“Dame mi multa, por favor.” (Please give me my ticket.)
In the world of occasionally Kafkaesque road-side Mexican police stops, these thoughts are offered as a reminders of what’s really important in life: remain calm, cool, & collected, and it will all work out.
“Dame mi multa, por favor.“** is one of several dandy phrases to use when driving in México. If you drive a rental vehicle or one with out-of-state plates or even worse: a vehicle with US/Canadian plates, you’ll eventually be pulled-over and scolded about some ethereal infraction. After you and your officer exchange personal stories about what actually happened, then comes The Request, followed by a pregnant pause. Duck and dive as much as you like, experienced officers will stay their course and refuse to return your license, leading to The Standoff: as he waits for you to surrender some dinero and you stubbornly maintain your Principals (Hier stehe ich, Ich kann nicht anders! …)
Depending on how you value effectivo and whether you pity the poor officer (some really are incredibly poor), you really may be left at a stalemate. Whining, crying, & pleading are mostly non-viable options at this point. Getting out of the car gives the officer an option to arrest you (yet another tale about your Constitutional Right to hide in your house or car), so, how does a savvy traveler negotiate their way out of such sticky situations – without either party losing face? (Saving face can be a particularly huge thing in México – yet another article).
“Dame mi multa, por favor.” (“Please give me my ticket.”) can work wonders. “Multa” is a marvelous word that literally means “fine”/penalty in formal Spanish, but in México politely requesting mi multa means you want an official hard-copy of a ticket before you hand over a single centavo. You could say “boleto”, but that seems to show that you truly are a gringo, ready for shearing.
“Dame mi multa, por favor.” instead, is a gentle shibboleth that shows you are neither challenging nor threatening the officer, (like demanding his badge number), and it still leaves you three more raises in the game:
… First, call their bluff:
… (use a very polite, but firm formal tone … not aggressive)
“Dame mi multa, por favor.” (Please give me my ticket.)
… If that does not end the negotiation, then go to your First Raise:
Ask for their badge number and name …
“Quiero tu nombre y numero … por favor.“
and get out your pen and paper to write it down.
… maybe consider taking their picture.
This works well in some areas of the country, like the Sur Este, but in other areas (like where the Narco Traficantes control things) taking their foto may not be a good choice. Here in Yucatan, our officers have good overall relations with the public, and they GET FIRED IMMEDIATELY for soliciting bribes. … Also: If your State has a hotline for corruption, consider asking the officer if the anti-mordida line ( *63 ?) is working.
… Second Raise:
“I want to talk with your Captain/manager.”
“Me gustaria hablar con tu jefe.“
… Then, if needed, the Third Raise:
“Please take me to the station.”
“Por favor, lleveme a la estación de Policia.“
Gently but firmly raising the stakes, stepwise, and calling bluffs, lets the officer give in (and give you a scolding) at any point, without the officer losing face.
You know it’s all good when the officer starts his one last scolding & warnings for you to do better next time….
This allows him to walk away partly satisfied that he is still in control ; … and relieved that he didn’t have to be humiliated or knuckle under to some vituperative, over-the-top, rabid, blustering gringo.
You can leave the scene knowing that sometimes the little things are what’s most important in life.
By gently escalating things only very slowly, most officers back down, because they do not want to have to spend a lot of time filling out the paperwork at the station and later trying to prove their case.
Reason for this blog?: Things can work well here, but we have to take the sticks from our ears, keep our eyes open, and sometimes keep our mouths shut to watch and learn how things work here. There is a little validity to touristic impressions of highly-caricaturized images of sleepy sombrero-wearing peones with their favorite burro, corrupt cops, overbearing sacerdotes, burritos, the simple-but-ubiquitous adoration de Nuestra Señora (de Guadalupe), mariachis, etc. , but if you take a chance, learn some Maya language or Nahuatl, and scratch the surface, you’ll find Mexico is an incredibly diverse, wildly varying melange of over 220 languages and 1,000’s of sub-cultures held together by some beautiful common values, with a great taste for food, black or subtle humor, and slowly unraveling family values.
*This foto is actually about as far as one can get from our sometimes Kafkaesque road-side Mexican police stops and is offered as a reminder of what’s really important in life. The foto: My brother David Swallow is on the left, “officiating” for Maria Alba’s and my wedding. It doesn’t get much more real than separate bride & groom purification lodges, followed by commitments made with a Chanunpa before family, friends, and the Kolas, ending with an excellent feast with friends’ home-cooking from around the globe – giving the reader a glimpse of whom we are.
**”Dame mi recibo, por favor.” can work equally as well, but “multa” offers insider’s leverage. And yes, be prepared to require a receipt. Yucatán and Mérida have been cracking-down on such practices by la Policia y Govt. officials, (by firing them), but we all have to leave YucaLandia at some point.
(Hint: Q. Roo is notorious for shaking-down even their most experienced guests.)
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Disclaimer: This information is not meant as legal advice. It is for educational and informational purposes only. Government policies vary between States and offices, and Mexican Government officials have broad discretion in how they individually enforce policies, so, your personal experiences may vary. See a professional for advice on important issues.
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Feel free to copy while giving proper attribution: YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.
© Steven M. Fry
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