The Odd Pot

Zany Latino life

We had to get new license plates on the cars this year.

In Houston, this is how it happened: The government mailed you the bill. You returned it with a check, and a couple of weeks later the postman brought your plates to the door. End of story.

Here’s how it happens down here:

Usually, we go to a nearby office, stand in line and pay the car tax. We get a receipt and a sticker for the car window. It can take a couple of hours or more.

Three or four years ago, they announced it could all be done online. I tried that. You could pay online, but you could not get the sticker online, and you need the sticker. To get that sticker, you had to return to the office and stand in line. Catch 22.

Most Latino stuff online is laughable.

Every five or so years, they change the license plates, and that’s when it really gets fun. They changed the plates this year. Here’s how that went:

I went to the office in January, early. I paid the tax and was told there would be new plates this year. But the plates had not arrived yet. Come back later.

The old plates are good till December, so not to worry.

The office is on a main drag, and we drive by there every day. For months we saw mobs of people standing outside the door. The mobs diminished recently, so we returned this week with the proper paperwork.

Latinos love paperwork. They realize this is a problem, and they are fighting this lamentable trait but with only marginal success. Their hearts are not in it.

Plus, paperwork lets bureaucrats feel like big shots.

Here’s what we had to return to the office with:

1. A copy of the car’s original receipt of purchase.

2. The receipt of the tax paid in January.

3. The old “circulation card,” which is a piece of paper you must keep in the car. It’s like the registration. You’ll be getting a new one with the plates.

4. Copy of an official identification. Driver’s license or voter card will do.

5. Copy of your “CURP,” which is a national identification number.

6. A copy of your electric bill or something similar with your address. Sure, the address is on your driver’s license and on the tax receipt too, but they really want to be convinced, plus it’s an opportunity to ask for more paperwork.

7. The old car plates.

Interestingly, what they do not require is proof of liability insurance.

But know that cops do care about liability insurance.

After going to one desk to have all the paperwork checked, we were told to take a seat “for about an hour.” We did so, and finally received our new plates, stickers and circulation cards in one hour and five minutes, give or take. We have two cars.

* * * *

My driver’s license, which I renewed five years ago, expires in two months, so while waiting I asked about the renewal, which is done in the same office.

Here’s what I need for that:

1. A copy of my voter card. Yes, here you must have an official card with a photo to vote, and nobody gripes about how discriminatory it is. This card also serves as sort of a national ID even though you are not required to have it, only if you want to vote.

2. A copy of your electric bill or something similar with your address.

3. A clean bill of health. Your own doctor cannot provide this. You must go to a government clinic and stand in line. The exam is a joke and costs about $3.

4. Your old driver’s license.

The renewal is available for various periods from one to 10 years. More years, the higher the cost. The 10-year license runs about $115 at today’s exchange rate.

But I will be 78 in a decade, and my father died at 75. He and I were very much alike. Perhaps the five-year license would be more sensible and realistic.

17 thoughts on “Zany Latino life

    1. Steve: I considered touching on this aspect, but the post is already longer than I like to make them. You are quite correct, of course. They learned well from the Spaniards. And they are loathe to let go of it.


  1. *warning that this is a of a rant, a bit off topic*

    “…here you must have an official card with a photo to vote, and nobody gripes about how discriminatory it is.”

    You also cannot receive Seguro Popular, enroll in Oportunidades or other welfare programs, let alone work or receive social benefits if you do not have proper legal documentation. Maybe that’s because it is a ration policy that most Mexicans agree with. Or maybe it’s because foreigners, legal or not, cannot voice their political opinion in Mexico as they can in other countries. This is another part of the zany Latino life.


  2. All one needs to do is to read Mexican history. Paperwork is profitable. Everyone profits except you. Notaries public profit, photographers profit, Zerox copiers profit, abogados profit and government officials profit. There are few things one can do to avoid this, such as getting married in Belize if you marry a Mexican national. It will save you thousands of dollars and months of waiting.


    1. Andres: Paperwork is profitable, plus it creates jobs. It was true in Spain way back when, and it is profitable here … still.

      Never heard the Belize thing. But I was still a foreigner when I married a local, and it was pretty easy, plus fast and cheap enough. Piece of cake, actually. Maybe it’s different in other parts of the country.


  3. Go for the ten years, amigo. In five years you will regret it. I should write a post about my amazing day today at the bank. I renewed my car registration, paid my bills, and made a deposit in less than an hour. It was wondrous. I still rely on my US Driver’s license. I have used it here for 5 years, although the law says I can only use it 3 months. I dread that process but it must be done before some cop quits believing that I am a newbie.


    1. Teguz: Oh, I will get the ten years. I was just musing in the post.

      Now go get your driver’s license. It will likely be easier than you think. Perhaps it will even be wondrous.

      Don’t be a scofflaw.


      1. Scofflaw? Lovely word. Bad idea for me to spend a day in Honduran jail for lack of a license. However, I doubt if it will be wondrous. I dread sitting through the class I must take. I have hearing problems, and I can scarcely hear English speakers in large class settings. I can’t imagine a noisy old room with a fast speaking Honduran giving a lecture. Then, the test! !Dios mio!


  4. It’s not just Mexico that loves the run-a-round. We are moving ownership of car titles and plates around for the kids’ cars. I got a call a few moments ago asking where there might be a different place than the one the wife and son were at to get new plates for one of the cars. It seems when they were changing a title, they missed one spot that needed signed. When they went to get the plate (at a different place, of course) the plate lady said that the title lady needed to see the signing in person. Linda and the son were planning fraud, just sign it in the car and go to a different place. My church lady wife was on the verge of becoming a swearing lady over the matter.


  5. In Georgia you must now renew your driver’s license in person. Previously, it could be done online. You now have to bring an original or certified birth certificate, a social security card, proof of address, marriage license if you are a married woman with different name then birth certificate. It does not matter if you already had a license. One of my friends, in her 60s, has her original, handwritten birth certificate from a now no longer in existence south Ga. hospital. They would not accept it, even though she has had a license all her life. Obviously there is no way to get a new “certified” copy. They turned her away, don’t know what will happen. Thanks Georgia Republican politicians!


    1. Celeste: It’s sad to hear such stuff, that the U.S. is becoming more like where I am in some ways, and not in the good ways.

      As you know, I too am in my 60s, and I too have a hand-written birth certificate, a keepsake attesting to the fact that I was hatched. I also have an official certified one from the government. All you have to do is request it from the records office. I did that about six or seven years ago. Piece of cake. Your friend is not stranded.

      Yes, your governor is Republican, but he was a Democrat up to a few years ago, and that would have been where he learned bad habits.


Comments are closed.