As many of you know when we moved down to Guatemala we drove down and have subsequently made that drive three times since. It’s a pleasant drive for the most part. In 2018 we were making the trip back for my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary and decided to take 10 days and see some sites in Mexico on our way up. Instead of going through the southern border through Tapachula we went through a northern border called the Mesilla.
Things didn’t go as we planned at the border. We stamped out of Guatemala and went to get our paperwork in Mexico. When bringing a car into Mexico(unless you are staying within 50km of the border) you have to put a deposit on the car as a guarantee that you will remove the car from the country. This ranges anywhere from $200 – $600 USD depending on the year. Also, you must have the registration up to date, and taxes paid up on the vehicle.
When we arrived at the Mexican side at about 11:00 am there was a less-than-friendly customs agent that greeted us. He started the paperwork but the registration for the car had expired a week or two previously. So he sent us back to the Guatemalan side to get that taken care of. The distance between the two customs stations was about 2.5 miles. We got the paperwork taken care of and went back to the Mexican side. The agent found another problem and we were sent back again. We returned only to be sent back again due to their billing system being down. When we finally finished the paperwork it was around 5:00 pm. As we were leaving, the custom agent casually said to us “oh by the way, there is major protest gong on and the main road to Ciudad Cuauhtémoc is blocked. Don’t worry though, they normally end about 7:00pm.”
We went and got something to eat and waited it out but the protest never ended. We were in our car waiting for what seemed like about four hours. Finally, Wendy said, “let me go see what is going on and try and figure something out.” My wife Wendy is a really smooth talker. She has the ability to tell people things in a way they understand and feel good about. In Guatemala they call this having a “buena casaca.” So she goes up to talk to the main people.
She finds out that the dispute is over water rights. The Campesinos were protesting the government’s allocation of water. She tried to reason with them and tell them that we are United States tourists and that we have nothing to do with their protest and to let us through. No dice. They wouldn’t budge. Then she tries to tell them that her son was sick and let us through to go to a doctor. My son was sick due to heat exhaustion but that wasn’t persuading them either. Finally she pulled the big guns. She started criticizing their methods.
She asked, “if this is a protest, where are the cameras, where’s the news? If there is no news, then there is no pressure for the government to act. All you are doing is making everyone that is trying to pass angry. Those people will not solve your problem.” That was it. That was the spark that ignited it all. After she said that one of the other protestors said “I told you we needed to get more coverage!”
Within 15 minutes two factions had emerged. One led by the original protestors and those in opposition to the leadership of the protestors led by none other than my dear wife. She had splintered the group. They were fighting it out over the merits of the protest and its intended goals. This went on for about 15 minutes when one of the original protestors hurled a sexist insult at Wendy. That was a mistake because at this point in the argument Wendy had backup. She was the leader of the resistance and within 30 minutes that she had splintered the group she had gained the respect of the opposition. So, when the resistance people heard the sexist insult they went off and defended Wendy and were ready to go to get violent to defend her. At that point, I had to tell Wendy that we needed to get out of there before things turned violent.
We ended up leaving and getting back to the Guatemalan border just as they were closing. Even though we had stamped out of Guatemala they let us back in to find a hotel for the night(very nice and understanding border agent). The next day they were still protesting but since we had all of our paperwork taken care of and have our Mexicans visas we could find another route. We ended up finding an unmarked back road that we could simply bypass the protest.
Just another one of the many adventures we had in Guatemala and Mexico. There was never a dull moment it seemed. We dealt with narcos, corrupt police, corrupt mayors (I was in the news a couple of times protesting a corrupt mayor), and a whole host of other things I will write about in the future.