mexico
Last Update 14 October 2010

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 Lerdo.

I have had 5 Christmas seasons in Mexico, and I have never seen a Santa on the street or in stores, so when the little kids see me they seem to think I am the real thing.  As I drive down the street I get lots of “Santa!” calls, mostly from men.  The kids smile and wave.  Even the traffic cops wave.

This afternoon I was at the ice cream place by the park sitting in the patio.  A group of high school girls and one boy came in and were really looking me over from the other side of the patio.  Finally the guy came over asked me with a serious, straight face “Are you Santa Claus?”  I said I was.  He went back over to the girls, and they all giggled.  When I got up to leave, they all waved vigorously.

My limited Spanish rules out conversations with the kids, so I just “HO HO HO” and “Feliz Navidad.”

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.

Don Carlos is now losing his eyesight due to advancing diabetes and he came to us for advice and we visited the local San Cristóbal doctor at a hardscrabble clinic who told him he would lose his sight if he did not modify his diet and I don't think that registered, so soon he may not be able to weave the rugs that supplement his meager farming income and that is just the way it is where everyone is dirt poor and one eats what one has and that's just the way it is. It may be hard, if not impossible, for middle-class folks who visit México to comprehend this dire poverty but there it is. That's life.

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 (restroom) I 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.

At that moment a young fellow came leisurely along on one of those old Mexican made Islo motos -- one of those small, less than 100cc bikes without the baffles with the ear splitting pop, pop, pop.  I waved him down, explained the dire straights I was in, and asked for his help.  He said climb on.  He red-lined that poor machine all the way to the main road and turned right towards PV without ever having caught a glimpse of the damn bus.  After another kilometer or two I recognized the futility and told him to let me off.  I thanked him and offered gas money, which he refused.

I stood alongside the road for another 20 minutes or so trying to hitch a ride.  My prospects were dim, not much more than local traffic on that hiway back then.  Then along came a truck with its bed filled with bags of tobacco leaves, headed for PV!  I spent the next few hours stretched out on top of the bags, soaking up the wonderful March sunshine, marveling at the beauty of the spectacular primavera trees scattered throughout the hills.  They dropped me off near the old bus station.  I saw the bus parked on the street across from the terminal and could see my day pack still laying in the rack above my seat.  I inquired at the ticket office about retrieving my bags and was told the driver had the keys, had gone to eat and should be back soon.  Twenty minutes later he shows up, asks me why I hadn't gotten back on the bus in Tomatlan and handed me my belongings.

From Bruce in Oaxaca

I teach different levels of English at a Mexican university.  This includes one class of beginner level students.

For last Friday's class, I brought a stack of picture cards to class that showed various actions: kicking, walking, watching TV, washing dishes, etc.  I then gave out the cards to the students and asked each person to mime the actions on two different cards, while the others tried calling out what the activity was.  I did this to make sure every student knew the vocabulary for routine activities.

I then asked each student to write three sentences about activities they like to do: "I like playing videogames," "I like drinking beer," etc. Next, I asked them to turn to their neighbor and ask their partner "Would you like to (verb) with me?"  I did this to get the students used to using 'would' for making requests.

A few minutes later I started to hear some students bursting into laughter.  As I walked around, I noticed more students doing this. What the..?

I then realized what was going on.  Many of the students had written for one of their favorite activities "I like sleeping."  They were turning to their neighbor and asking "Would you like to sleep with me?"

Whoops.  Ah well, I guess they'll remember that lesson for a long time!

From Scott in Morelia

I spent a couple of nights in Magdalena, Jalisco this past week.  Magdalena is a town of 23,000 people, about 20 km west of Tequila. We were maybe 10 km down the highway towards Tepic, and 10 km down a dirt road through the agave fields.  About half way down the dirt road was a small town, call San Simon, population 560 according to the sign.

After this town, the road was very difficult, in very bad condition.  At the end, there were a few guys digging holes in the ground, splitting rocks looking for opals.  We stopped to see what they had found that day, but didn't buy anything from them.  We were almost all the way back to the highway when I realized I didn't know where my knapsack was.  We stopped to look in the trunk, and it wasn't there. My knapsack had my wallet and my new, fairly expensive cell phone, 750 pesos cash, and so on.

We turned around and headed back up in to the hills to  find my bag. We were stopped opening up one of the barbwired animal gates, it was that kind of road, when the guys came around in their truck and as soon as they saw us held up my bag to show that they had it.  I walked over, and they immediately gave it back to me.  After giving me the bag, they did ask for una feria para unos refrescos.  (A tip for some soft drinks.)  I gave them 50 pesos which they were satisfied with.  I was so relieved, and my faith in humanity and the Mexican population was seriously reinforced that day.

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.

We left our car, and returned at six o'clock, as directed.  The car was ready.  It had needed a valve adjustment and a and a few parts, but the pump was ok. The cost was $750 pesos (about US$75).

We were pleased with the work, the apparent savings of money, and the kindness of Sr. Garvez.

From Janice in Pennsylvania, USA

I 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.

We waited and waited.  An old dilapidated bicycle with a young father standing and peddling, his wife sitting on the seat holding their little boy came slowly up the highway toward us.  We all quietly watched them dismount and lean their bike against the tree and then they too, joined us.  We continued to wait.

A taxi came roaring down the highway and turned around and pulled over by the side of our little group.  The driver rapidly spoke to the men with us, and then everyone climbed into the taxi.  They all squeezed in and close the door, leaving me standing alone.  I was both amazed and amused at the fact that all 8 people had fit into the small car.  Then the guy in the front seat leaned out his window and asked me in broken English if I was going to Playa?  I said "yes,!" He said "Come in."

I hesitated and then they all smiled and motioned for me to get in.  So I climbed in the back next to the young family and another man.  I shyly asked the young father "how much?"  He said "one dollar." "Uno dollar?" I asked. He smiled and said "si."

During the 15 minute ride to Playa Del Carmen I contemplated what just had transpired.  I had been waiting for a collectivo which would have cost me a couple of dollars.  Worst case scenario: a taxi cab would have cost me 12 dollars.  Everyone was more than willing to share their ride with me, an American woman standing alone by the side of the road.

I had to wonder if the tables were turned and the same situation would have taken place at home here in my country...with a Latino standing alone by the side of the road.  How many of us would willingly share our ride with him/her?  So many things ran through my mind as we pulled into the grocery store parking lot in Playa and everyone got out.  The driver saw me and said "no senorita, you stay, I take you where you need to go."  I thought this is where he will ask me for more money.  I got back in and wondered how much he would want.  He hopped back in and took me where I wanted to be dropped off at and I asked him "how much?"  He smiled and laughed and said "oh no, senorita, it is free!"

I smiled and relaxed and said "mucho gracias!"  He smiled and said "da nada!"  Then we both laughed.

I happily went on my way, meanwhile thinking about the kindness and generosity of these wonderful people.  Then it came to me.  I had watched the young family go into the grocery store.  They had came all that way, much of it being on that old bicycle only to go grocery shopping.  I had to wonder how they would get their groceries back home.....

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.

He pulled over past the Coke truck to leave the way clear while the two drivers chatted away (never saw what happened to the armed guard).  This went on for quite a while.  We knew there was another bus leaving not long after ours.  We assumed it would stop, pick us up from the now broken bus and take us back to Mexico City.  Not so; it drove straight past and left us still sitting on the bus.  Eventually the driver come back and started up the bus.  We continued on our merry little way to Mexico City with glass flying everywhere, trying to make up lost time -- cold early evening winter winds whipping through the now open windows.  No air conditioning required!

From Linda in Denver

We 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 fish restaurants.

Oooops, I hand delivered myself right into the "band" of kids who tried to separate me from my pesos, earlier.  What the heck, I perched myself on the rock wall by the pier. The kids crowded around me and began to light up small firecrackers.  That's what the pesos were for!  The boys would light firecrackers and throw them straight at the little girls.  Then the girls would do the same to the little boys. When they noticed that I had a Bic lighter, I became their "friend".  In no time, I was invited to "play" too.  When we ran out of small fireworks, I sent a few of them over to buy more.  Contributing to the delinquency of 9 yr. old minors!

We went through hundreds of stick like bangers, learned a few new words of each others language, and even took turns singing songs to each other. Now, I can't sing, but who knew?  B-I-N-G-O, Old McDonald Had a Farm, and a game of Hokey Pokey..... Every time they'd sing one to me, they'd want me to sing one back to them.  The ladies in the souvenir shops were getting a real kick out of it.  We were having a load of laughs

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

There is no standard routine on many of the second-class buses in Mexico. I've ridden on at least 100 of them over the years.

One time I was on a bus that was taking us from Zacatecas to Aguacalientes.  The driver pulled off into a small town, double parked on a dirt road, and got off without saying a word.  He was gone for about 10 minutes.  I was looking around at the other passengers to see if there was a reaction.  There wasn't any concern on their faces. All of a sudden, the driver came back aboard and was holding an ice cream cone in his hand.  He turned the bus around and we were on our way again.  I don't know where he bought it, but it could have been from his tia's kitchen.

I took a secondary bus to Xolchimilco one day.  Our driver couldn't have been a day over 16.  After all the passengers were loaded in, the driver's pretty little girlfriend (15) perched herself on top of the engine compartment (right next to the driver's seat). She faced the passengers.  Next thing you knew, they were making out while we were winding our way through the crowded streets of DF.  The driver only took his hands off her when he needed to shift.  Oh, to be 16 and to have such a great job!  It blows the mind!!!!

The guys who drive the second-class buses have a lot of discretion. They can pick up any passengers they want to along the way, and they can pass up any others if they want to.  Some are asses and some are really nice.  One time, we pulled into a bus station (late at night).  The driver told us that we had 10 min. to take care of our business.  Two attractive girls didn't make the deadline.  The driver started to pull out of the station.  The girls ran toward the bus, and knocked on his door.  He did let them on, but they were carrying cups of hot coffee.  He let them get on the bus, but 10 seconds later, he hit the gas and the girls went flying.  He knew what he was doing and all of us got his message.

Trying to figure out what the "rules" (real or imagined) are on second-class buses in Mexico is one of the most confusing things about being a tourist.  IMO Communicating with the passengers is not all that common.  You never know if there will be potty breaks or food stops. Normally, there aren't any announcements of which town you're in. Some drivers let lots of vendors aboard, others don't.  Most will pick up passengers along the route.  Some help people with their large bundles (sugar cane, oranges, etc), some won't.  Some are grumpy and others are singing songs.  It all depends.

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.


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