Social Development Road Block in Mexico
The bus ground to a halt while moving on a highway on the lee side of a Mexican border town. A group of men moved towards the minibuses’ passenger door with a book of tickets in their hands. They opened the door themselves with a touch of authority, revealing a group of nine foreigners within.
“15 pesos each,” was the demand.
This was the toll: all foreign looking people were required to pay 15 Mexican pesos to pass on the highway through this town.
“It is for our social development,” they told us.
No way, I was about to respond. But I did not have to, the other tourists did this for me. They said, no way.
“The agency said that all expenses were included.”
“This is just another way for them to get money out of tourists.”
The calls went around.
I sat silently, wondering what would become of this show down.
The men with the tickets sat to the right of me, peering through the door and into the bus at us. I just looked away out a window — nobody can make me reach into my pocket to withdraw money, even if it is for some village’s “social development.” I highly doubted that the driver had the balls to physically extract me from his van.
The other tourists showed the same stone face. They seemed to have grown bored of arguing with the guys at the toll, they tired of fighting with the bus driver. They either showed the stone face or looked out the window. We waited.
“The fee is obligatory,” the men continued. They told us that we could not pass through their community without paying. A Swiss girl piped up from the back of the bus and told the men in decent Spanish that if they wanted money to get it from the bus company, that we paid for our ticket and would not pay anything more.
The amount that was being demanded was slight — just over one USD per passenger — but it was the principle that counted.
I imagined what travel would be like if all poor communities in the world decided to set up road blocks like this one to extract obligatory donations from foreigners. One dollar to pass through this community, one dollar to pass through that one. All these communities would have to do is pick up a stack of tickets and get a group of men to flag down each vehicle that attempts to pass with a White Face within. If this village could set up a toll on the highway why couldn’t others?
This was truly medieval shit. Pay the toll or duel at the bridge for the right to cross.
“Its for our social development, the fee is obligatory,” the men continued explaining, “you can’t go until all of you pay.”
I sat back and watched. Not one tourist reached into their pockets. Each sat with their own culture’s version of the stone face on. I looked on amused, I knew that all it would take was one tourists to crack and hand over the 15 pesos and our dam would spring a leak and burst — the toll collectors would taste blood and everybody would have to pay.
But this did not happen.
Eventually, the men gave up on their toll, and they closed the door of the bus. We drove on. The bus driver explained how our refusal to pay the mandatory donation would create problems for him. We truly did not care.
There was something corrupt in this deal, I would not be surprised if this was something the bus driver set up with his buddies. There was something odd about how he pulled off of the road and drove right up to the little broken down building so the men there could try to extort a mandatory donation us.
Welcome to Mexico, Gringo.
Social development roadblock in Mexico