jueves, septiembre 29, 2005

FIRST INTERACTION WITH THE MEXICAN AUTHORITIES, OR HOW IT WAS PRETTY MUCH LIKE TALKING TO SPANISH OFFICIALS

Today I had the first interaction with mexican immigration officials.
As a Spanish national, there are not special immigration requirements I should comply with. I need no visa or specific authorisation. I can stay at any of the countries we will be heading to up to 90 days. Apparently, our burgundry EU passport has countless properties and will be welcomed all over...
But DG recently experienced some border crossing issues in Upstate NY... Gone are the days in where we were just accountable to God Neptune and the only thing we had to take care of was getting on the right air stream... (not an easy task, though...) the point is that we had to make sure we would not have the same problems south of Rio Grande that we had north of the Saint Lawrence.
All and all we pulled the phone numbers for most of the mexican consulates in the US. There' s a whole bunch of'em...
Definietly those guys are too close to the US... calling those offices takes you straigh to the torture of f****** voice menus... I' d say that together with the speed limit is one of the things I'll miss the less.

  • Getting somedody on DC' s was really easy but not really helpful. Being at the Capital brands everybody... it was easy to feel certain stifness on an extremely polite and professional-sounding lady... beatiful accent... steady... kind of sweet... But nothing really useful. It seems that the Embassy and the Consulates depend on the Foreing Affairs Office (Secretaría de Asuntos Exteriores) and customs depend on the Home Office (Secretaría de Gobernación), which makes full sense... but asking a bit of interoffice communication so that the official could know how likely it could be being turned down at the border didn´t prove very effective.
  • Calling Miami´s, Philly´s and NY´s was useless. The voice menu takes you through a net of options, addresses, greetings, governamental commercials...
  • Calling Orlando was funny. Funny assuming you are not rushing because of whatever... The official there got really curious about my trip, he was probably bored and I became a good release to it.
    - ¿A dónde va a ir usted?
    - ¿Cómo dice?
    - Qué por donde tiene pensado ir.
    - Pues por donde pueda, señor, por donde llegue con el carro (yeah... adapt or fail...)
    - Me tiene que decir exacatamente por donde quiere ir, caballero.
    Pinche cabrón... estás aburrido ¿Verdad pendejo cabrón...? Well... it doesn´t matter... no problem with it...
    - Disculpe, pero no veo la realción entre decirle a usted por donde voy a ir y si voy a ser capaz de entrar en el país...
    - ¡Joven! Está usted hablando con el consulado. Debe facilitarnos toda la información que le solicitamos.
    Should I hang up? Would it make any difference when I show up at the border? Well let´s remain polite...
    - Pues tengo pensado ir desde la frontera con Tejas a Guatemala en Chiapas... pero si tiene usted alguna idea o alguna recomendación la recibiré con mucho gusto, señor.
    - ¿Por toda la República?
    sí... cabrón... todita entera...
    - Sí señor. Entonces, ¿Qué? ¿Podré cruzar la frontera o no?
    - Pues no le puedo contestar, caballero. Las aduanas dependen de Gobernación y no le sé decir...
    Well... it should be like 10 am in Arizona and they probably are more used to attend people with border-related problems. Let´s do it...
  • Tucson was finally the best option. It looked so easy since the very begining. The first lady I talked to put to somebody else who was supposed to give a more accurate response. She could not. She talked about what department depends on what... but she had a brilliant idea. She gave me the phone number to the immigration office in Hermosillo, the head office for the Nogales post, since it is through there that I pretended I was gonna cross. Good. Two hours later, we learnt we should be calling straight the guy to whom we will be talking once we show up at the border. Leaving in the US makes you do weird stuff... all those procedures... policies... guidelines... bullshit... do as you would at home. Pick up the phone and call the guy, then ask him what the scenario will be,... and see what he says...

We called Nogales. It was funny. The radio commercials on the background. I could almost imagine what the radio looked like. An oldy transistor, holding together tied up with shipping tape and thread... stains all over... the dial wheel about to fall down if not already missed... the plastic colour faded and the aerial twisted, bended, and missing the top ball. On the table, surely a sandwich or a taco, half chunked, half wrapped on its foil... some crumbs on the table and in between the paperwork... probably a bottle of soda around as well... pretty much the same as any official cabin somewhere in Spain. No doubt what an american would say about the scene... a cop getting off a Dunkin Doughnut with a 24 box, scoffing them anxiously with a stabucks cup of coffe on his hand is, apparently, a much civilised and respectable picture...

A very helpful lady told us that what we should be doing, is calling the customs office itself, explaining what our issue was, and just finiding out whether we´d have a problem once we show up at the border.

We had to play a role. It' s always easier innit? So we pulled a map of the border and we pretended, for each custom office we were calling, we were at the closest large city on the US side. For instance, were we calling Nogales, we said we were in Tucson, Piedras Negras and Nuevo Laredo, San Antonio and so on... We went to the Mexico Customs webstite (Aduanas de México, http://www.aduanas.sat.gob.mx/webadunet/aga.aspx?Q=r19) and we got all the phone numbers for all the offices on the north border. Once again, a bit of geograohical tracking with the phone. BTW, our Cingular contract considers calls out to Mexico as if they were out to the US... which was a pretty satisfying finiding when we got the bill...

I´ll try to summarise what we got from each post.

  • Tijuana. No answer at all. I don´t know what the hell were hey doing overthere, but nobody got the phone,... not even after the fifth call... anyway... hopefully, we´ll be crossing somewhere a bit more west.
  • Matamoros. It was not that easy, at any office, describing what our issue is. It is not just about what records they might share with the US, but how the canadian adventure would affect the passing. We had to make sure we explained all the relevant stuff. At the end it resulted a very encouraging conversation. No problems at all. The only thing those guys care of is kind of making sure no terrorists or smthg like that flees the US through their border. So no probs...
  • Nuevo Laredo. There we might have got on the phone the auditor kind of guy. He was not really sure what the whole story wa about. But he prove very honest, helpful and goodwilling. We agreed that I´d be calling a bit later and he would have done some research. "Llámeme dentro de un rato joven, que ya habré yo buscado y comentado por acá y le podré contestar"... well,... thank you man... I don´t know whether I was really gonna wait for me calling afterwards... but I made us feeling good... no bullshit, politness... that is pretty much what we´ll need when we do it. Sadly, this city is recently well-known due to some drug trafficing problems and to mafias that operate in the area. Although anglo-saxon media overspin everything a little bit we should consider that.
  • Piedras Negras. That was our last call. And it was very cheering. The guy I first talked to put me on the phone a bloke who presented himself as the subdelegate. He asked me where I was willing to cross through. Through the bridge? Well... I don´t really know officer... I´ve never been there,... I don´t know how the border looks like... there is a bridge...? I mean, wherever you guys want me to go go through, I will... When you show up you´ll have to go through International Bridge #2... all rit... if that's what I' m supposed to do... I will... Yeah, that' s it... get to the border, cross the bridge, pull over at the lot and when you get to the main office ask for me. I am Mr. XXXXX, (you might understand that I do not remember the name) the subdelegate, if you struggle at the border ask for me, I' ll be around and we' ll more than glad to help you out.

All and all it prove to be a very helpful exercise. Certainly we could have spared all that hadn't we have those accidents like a year ago... but it is what it is... right? We got a good feeling on what we can expect on the other side of the border. It all really depends on the officials we will be dealing with. But I can bet whatever, and I won't loose it, we might, at least, get ride of the dog-looking DHS official... as worried in freezing you with his look as concerned of loosing his job if he ever dares to relax his strained chevy chase... For God's shake... it's not gonna be a safer country if you release your face buddy... take it easy... we don't need you to smile... but don't look like you are gonna bite someone... please... somebody throw a bone to those dudes...

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