Very officially, the Customs Agent hands the unstamped
tourist card back
to us and waived us on through the line.
At this point, we were technically not in Mexico as there was no
record of us arriving.
One thing we have learned about traveling is that there is always a
surprise around the corner. However this being-waived-past-Immigration
was a first and we didn’t think much of this until we arrived in our
hotel and realized we were not really in Mexico. I mean
we were, just not legally.
We have seen all kinds of unusual situations regarding Mexican
Immigration and in other countries as well, so we just figured that upon
leaving Mexico, the authorities would just take our unstamped cards and
allow us to board our flights. After all, we were leaving their country,
neither of us the worse for wear, and all of our paperwork had been
filled out with proper dates, and addresses… we just didn’t get a stamp.
Enough with the Old Rocks
So we proceeded to enjoy our week in tropical Cancun and headed to
the airport for the first leg heading back to the States. The ticket
agent naturally requested our documentation, and upon seeing the
unstamped form announced that we were illegally in the country. (Sounded
awful!) Not unlike the millions of his people in our own nation… we
noted...which he completely understood. Jokingly, he even offered to give
us a tour of the best beaches, and perhaps help us build a house, if we
wanted to take advantage of our illegal status!
Nevertheless, there are rules that needed to be followed, and we were
willing to comply - or so we thought. Handing us our boarding
passes for both legs of the flight he wrote
on the Mexico-Phoenix leg that they were Pending FMT, or tourist
He then instructed that once we landed in Mexico City, we were
to go to Immigration and get stamped. No getting around it. It
was something that should take 15 minutes to complete.
Our experience in Mexico has taught us that in the Land of Mananas, nothing gets done in 15 minutes - especially when you’re
dealing with the government.
My gut reaction was to ignore his instructions and simply proceed to
the ticketing gate. Why would they refuse us from leaving their
country? So this was the plan.
We disembarked without a hitch in Mexico City. The airport signage is
not very well marked, especially for someone who’s just passing through,
and we ran around looking for our particular gate area. It was an hour
and thirty minutes before our connection.
The Concourse finally appeared hallways and escalators later, and low
and behold! There’s an Immigration Office just before entering. Perfect!
At least now we can follow the agent’s instructions and get our much
What a Combination!
Pleading our case to the Immigration Officer, you would have thought
that we were just caught for a major crime. Although he assures us ‘not
to worry’ (why would we worry?) he proceeds to tell us that this is ‘No bueno’ and we must pay 300 Pesos each for the fine of not obtaining the
crucial stamp; About sixty dollars for the both of us.
What started out casual became costly.
We did as we were told, followed
instructions by those in-the-know, so why are we paying for the
errors of others? Beaming, he
shrugged his broad shoulders. Before we knew it, we were on the
phone with his supervisor and reminded sternly that these are the rules and of course
there is nothing she could do. The clock was ticking away, and it felt
useless to argue with the Mexican government. We relented to the fact
that we were going to have to pay. Like it or not.
The forms started appearing one by one. They had to be filled out,
signed, dated and copied. He was quite proud of the stack of papers he
was assembling; it all looked very official! Ok, so can we pay and get
out of here now? Oh no, he cannot accept money in that office. We must
take yet another form to a bank and pay there, bringing back the receipt
so that it can be stamped by him, and then we can get on our way.
Where can we find a bank in the airport? Trying to gauge how far we
must walk and how much time this is going to take, we are now beginning
to get nervous. Getting our instructions to the bank’s whereabouts, we
dash out of there, all our luggage in tow.
Our Room's View in Cancun
Of course the instructions were lacking in pointing out essential
turns, so it took us three times as long to find the banks than was
necessary. Then they were closed! All three of them. Holding the form up
to the window so the people inside could see our plight, they simply
pointed at their watches. Ayeeii Carumba!
Back upstairs to the Immigration Office we run, where the agent is now
“helping” another unfortunate stampless creature. He instructs us to
take a seat and he will be with us in 5 minutes. The clock is still
ticking, louder now, and we have just 40 minutes until our plane leaves.
Reading our boarding passes it shows that it’s time to begin boarding
the plane. Urgently we tell the officer that the banks are all closed.
He doesn’t know what to think, but it is clear that this isn’t the
answer he was expecting.
We have the correct change in Pesos and are willing to simply leave
him the money if we could just get that necessary stamp. We begin
counting out pesos to him…
Again refusing the money, he is still grinning, however a little less
broadly, and he calls his supervisor telling her our woeful story.
Although he is speaking in Spanish, we can understand him
saying, ‘they leave in 35 minutes‘, on three different
occasions. Now, we are considering our options if we miss
the flight. What the ---??
Up on his computer he brings still another form in which he inserts
our names and pertinent information. He’s going to give us a special
‘numero’ which will allow us to pass on through, but he needs the
specific government sealed paper. Where is that paper?! Rifling
through the bank of mostly empty filing cabinets he opens and shuts the
same drawers several times. Stress is noticeable in his frenzied
movements. He is finally feeling the pressure that we have carried with
us since about mid-way through this loony ordeal.
The paper is found at last, the printer is loaded
and out comes the government form. Again we fill out necessary information, signing
each copy. He puts the magical ‘numero’ on our new tourist cards, hands
them to us and tells us that because the banks are closed there will be
Unbelievable! What just happened?
All of us are cheerful now and shaking sweaty hands with a loud
‘Gracias!’ accompanying each hand shake.
Racing down to the gate with only minutes to go, we find that our
plane has been delayed and hasn’t even started to board!
Mexico! You gotta love it!
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.