Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Registering my Car or Mastering Mexican Administration

Well, its been just over a month since I've been back in Colima Mexico. I've had a few more delightful Mexican experiences and I feel a need to share. But first, I found this lovely little video about Colima that I am going to link here. Watch as much of it as you want so you will understand why I love to live here. Then read my adventure, which is also why I love to live here in a perverse kind of way.

[This last about 9 minutes, watch as much as you want]

The Challenge of Registering my Car

The Problem
I bought a used car in Guadalajara, which is in a different state than Colima, before I left last spring. I knew that when I returned I would have to get the licence plates changed to Colima state where I live. I also sort of knew that this would involve doing something about changing the actual ownership registration to my name.

In the Beginning
I was not a complete innocent [or idiot] when I bought the car. I did get what I was assured were all the necessary papers demonstrating my ownership of the vehicle, some of them actually featuring my name. I also had insurance for the car in my own name and with my correct address. I knew where I had to go to take care of the business in Colima city.

What I Tried First

I thought the registration and licensing process might be time consuming and that I would have to wait in many lines but I didn't think that it would actually prove impossible for me to do myself. How wrong I was. I could provide you with the painful blow-by-blow [and if you see me any time soon and mention cars you may want to leave quickly before I get up my full head of steam].

Suffice it to say that time passed, I got many people involved, made several trips to the transportation authority, sat in several lines for several hours, phoned people, sent emails and faxes begging for missing pieces of information, and became very stressed before I finally gave in.

I knew what to do because, during the time I was waiting patiently in line one of the days I was trying to do the task myself with the help of a Mexican friend, I saw how the system actually worked. From time to time, a man would come in with a file, bypass the whole line and drop the file on the desk of the officer we were all waiting to see. Before the next person in line actually had their turn, the officer always took care of the file so discretely dropped on his or her desk. A few minutes later that same person would walk past again, say something to the officer and pick up the file and move on. My companion nodded to one of them as he swept past us and told me they were called coyotes. “Viva Mexico”, he added wryly.

While All This Was Going On

All this took time of course. While I was taking this time I did not have any licence plates on my car since I needed to have them with me to get new ones. I figured this meant I couldn't drive my car. Not so, my Mexican friends and advisors assured me. Just bring them along in the car. Or even if you don't, it doesn't really matter, you're not going to get stopped. I was rather nervous about this, but I took their advice when driving with them and so it proved. I was even waved through a couple of police road checks. What's the small matter of no licence plates, seemed to be the attitude. We have bigger issues on our minds.

What I Did in the End
Anyway, I finally decided that I had done all I could myself. So I held my nose, closed my eyes, opened my wallet, and paid the friend of a friend who during the day is a transportation authority employee and at in his free time moonlights 'helping' people with the red tape. My 'helper' took my various documents and went away. Two days later he returned with my new Colima plates and car ownership registration.

What I Learned that May Help You

1. Buy a car in your own state. NEVER in another state.
2. Buy a NEW car if you can. If you can't, expect documentation troubles.
3. Bring a savvy Mexican friend with you when making your car purchase so you actually get the right papers and the right papers are signed in the right places.
4. Keep ALL your papers FOREVER. MAKE COPIES of ALL your papers. Guard them with your life.
5. Recognize that you will never be given a complete list of all the documents you need the first time you go to an office. The Mexicans are so used to this they make a joke of it, something to the effect of, “Yes, but you haven't brought your death certificate.” So don't get mad. Build it into your planning that you will have to visit the office several times. Consider this part of your Mexican cultural experience.
6. Accept that even after you have done all this, you may not be able to get through the paper work yourself. But at least you have a fighting chance.

Coming Next
Next week I am moving house. That has been an adventure too. Read about it in my next blog....

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