Wednesdays with Mr. Ragtime

“Please, please, forget just one shopping trip to the United States.  Make your next purchases in San Felipe (you will also save your car from the ravages of the Highway 5 construction).”




Several months ago, I had occasion to stop at the Pemex station on Hwy. 5, by the big alligator/crocodile sign.  An attendant came over and began cleaning my windshield.   I was late, had need to use a restroom.  To save time, I asked him to dispense quinientos pesos (roughly $45 at that time) of roja, that I was going to the restroom, and I handed him a MN$ 500 peso bill.  When I returned, he was gone.  Out of habit, I checked my gas gauge – the tank should have been full.  You guessed it.  He wasn’t an employee.  After cleaning my windshield, he just took off with my 500-pesos.

The store cashiers were very helpful, said no gasoline was put in my Cadillac, that the ‘hombre’ was not employed there.  They also called the policia.  The police responded within a few minutes, checked my Mexican driver’s license, and took my statement.  I told them I was returning to my casa in the ‘hood’.

I wasn’t home more than 10-minutes when a couple of different cops came to my door.  The thief had been apprehended and was in custody.  Would I please go to the police station to identify him and file an official report.  Within an hour, I had my 500-pesos back – I don’t know what happened to the thief but I believe they said they would let him go mañana if I didn’t file charges – which I didn’t.  I’m still not sure what mañana realistically means.

I was amazed at the efficiency, frontier-justice approach, and friendly assistance given to a ‘stupid American’.  I doubt if the outcome would have been similar if I was a Mexican in the United States.

In the fifteen plus years I have been living here, I have been stopped three times by the police.  Two stops were fully justified, the third, questionable.  All should have resulted in tickets.  But I have a Mexican driver’s license.  When an officer looks at it, he realizes I am not a transient but a local and he is much more liberal/tolerant than one would expect.  I have never been cited.  Moral of the Story – Get a Mexican driver’s license.

While we usually remember our charities during the Christmas season, this year is quite unique.  With the uncertain conditions in the United States, San Felipians need immediate help.  Virtually all construction is at a standstill,  shrimping has been severely curtailed, commercial fish has had a bad season, many tiendas have closed their doors, and most restaurants have curtailed their hours.

A few years ago, some supposedly negative aspersions on the “charities” in San Felipe were made.  Legal action was promptly threatened.  Maybe I just have broader shoulders; maybe I’m just too old to give a damn; maybe I just say “Come and get me” but you should be forewarned about some of the scams operating here under the guise of charity.

Without being too specific, I’ll outline several.  If they sound familiar – Caveat Emptor ……(one of my favorite phrases).

a)  Several residents have begged for money to pay for non-existent medical conditions requiring expensive attention in the United States.  Money collections have been instituted on their behalf.  If you feel you must donate, make your checks payable to their doctor or other medical provider.

b)    Pet sanctuaries have been on my questionable list for many years.  Some have proven o.k., others just a source of income for their managers.

c)    Homes, residences, orphanages, hostels for young abandoned children.  I know of none that have been legitimate.  Most cruises, cars or lotteries for them have been scams.  Always check with DIF.

d)  While fairly common, several civic organizations send a percentage of their income to entities outside their local area.  Be sure your donation will benefit the local charity of your choice.

e)    Poorly operated food banks with foods rotting on their shelves.

f)   While not a charity, several out-of-town motels/hotels have made outrageous untrue claims in their advertising to unsuspecting tourists in the U.S.   Several have very impressive, carefully worded, ads.  Advise your friends of some of these unscrupulous lodgings – and NEVER pay in advance by credit card or check, especially to a United States address.

g)    Prepayment for materials may be requested on   your project with the contractor then disappearing.

Over the years, various charities and religious organizations both within Baja and the United States have raised a lot of money supposedly for charities within Baja, a high percentage being fraudulent.  Our Easter earthquake victims were a good example.  Use extreme caution.

If in doubt, check with the government Social and Family Services department  (Sistema para el desarrollo integral de la familia  – DIF).

Raffles/lotteries have complex regulations in Mexico.  For the most part, they are illegal.

Please, please, forgot just one shopping trip to the United States.  Make your next purchases in San Felipe (you will also save your car from the ravages of the Highway 5 construction).


Mr. Ragtime’s views and comments are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of “Kat’s Korner”, or its owners.

8 Responses to “Wednesdays with Mr. Ragtime”
  1. Heidi Blue

    Here here Mr. Ragtime. I too have experience many positive and warm activities with locals and government officials in San Felipe and other areas of Mexico.

  2. Julie Willis

    How does one go about getting a Mexican driver’s license?

    • Kat

      Go to the Red Cross and get a health certificate. Bring your FM3 or FM2 and a utility bill. I think they charge about $35 dollars, mas o minus. If you live where you don’t have a utility bill, a letter from the owner of the development or house will suffice. The test is on a computer and it’s in Spanish. You can bring someone with you, but they are pretty nice there and will help – it’s mostly photos. Good luck and if anyone knows of any changes, let us know please! Kat

    • MrRagtime

      I paid $16 last Dec. for a 4-year license. They take your pic. License looks identical to a Calif. license. Their office is on Mar Caribe Norte (north at the circle)- just above the ballfield – a series of blue and white buildings.

    • MrRagtime

      Red Cross charges US$10 – no exam. Red Cross is by telephone office. No appointment necessary

  3. Chuck Bryant

    Scrutiny welcomed at Volunteers Without Limits

    • Tom Bothwell

      Please have someone stop by for my $1,000 check

  4. Tom Scott

    WOW !!! You do have “broad shoulders”.

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