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La Policia

Here in the center of Merida, we see four different types of policemen. The ones in black uniforms are the Federales, the Federal police. Today we learned that the State Police, called officially Estatales, are known around here by the kids as Tamarindos. They wear seed-pod brown uniforms and are often a bit on the heavy side. They get their nicknames for the shapes their bodies resemble, elongated but bumpy tamarind seeds. Then there are two types of city police, both dressed in blue because they were put into office by the PAN political party, whose color is blue (according to our source) . There are the Bicycle City Police, who apparently garner some respect from the townspeople and have no nickname, and the Traffic City Police, who are called Pitufos which is the Spanish word for “Smurfs”… because they tend to be short and are all dressed in blue. They apparently do NOT garner much respect.

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17 Responses to “La Policia”

  1. Very, very cool, Working Gringos. Thanks for the insight on Merida police, and even more for the Bloglet tip– I signed up for yours and then added a subscribe option to my own blog. Muy f?cil. What fun.

  2. I’ve been stopped twice by the Estadales while driving. Both times they were totally professional and let me off with a polite warning.

    I can’t say two instances mean anything statistically, but they certainly left me feeling better than the treatment I get from our own Customs and Immigration officers, who always treat me like I’m a terrorist drug smuggler until they and their canine pals have given my car the once over. I guess that’s what the world has come to, but based on my limited experience, I’d rather deal with the Mexicans.

  3. Great magazine, love all the tips, keep it up working gringos. took the advice and singed up.

  4. Grant,

    We’ve had the same experience here in Yucatan. Very different experience than in some other parts of Mexico or even in California! We rode around Yucatan without license plates for a few months and every time we were stopped, it was for a gentle reminder. That would never happen back home.

  5. I was standing on the sidewalk in Merida, waiting for a ride. For about 10 minutes I watched the young traffic policeman (who indeed was short and dressed in blue) as he directed traffic with assertive flourishes on his whistle. Then he strolled over and, all smiles, introduced himself. We chatted about the weather (he was bundled in a thick parka and said he was was a policeman icicle – it was about 65 F) and the local Tigers baseball team, of which he was very proud. I thought he had finished work, but then he ambled back into the intersection and started directing traffic again. He had just taken a break to satisfy his curiosity about the gringo hanging out on the corner.

  6. The concept of helping little old ladies across the street may have disappeared from the States, but I can certainly testify that the practice is still alive and well in Merida, Yucatan. I was barely 50 years old when I first arrived in Merida and, from the first day, the Tourist Police had me by the elbow, guiding me across the street, with admonitions to watch my step and be careful of vehicles. I am now 59 years old and, when in Yucatan, often go to Centro for lunch. I step toward the curb and a member of the Tourist Police “appears,” takes me by the elbow, and we both begin to laugh. I “play-slap” his hands from my arm with “I am NOT a tourist and I can DO it by mySELF!” He giggles and replies, “Of COURSE you can, Senora. Now, watch your step and be careful of vehicles” – then he takes my elbow and away we go. I have been guided safely across the street yet again. …and do you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know it and so do the Tourist Police. Bless their hearts, every single one of them.

  7. http://www.yucatanliving.com – the most necessary site!

    Thank for your help! I think it wasnt easy to post here so much information.


  8. Wishing all of you a safe-encounter with Hurricane Dean!

  9. I was in Merida 1st week of November and rented a car. Got pulled over by a traffic cop while driving through the Centro. He wanted to impond my vehiocle license plates for running a yellow light. Apparently that is standard process. Two takeaways, one: dont run yellow lights if you can help it while negotiating the busy streets – stop promptly. Two if you do get pulled over and license plate removal comes up as a request, try looking downcast and humble ask if “there is another way to find a solution to the problem”. In my case there was a prompt 200 peso solution offered by the kind officer..which was better then going to the Lic. plate office the next day to retrieve the plates.

  10. Well, maybe, but bribery is a problem the government is trying to stamp out. In the USA (or many other countries) trying to buy your way out of a traffic infraction will lead to an arrest. The “standard process” is to take your actual drivers license to insure you show up to pay your real fine. At the police station, not the license plate office. Not sure if there was confusion about the plates or otherwise, but….

    Well, Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. Shahbaz: I had my back license plate removed as a result of parking too close to the corner and I did go to the Lic. plate office to get it back. For future knowledge: the process for getting my plate back (the next morning) was fast and efficient and to boot, only 70 pesos (1/2 the fee if you pay within 15 days).

  12. Re: Grant’s “I’ve been stopped twice by the Estadales while driving. Both times they were totally professional and let me off with a polite warning.”

    I was stopped once by a state policeman… guess what he said as he walked up to my car? … “Oh Lord! An American!” He showed me his little radar screen – I was SO guilty!!! He put his finger in my face and growled (with a little grin): “And DON’T do it AGAIN!!!” Thank you Thank you Thank you… I’ll be good I’ll be good I’ll be good. He just shook his head and went back to his car. I waved goodbye, he grinned – and I was on my way.

    State police in the States are very mean. I am “just a grandmother” and am scared to death of them! But never in Mexico!

    I was also stopped on that long stretch of road that cuts from Escarcega over to Campeche. Its so straight and so easy to speed. He was coming toward me in a blue pickup truck. I saw the police insignia on his door as he passed me and watched him in my rear view mirror as he turned around. I pulled over, rolled down my window and waited. I was caught – dead to rights – so no point in complaining. He got out of his truck and ambled to my car. Then, in his very best John Wayne imitation drawled “What’s yor hurry, Mam?” I just died laughing and said, “You’ve been waiting all your life to say that!!!” He tipped his hat and said, “Now – you have a nice day, Mam.” By that time we were both laughing. He had gotten my attention just by stopping me. I would behave after that and he knew it. He went back to his truck, turned around and drove away. I came on home to Yucatan in just the best mood ever!

  13. My wife and I just returned from a visit to Merida. During that time we had several opportunities to watch the various Merida police in action, and in each case were impressed with what we saw.

    The first time was during the fiesta opening the anniversary celebrations on Jan. 5. We were eating dinner at a cafe right across from the Cathedral on Plaza Mayor, and while we were there the cops made two arrests (most likely for public drunkeness, but I don’t really know why.) In each case the police acted not just professionaly but almost gently, and each time it was the same; three cops escorting the culprit away from the scene by surrounding him, one guiding him with a hand on the shoulder; no handcuffs, no billyclubs, no public humiliation and no violence. Earlier, on a street nearby, we saw the exact same thing, so that seems to be their modus operandus; overwhelming presence (3 or 4 to 1) but minimal force used.

    Also–across the street from the hotel where we stayed (La Luz en Yucatan on calle 55) lives a woman who evidently has psychiatric problems, as she regularly stands in the street and screams at people who aren’t there. The owner of the hotel told us that the cops usually just ignore her unless she does something destructive, even though she has a really, REALLY foul mouth. Well….it seems that a few weeks ago she walked down to the corner and, in front of several cops, pushed over a police motorcycle parked at the corner of Calle 55 and calle 60. So what did the cops do? Rough her up? Haul her away? No. They put her in the back of the pickup truck thay also had there, and one of the lady cops sat on her and talked to her until she calmed down. Then they let her go.

  14. Alan,
    That has certainly been our experience of the police here in the Yucatan as well. The one or two times we have been stopped for a traffic violation, they have been incredibly gentle and kind. And whenever we have seen them engaged in activities such as you described, they have always been the same. We once saw a man stopped for a traffic ticket who was pleading his cause with the policeman as they stood on the sidewalk. He casually put his hand on the cop’s shoulder as he was making a particular point. Where we come from (in California), that would be grounds for arrest. We think the Yucatecan way works a lot better.

  15. Working Gringos,

    See this is different I like your comments, that is very true, haven not been in Merida for 3 or 4 year now but I think the police is good. I remember that type of policemen riding in Harley – Davisons, blue dark uniforms and Machine Guns, Are they still running that way?

  16. The police force in Yucatan (hell, in the world) is like a box of chocolates past its expiration date. You might find helpful, understanding and helpful policemen but chances are that the ones who come to your aid immediately turn on you and start harassing you for no reason, trying to get something out of you (money, or amusement out of annoying innocent people).
    Thing is, my advice is to stay away from them as much as possible. They thing citizens don’t have rights, they simply ignore the law. Make your voice heard if they ever try to cross the line (like searching you without a warrant or detaining you for no reason). They’re dumber than usual these days btw.

  17. shahbaz: That’s not standard, that’s extortion.


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