We’ve been in mainland Mexico for about 6-8 days at this point. We stayed in an amazing town called Tepoztlan the night before. The plan was to enjoy the town for the afternoon (we’ve been driving like crazy the past few days) and then leave early the next day for the pyramids at Teotihuacan.
We wake up, pack it up and head out! Here we go! We get about an hour out of the town, it’s roughly 10:30 AM, and we see the ever infamous flashing lights behind us. Little did we know this was the corrupt Mexican police squad chasing us down. Raquel was driving and we see this arm stick out of the police car directing us to pull over to the right.
We cooperate, pull over and watch in anticipation as they approach the car. It started out very friendly. The officer smiles, introduces himself and asks if we speak Spanish. I promptly say no while Raquel says “A little” (but in Spanish). Apparently, we were violating a legitimate Mexican traffic law called Hoy no Circula. In short, it’s one of those laws that is so confusing it seems like it was done so on purpose. Feel free to read about it. We figure, ok, oops. Looks like we are in the wrong. I’m ready to accept responsibility for it.
Ok, so you got us. Our bad. How would you like us to proceed?
The officer responds by saying, I need $300 USD and I’m going to impound you car overnight. You can TRY to get it back in the morning… for an additional fee. F@#k that. This is our house for the next year or so. Es mi casa, senor. I ask him if he can just give us the ticket and we’ll pay the fine, but we’re not letting them take our car. He responds by saying we need to follow them to the station and he needs Raquel’s identification as collateral.
I need to say, this whole thing just felt really shady from the start. In the USA, I would have no problems handing an officer my ID because I would be getting it back. This wasn’t the same thing. One officer was pacing around the car, hand on his gun, the other one was “calling” his captain while talking to us. They were trying so hard to create an urgency to the situation when in reality, we broke a traffic law, give us our ticket, we’ll pay it and that settles it. The officers take a break to talk to their “captain” on the phone. It was probably the dude’s mom.
“LOL guess what mom?! I found me some gringos. Break out the tequila.”
Raquel and I discuss and ask ourselves how much are we willing to part with because it’s obvious they want cash. BTW, the dollar amount has gone from $300 USD to like $275. When we said we didn’t have that much, they said no problem, Follow us to an ATM and we’ll help you get that much money. Very accommodating, yeah? Definitely some shady corrupt mexican police.
We settled on like $98.00 USD. We had more in our safe, but there was no way I was going to open that up in front of them. They come back and start demanding we figure out how to get that much money. We show them the pesos we had out and say this is all we have. They start to escalate the situation and start looking closely into the car windows. I finally put into Google translate, “Look, this doesn’t seem correct, we’re getting scared. Just take us to the police station and we’ll handle it there.” The one officer reads it, smiles as if “No worries mate!”, grabs the cash out of my hand and that’s that.
They get in their little police car and bounce.
It was strange how the situation escalated and how good they were at creating an urgent situation. There was always this pressure of “more money” or we impound your car for an indeterminate amount of time. It was our first encounter with the corrupt Mexican police and it probably won’t be the last, but we learned a lot of valuable lessons.
- Just ask them for the written ticket. Apparently they hate writing foreigners tickets, but that’s the law.
- Keep asking to go the station. Let’s see what their real boss has to say about this.
- We have all the time in the world. Just keep saying we can wait. Don’t feed into their manufactured sense of urgency.