Driving in Mexico used to be a favorite past time of mine. Used to drive all over that country by myself and found nothing but kindness for a stranger. Much of the country I enjoyed like an ecotourist monarch butterfly migration, mesmerizing rainforests, exotic tropical birds.
Now when I go which is almost never, I am more like a narco tourist who risking my life at every turn especially along the Frontera. I like that they call it the Frontera, the frontier, what they used to call the Wild West in Texas. As soon as many Mexicans crossed the river going home, they take off their seatbelts, they're free.
Seatbelts are required by law in Mexico, but the law is not much enforced in fact their traffic laws function more like suggestions than commands. There is a posted speed limit, but it is a suggestion of safe speed.
If you see a sign that says no entre it really means it is best not to enter here, but if you must be careful.
Stop signs or for the one who is last at the intersection. That is why I believe there are no defensive driving courses in Mexico. I think they just offer offensive driving.
It always seemed odd to me that Mexico is a country where the people live slow but drive fast. They live at a leisurely wonderfully civilized pace but when they get behind the wheel, they're all Mario Andretti.
Then there are the topes. Topes are speed bumps. This is Mexico’s favorite form of traffic control.
There are two types of topes. The gentle rolling asphalt topping which you can take at 20 miles an hour and then there is the steel reinforced concrete tope that will rattle your teeth at .2 miles an hour. And I don't mind that particularly except for the custom of putting that up a sign right by the top here so you were driving down a nice quiet country road and all of a sudden, tope.
They should just put sorpresa, surprise, on the sign. Seems to pop up out of the pavement like something out of a child's music box. And then there's this curiosity you will often see a mechanic shop only 100 yards past the tope. This is good marketing because it is about 100 yards past the tope that you realize your muffler is gone and the only reason it is gone is because the transmission removed it when the tope or tore through it. Location, location.
Something I always appreciated about driving in Mexico is that if you ever get stopped, which is rare, but more common if you were big gringo with Texas plates you can hold traffic court right by the road. I was pulled over for allegedly exceeding the suggested speed limit I asked if I could pay the fine right there. They said the fine was $50 I thought they meant pesos but for my convenience they had already done the conversion.
So, here's the great thing about that moment if you understand the custom the police are also judge and jury you can plead your case right there by the side of the road so I told him I would pay $10 they said 40 so then I told him that I only had $20 on me and that is all I could pay. The plea for leniency went up to a higher court you see the policeman and his partner are together the appeals court.
They went off to the side of the road to discuss my appeal for five minutes I think they just do it for show I think they were really discussing places to have lunch. They came back and said twenty would be OK, so I paid and off I went. What I particularly love about this kind of justice is that it is so efficient the same infraction in Texas would have cost me much more money $200 probably and then I would have taken a hit on my insurance premiums too and if I wanted to challenge it I would have had to go to Court one day and plead my case in front of a judge. Very time consuming of course I could just admit my guilt and mail in the fine but then I would have to find my checkbook. Something I never use anymore and then locate an envelope and then a pen and God knows where a stamp is and then I have to find a post office. No, no, I prefer my traffic justice at the side of the road on a Mexican highway.
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Stories From Texas, UTRGV Digital Library, The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley. Accessed via https://scholarworks.utrgv.edu/storiesfromtexas/
© 2018 William F. Strong. Uploaded with permission of copyright holder.