Anyone who has traveled in Latin America in the last 400 years probably knows the Mordida; it means “bite” and refers to the little bribes that keep the squeaky wheel turning down here. We’ve heard that Mexico was cleaning up its act, though, and it’s true that in the first eight months south of the border, we never had to pay even a single centavo.
Well, last week, the boys in blue at theLa Paz Police Department made up for lost time. We were driving down the highway with some visiting family and just a little ways out of town, we were flagged by a police car to pull over. They apparently saw the huge rental car sticker on the back and combined with four smiling gringo faces, they knew they had their marks. We pulled over and I handed him my driver’s license per his request, and then he proceeded to tell me that he’d have to hold the license at the station until I could make it downtown and pay the fines.
And the fine, you ask? One hundred US dollars. And the charge, you ask? Well, for that amount, you might expect something on the lines of kidnapping or armed robbery. You’d be wrong. The charge was “driving in the left lane” and going “a little bit over the speed limit” he described to me as he squinted his eyes to look through the tiny gap between his thumb and pointer finger. I think he may have actually been showing me the size of the pile of money he wanted.
But he was a nice enough guy to offer the service of on the spot payment, to save me the headache of having to go all the way to the station. He left the ticket book blank, took the cash with a smile, and sent us on our merry way.
But I digress. This is not a post to bemoan the fact that those guys had a great party that night at our expense and didn’t even bother to invite us. This is a post to thank all our generous friends that donated, on the day of our wedding, to the “Bribes For the Federales” fund. You’ll be happy to know that your kind gifts did not go to waste.
Those La Paz police are the worst. It works really well to empty your wallet and only leave 100 pesos in it. When they ask for 100 dollars you show them that you only have 100 pesos. They won’t be happy. But after smiling at each other for ten minutes, they will take the 100 pesos and wave you on your way. It worked twice for us driving in La Paz. Also ask them if they would like to drive down to the tourist police to talk with them.
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