Sundry Adventures of Mexican Road Travel: Border Crossings

Crossing into Mexico with a firearm and ammunition guarantees you a seven year spot in a jail cell – no questions asked. Pretty strict law, but now you see why Mexico is safe, without much violence. (Sarcasm)

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So why did we have a camouflage rifle bag in our trailer when we crossed?  Before I answer that, let me say that it wasn’t really a rifle bag and that my husband was still nervous about it. In fact, the bag belonged to me. Yes, me.

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He kept telling me that if I insisted on taking it with us to Mexico, I would be the one who’d have to explain it to the soldier with the AK-47 hanging by his side, should we be pulled over for inspection. (Sarcasm) If you didn’t laugh, you’ve not crossed the border repeatedly. In our case,  99.9% of the time we do get pulled over due to our luck of getting the red light with it’s annoying buzzer. 

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Here’s the scoop on what was in the camouflage rifle-look-alike bag and why we had it with us: it was an archer’s bow with arrows that my brother had given me for my birthday, and which I did not want to leave behind for four years. It is a bona-fide hunting bow with bona-fide arrows – except for the tips on the arrows are practice ones and not the razor sharp ones.

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We crossed the bridge, pulled up to the gate, and sure enough the light went on and the buzzer went off. Mike pulled over, but since we couldn’t fit both car and trailer into one of the angled spaces, the soldier had us stop on the left side of the road.  This meant I couldn’t get out since the passenger side was next to the traffic (the cars that got the green lights) passing by inches from my door.

Mike turned to me, giving me THE look. I smiled at him coyly and said, “you’re the man, babe.”

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It didn’t help.

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After the soldier had Mike unlock the trailer, he leaned in and started looking through a few of the boxes and such when suddenly he spotted the rifle-look-alike archery case.

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Immediately he stood up straight, grabbed his rifle into position, and asks, “¿Qué es eso?

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Here’s the tip of the day: it doesn’t matter how much Spanish you learned in language school, or how long you’ve been speaking it in your host country, when you have a new item you’re taking across the border, and especially if it resembles a threat, you better learn in advance the Spanish word for it.

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Which we did not do.

So to answer the question, Mike tried explaining it with popcorn words and hand gestures. Think charades with a stress factor. The guard slowly and partially unzipped the camouflage bag, peeked in, glanced at Mike, and asked, “¿Es un arco?

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Here’s where it gets good.

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Mike misunderstood, since he was a bit shaken,  didn’t know a bow was an arco, and phonetically the question sounded to Mike like, “Es un narco?”.  Translated that means “are you a drug runner?”

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You see where this is going, and I’m laughing again as I type this.

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“No! No soy narco!” exclaimed Mike emphatically, his voice an octave higher and his face revealing his sense of dread.

The soldier looked at Mike, puzzled, and said, “eh?” He then pointed to the bow and said, “arco.” Then, like a teacher would, repeated it slowly, “es un … (pause) … A R C O”.

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“Ah, sí! Es un ARCO. It belongs to my wife.” (Had to drag me in, didn’t he.)

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With great relief he shut the trailer, bid the soldier good day, and got back in the SUV.

Two good things came out of that: we learned how to say bow in Spanish, and once again experienced the medicinal value of laughing at ourselves.

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There’s more I could add about the rest of the trip, but suddenly I’ve an itch for target practice with my shmarco-narco-arco thingy.

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