I’d just spent four days in magical Tolantongo, Hidalgo. It was the first time I’d ever been to hot springs in my life. Beforehand, I’d felt a little down, but after those days bathing in waters full of minerals with good company, I felt much more refreshed. I’d recorded a couple of interviews with Gela, talking about the unusual way she lives her life, living in a tropical paradise giving dietary consultations, teaching children without a curriculum, and eating 38 coconuts per week.
We pulled up in Mexico City, stopped for a few hours to eat some buddha bowls, then headed out on a bus to Guadalajara around 11pm. I soon fell asleep.
I was awakened around 2am by some men getting on the bus. My heart started to pound as I realised it was the immigration authorities. According to the letter of the law, as a tourist, I can only enter Mexico for 180 days at a time. Then, I must leave and return in order to continue there. I had not done that.
Gela tried to talk to the agents and we asked if there was a fine or something I could pay. One of the agents started shouting at Gela, asking if she was illegal, though she’d just shown her passport a few minutes before, demonstrating she’d entered the country 5 days ago.
Eventually it became clear that there was no other way around it, I would have to go with these men. I took my belongings, and went with them to a van. It’s funny that Mexican immigration agents don’t know that the words “papers, please” are almost a joke in English-speaking culture, as a symbol of an oppressive regime. Later when I told my brother, he compared it to taking a bus from Leichhardt to Central station, and being told that he could not continue in Australia. That’s more or less how it felt.
The good news is, I am now back in Australia where I don’t expect to be deported or arrested any time soon. After spending a night in Sydney and showing my brother how to cook red salsa, I’m now in my hometown in regional NSW. It is a relief, but I must say I haven’t seen so many ugg boots and mullets in a long time.
I’ll write more about what happened over the next few weeks, but the important things to say are:
- Thanks so much to the people who thought of me while I was in the immigration centre – Gela, the Freemans in Acapulco, Randy @hilarski, @finnian and everyone else who was wishing me well.
- Be careful with your papers. Many people will say “this is obvious, of course you should follow immigration rules.” These people don’t really understand how life normally works in Mexico and in many countries around the world. Normally rules aren’t rules, and normally they can be avoided. For whatever reason, that unspoken law has changed in Mexico with regards to immigration. The rumour is, it’s Trump using Mexican immigration to his advantage. There are about 1,000,000 illegal immigrants from the US in Mexico, and especially if you’re travelling around the republic, with all those additional checkpoints, you may find yourself in trouble. Be careful.
Mexico has become a symbol of freedom for many of us, and unfortunately that freedom may be impeded in the short term. Take action accordingly.
Of course, one little event like this can’t sour my overall impression of Mexico – my love of the people, their compassion and hospitality, their humble ways and their food. The expression “This is your home” and the sentiment it represents is something I’ll take with me always.
But for now, adiós México!