Panga fisherman challenges
Tourist cards can be validated for up to 180 days, but it's not always easy. They were still "free" the first time we arrived in Ensenada. We waited an hour or so in the inevitable line, after spending another hour finding the Migración office among the fish canneries and warehouses near the Ensenada waterfront. We presented our passports to the man with the stamp, a polite immigration officer who spoke good English, and told him we would like 180 days, please.
the Pacific surf.
The ensuing conversation went something like this:
"I am sorry, señor, but we don't usually give more than 30 days, unless you have a permission form from the Office of Government Inconvenience and Impossible Delays. To get that you must first make an appointment with the Minister of Bureaucratic Indifference and obtain a Certificate of Absolute Necessity."
"And where do we make the appointment?"
"At the Department of Snowballs in Hell, señor, on the far side of Ensenada. You can find the office right behind Eduardo's taco cart, if Eduardo is working, and if he hasn't moved his cart. But, the office is closed in the morning on weekdays, and they are not open at all in the afternoon, or on Saturdays or Sundays."
"Might it be possible to pay some sort of...fee...or something...to speed things up a bit?"
"And how much would that fee be?"
"That is up to you, señor."
Ensenada, and the end of
So, I laid two one-hundred-peso notes on the counter. That was worth about twenty-five U. S. dollars at the time. I was later told, by someone no more familiar with this routine than I was, that I paid too much.
the four-lane highway.
At any rate, the polite official deftly pulled a cardboard box, brimming with colorful large peso notes and ten and twenty-dollar U. S. greenbacks, from under the counter and swept our contribution onto the heap. Thirty seconds later we had our tourist cards stamped for 180 days, and that was the last time we got our papers in Ensenada.
Today, it's not so simple. Now you must pay a fee (about $16) to get your tourist card validated. For some reason, the government doesn't seem to trust immigration officials to collect the fee. It must be paid at a bank, so now you need two stamps instead of one.
You can get into the country without paying the fee, but you might not get back out until you find a bank, and somebody inside with the right stamp. This fee is already so unpopular that, at last report, the Mexican consul in San Diego was soliciting letters from American tourists, to try to get his own government to repeal it.