Friday, 22 November 2013

The Traveler's Life - An Irishman in Mexico

November is my ‘month of bureaucracy’, one I look forward to annually with some trepidation. This year however, it has passed without a hitch, making me wonder whether Mexico’s famous bureaucratic processes, which for so long have been time consuming nightmares, are finally being overhauled and improved to the benefit of all?

The month started with the renewal of my “Residente Temporal” (temporary resident) card – formerly known as ‘FM2’. It was the first time I was renewing under the new immigration rules, reason alone to be nervous, but forms were filed, appointment was given, and the card (previously given on the spot) was sent from Mexico City in less than 2 weeks, rather than the promised 3. Since the new rules allow multi-year renewals, the first time will also have been the last time I need to renew, and in 2 years from now, I will be able to change to the permanent resident card. Immigration – check!

Next, payment of my Fideicomiso (bank trust, which enables non-Mexicans to own property in the restricted zones of the country, near the coasts and international borders – soon, hopefully, to be abolished). I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Scotiabank, the holders of my Fideicomiso. They love me, as they get to take my money every year; I hate them for their inefficiency and lack of customer service. Last year, they double charged my fees to my credit card, and it took months of corresponding with the bank and the credit card company to get the charge corrected. This year, I decided that cash was the way to go; presented myself at the Scotiabank location on Calle 59 in centro, paid, and was given my receipt right away. That easy. Fideicomiso – check!

Finally, renewal of my Yucatan driving license. Obtaining the original 2 years ago was a bureaucratic farce worthy of its own TV show, so it was with a large pinch of salt that I took the instructions for renewing it, which made the process sound extremely easy and straightforward. According to the state government website, I could renew at one of the ‘modules’ located around town, presenting nothing more than the original license and a photocopy. Expecting the worst, and armed with passport, proof of address, and reading material for a lengthy wait, I went to the ‘module’ at Plaza Fiesta. There was no line. I handed my old license to the clerk (copy was not requested), provided a digital signature, fingerprints, and photo, and paid. Ten minutes later, I was back outside, new license in hand. Driving license renewal – check!

So what is going on? I pay my electricity bill, phone bill, and water bill online. Annual property tax can be paid online. Garbage collection fees (at least in centro) can be paid at one of the ‘modules’. I even recently received a package from Acapulco by Correos de Mexico, the notoriously inefficient Mexican postal service, in less than a week. Life suddenly seems less complicated here. Don’t worry though; if you are missing the experience of spending an entire day dealing with meaningless paperwork, there are still opportunities. Recently a friend of mine lost the license plate from the front of his car. The resulting process was also worthy of its own TV show, and stretched over three partial days.

While we’re on the subject of documentation, one of the benefits of being ‘An Irishman in Mexico’ is being able to present my Irish passport as ID, in banks, offices, etc. The passport is primarily written, as one would expect, in Irish. It carries glorious paragraphs such as “Iarran Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha na hÉireann ar gach n-aon lena mbaineann ligean dá shealbhóir seo, saoránach d’Éirinn, gabháil ar aghaidh gan bhac gan chosc agus gach cúnamh agus caomhnú is gá a thabhairt don sealbhóir. Yup, it’s all Greek to me, too. There are not many Irish people in Merida, and hence, Irish passports are a rarity, and it is always a delight to see the look of complete bemusement on the face of the clerk or official who requested to see the passport. Even I don’t speak Irish, but fortunately, the salient parts are also written in English, from where I can translate them to Spanish if requested.

What else this week? Feria Yucatan continues at the fairgrounds at Xmatkuil, to the south of the city. Check the website at for schedules, maps, and more information. If you haven’t been yet, plan to go before it ends on Sunday December 1st.

And hopefully next week, the long awaited and often delayed opening of “Union Jacks”, Merida’s first British restaurant!

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