Household Contents Into Mexico
Faithful (Starkman Collection)
your worldly possessions into Mexico is both an art and a
science, even more so if you intend to do so on your own
and all. Then the task also becomes a challenge and an adventure.
No matter what the Canadian or American Consul in Oaxaca advises,
and regardless of the steps the Mexican counterpart in your
city of origin states you must follow, youll be met
with surprises. Having survived the feat, traveling about
5,000 km over eight days from Toronto in a grossly over-weighted
3 ton cube van qualifies me to shed light on the process and
make it easier for others.
Before deciding to make the trek on your own rather than hire
a mover (which has its own set of complications,) crunch the
numbers. Can your vehicle make the journey? If not, what will
it cost to buy a truck that can make the trip safely without
breaking down, as opposed to paying third parties (brokers,
transport companies, etc.?) What will fuel, tolls, meals and
hotels cost for two? A former long-haul truck driver
friend made the trip with me since a solo effort is extremely
arduous. Check to ensure that once youve reached your
destination in the Republic youll be permitted to sell
that particular make, year and model of van. Contrary to popular
belief, not all foreign vehicles at least ten years old can
be sold here. Do you really want to be burdened with a large
truck in southern Mexico that you can drive but not sell,
rent or use for remunerative purposes?
To import menaje de casa (household contents) you must
list every item, in both Spanish and English, making several
copies to present to the Mexican authorities at the border
and for the initial permission youll be seeking in your
soon-to-be former home city. Each electronic and electrical
item must include make, model and serial number. Extra copies
are a help for when youre stopped by police once youve
entered Mexico, and to cross reference when the actual border
ordeal is upon you. Canadian Consul Frances May impressed
one point upon me: make the list as detailed as possible,
because if you omit a paperclip thats in a box, and
the authorities at the crossing find it, theyll make
you unpack everything. We went to great lengths to
follow her advice, starting the enumerating and packing months
before departure so as to not be overwhelmed doing everything
in a couple of weeks. A 35 page typed single spaced list,
with translation, enumerating the contents of some 200 boxes
as well as furniture, was presented to the Mexican consul
at Toronto a couple of days prior to departure: Too
much, its not reasonable for a family to have such a
quantity, so we wont give our approval, we were
told. And some items were possibly prohibited (be careful
with foods, liquor, cleaning products, collectibles, etc.)
Damned if we were going to unpack the truck and go through
every box, leaving behind what wed spent a lifetime
accumulating, already having pared down our possessions through
a contents sale. Solution? We condensed all into five pages,
by combining items and being creative in terms of listing
and categorizing. We placed virtually the same items in a
different format and received the Mexican Governments
blessing (and more importantly, stamp of provisional approval---border
personnel have the ultimate authority.) How does one do it?
Make the contents appear to be less and illustrative
of where in a home items will go. For example, if you have
4 TVs in 4 different boxes, list them on one or two lines
instead of 7 8 lines, with the initial word Television(s),
then putting abbreviated descriptions and where each
will go (i.e. lr, br). In this way youve more than halved
the verbiage and shown that your home reasonably accommodates
what youre bringing. Do the same thing with artwork.
We had collectible glassware in perhaps 30 different boxes,
again the contents of each box listed in detail. Second time
around we listed on a couple of lines instead of 50 lines,
87 pieces of collectible green depression glass.
This official list didnt have box numbers,
although we still took with us, safely hidden away, the original
enumeration with box numbers, just in case.
We had anticipated spending a half a day at the Canada-U.S.
border. Instead, after 3 minutes we were waived through, without
even having to open the trucks back door, simply because
we were able to present the original list to the border patrolwoman.
The last thing she was interested in doing was burden a colleague
with spending hours searching through a truck which was to
her, packed meticulously.
Crossing at Laredo was different. Make sure you know from
which of the potential bridge crossings you are to enter Mexico.
There is merit in choosing a city with only one crossing.
Do not arrive on a Friday afternoon. Our border point was
closed from 4 pm Friday until Monday morning. Since the steps
required to ultimately get into the country are time-consuming,
migración probably wont even start with you
much after noon on a Friday. We arrived after 3, and had to
spend the weekend in Laredo. You can still buy your vehicle
insurance (wise but possibly not mandatory,) secure the permit
to drive the truck in the country, and walk across into Mexico
to spend a few hours sightseeing.
Negotiating your way through the actual border can take a
full day, in our case 7 hours. While we were lead to believe
that having a customs broker is not a prerequisite, somehow
we became convinced that it was the way to go. Dollars and
hours later, our man had gone through some of our boxes and
approved the next step, a meeting with the licenciada
(immigration official, technically anyone with a university
degree) at the docks. This is where all our advance
effort paid off. No matter how straight you think you are
in terms of following the rules, theres always the worry
that you might have forgotten to list something, put a paperclip
in the wrong box or brought a prohibited product. A provocatively
dressed young female border official seemed to enjoy toying
with us as she bent over to examine contents of boxes she
ordered removed from the truck by her two male designates
in 100 degree heat. She had before her the 5 page list, from
which she demanded to see various items. Our master list told
us in which box to look, and an oversized bristol board legend
directed us to the quadrant of the truck in we would find
each box. Salma never backed down, even when told
that the JVC Receiver she wanted to examine was stowed mid-truck
in a bottom box.
Eventually we made it through this stage, a blueprint for
others. Our broker used us as an example as to how to list
contents, when explaining to a couple of would-be immigrants
that they couldnt even get to the unloading dock.
After satisfying our dutiful official, we were required to
then pass a further checkpoint, whereupon if you push the
button and get the red light, another border employee makes
you jump through the same hoops. Green it was!
On the highways, in the US we simply flew by all weigh stations,
knowing we were overweight and fearing being fined and sent
back to each state line. Theres always a patrol car
at the scales waiting to pull you over. Although the van was
large and registered commercial, a touristy-looking passenger
putting his feet up on the dash and appearing to be reading
a book may tip the balance as it did for us time and time
again. A breakdown in Smalltown, Kentucky, was our only setback,
but after five hours we were on the road again.
Rules to follow include: don´t drive after dark, eat
well in good restaurants, and stay in comfortable motels.
It makes the trip much more pleasant. In Mexico, use the no-tell
motels, since they tend to be extremely luxurious and inexpensive,
albeit without lobbies or much in the way of staff. The owners
of the motels count on a heavy nightly turnover from repeat
as opposed to travelers.
Oaxacans caution to avoid driving through Mexico City because
of traffic, and more importantly the custom of police pulling
over out-of-state trucks to exact a toll. Theres
also the regulation regarding on which days vehicles with
plates ending in what numbers can drive through D.F.
We traversed the Capitol over two and a half hours during
rush hour, no other large trucks to be seen (probably prohibited
at this time or altogether from being on these highways,)
only once hearing a patrol cars siren several cars back.
Both we and its occupant simply carried on, the traffic being
too intense for either of us to reach the other.
On the final day of the trek a Puebla state trooper pulled
us over, checked all our documentation, and after a brief
exchange of pleasantries we were on the last leg of our journey,
with nary a regret. Such an adventure complements and is a
great start to the lifestyle change upon which youre
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