Home / Various and Sundry / Living in Mexico / Lies, insinuations, and innocence in the Yucatan

Lies, insinuations, and innocence in the Yucatan

We all create our own reality. We see things through our own filters. I believe that. My Mexican experience is totally colored by my perceptions and attitude. I like to think of myself as friendly and helpful so of course I believe that most people are friendly and helpful.It doesn’t hurt that I have grey hair and look like your mother.

Case in point, Sunday, BK, another girl friend, and I decided to check out the crafts fair at the Siglo 21. BK greeted me by saying,“There’s a noise under the hood because a piece of plastic has come loose and is flapping in the wind. I’ll have the mechanic check it on Monday”. In March, the Honda had been a victim of a hit and run accident while parked on an otherwise empty street. The bumper had suffered some damage along with the undercarriage. The dealership was supposed to have replaced the plastic housing, apparently they hadn’t fastened it well.

As we traveled down the road, the noise got progressively louder. Arriving at the convention center, we drove around the side to the parking lot. As we passed over a raised cross walk, a sweating middle-aged policeman flagged us down. He motioned to BK to roll down her window.

Leaning into the window, he gravely intoned, “Something beneath your car is scraping the road”.

“Oh, my, thank you. Thank you so much for informing us.” I rudely talked across BK, knowing that her Spanish wasn’t up to the challenge. “As soon as we park, we’ll check into the situation.”

I assumed that having pointed out the problem, we were free to go, but I was wrong. The officer had more information to impart.” You are damaging the roadway.” Shaking his head he frowned,”That is a very big infraction, damaging the public highway. You could get a very big fine.”

“Goodness, how horrible, I am so glad that you warned us. We will take care of it immediately once we park.”

Officer Good Samaritan pointed vaguely towards the parking lot on our right, “You can park right there.”

Once again, thanking him profusely for taking the time to impart his words of wisdom on us, BK wasted no time zipping into the parking lot.

BK being the practical woman that she is,coupled with the fact that the car is over twelve years, the Honda’s trunk holds an interesting assortment of things from duct tape to jumper cables. While I gingerly squatted on the pavement hanging on to the bumper while deftly avoiding sitting directly on an oil stain, she fished around in the trunk. I peered at the undercarriage, where a tattered and ravaged sight greeted me. The housing didn’t look new, it looked like the dealership had used heavy duty zip ties to secure the worn and decrepit looking housing. Many years of relentless Yucatan heat had turned the plastic fragile and friable. The purple zip ties however, were in pristine condition, they had held up just fine, dangling like cheap hoop earrings, decorative but not functional.  My long dormant macramé skills called into play, I passed the rope through various apertures,  tying it off to the bumper with each pass. The bumper now resembled a birthday present wrapped by an over ambitious two year old, but it was in no danger of gouging holes in the obviously delicate macadam.

Homeward bound, we passed the same pedestrian crossing, our good Samaritan was lounging in the shade. Spotting us, he sauntered over, while motioning me to roll down my window. Beaming my brightest 1000 watt smile, I gushed, “Oh, thank you so much again.You see we fixed the problem.”

Once again, I was incorrectly expecting a more brief exchange of words.He once again leaned on the vehicle, looming over me, while accusing me, not BK the driver, but me, the passenger, “You took off. I directed you to park and instead of parking, you ran away. That is a very serious infraction. Very grave indeed.”

Totally astonished at what he was telling me, I explained, ”A thousand pardons. It is the fault of my very poor command of the Spanish language. I am so very sorry but I totally misunderstood. I did not realize that you were going to help us with our problem. You are such a gentleman, but you see we solved it ourselves.” I often sound like a character from the Arabian Nights when I speak Spanish.

“This is quite a problem.” He shook his head and looked very serious. He was getting a little flushed from the sun too.

“As you can obviously tell, Spanish is not my native tongue. I know it’s a problem so I am taking classes. You are right, I am so very sorry that I misunderstood. You are so kind and helpful. Well good-bye now and thank you again.” I must of interrupted his train of thought, totally derailed it in fact, because he mutely waved us on his objections mowed down by my rapid fire explanation.

Later, when I recounted my tale to Husband, he burst out laughing. “Poor man, he never had a chance.” At which point it dawned on me. Our good Samaritan was really fishing for a bribe, what was he supposed to have responded to my flowery praise? “I’m sorry madam, you misunderstand me, I am a scoundrel and extortionist.”

I expect the best of everyone, and they have no choice but to live up to my expectation.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Thanks Barb!


  2. Hahahahaha!!!!! I think this is your funniest story yet.

  3. Marianne,
    Thank you. Having a poet of your caliber comment on my imagery makes my day!

    Just two cigarettes! You are a skilled bargainer by anyone’s measure!


  4. A great example of what we are always hearing…be nice, be apologetic and keep repeating yourself until you wear them down! I had a similar experience to yours in the state of Veracruz. The kindly officer where I needed to turn around stopped traffic on both sides of the road so I could do an illegal U turn…all for just 2 cigarettes! Saved me hours of drive time and for once smoking paid off!

  5. Wonderful storytelling. Loved the description of the purple, plastic ties “dangling like cheap hoop earrings”.

  6. Steve,
    In this case, ignorance really is bliss! I sail through life expecting the best and consequently receiving it. I don’t want to be like the guy who said, “Always expect the worst and you will never be disappointed.” What a crummy way to live your life!


  7. I am with you on this one, Theresa. I tend to treat these encounters as hale fellows well met. I doubt I would recognize a shakedown if it ever occurred. I would be too busy trying to build relationships.

  8. YucatanMan,
    It isn’t bravery, it is incredible naivety on my part. I honestly don’t catch on that they are looking for a bribe. In the four times that we have been shaken down, I only understood once, and that was in Veracruz. We had gotten lost and wanted to turn around at a closed exit. The guy suggested that we give him $200 pesos and he’d help us cross the highway rather than driving another 50 miles and paying another quota. I don’t know if it was really 50 miles or how much the quota was. The rest of the time, I am always honestly clueless on what they want.I just don’t think that way.

  9. Well done, Theresa.

    I recently had an encounter but it wasn’t with a roadside officer. I was pulled over for an absent minded infraction. 100% guilty.

    The “very serious infraction” part (which I have heard on other occasions similar to yours) was never mentioned. The very professional motorcycle officer informed me what the infraction was, asked for license and car papers, and went back to write the ticket.

    He returned shortly, explained the ticket and the 50% discount for promptly paying it and went on his way.

    From personal experience, it seems like the “very serious”, “muy, muy grave”, “we need to take your license plates” talk is mordida time. If they’re going to write you a ticket, they simply do. They don’t have to confiscate your drivers license, license plates or anything else.

    I wish I had your courage. On the second round, I might have tried what you did, but added “here’s $10 pesos for a cold drink, you look awfully hot out in the sun.” Now, I know some will castigate me for encouraging mordidas, but it IS awfully hot out there in the sun, and I’d do the same for a worker in my yard too.

    Anyway, great story. Inspiring, in fact.

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