Welcome to Mexico! – March 2010

Welcome to Mexico!

By Victoria Schmidt

Body Damage


Our van is possessed. On the way back from an outing to visit friends in Jocotepec, it ceased forward motion halfway over a large tope near San Juan Cosala. Several attempts at turning the key yielded no engine activity whatsoever. Soon horns were honking behind us (evidently the simple force of their amplified sound would propel us forward). Soon bystanders volunteered to push our van off the road.

To remedy this event, we only had to hire two local mechanics, one in San Juan Cosala to get us home, and another one once we arrived home. Two weeks later, after running some errands, my husband dropped me off at the house and was about to return to his volunteer job when the van turned defiant once again. This time, the ignition refused to turn over. We couldn’t even get the key to move. The ignition was dismantled and we used a screwdriver to turn the engine on and off for the next few days until a new ignition was installed. Once again, we employed a local mechanic who fixed the problem for a few pesos. We’ve also had to replace two tires, and two oxygen sensors in the past two weeks. Our mechanics love us. Our van is older, and these types of problems are probably to be expected. Or maybe I should find an exorcist.

But what really infuriates me are hit-and-run drivers. Recently, while my husband was inside Wal-Mart, someone smashed into the front of our van, destroying the bumper, taking out a headlight, buckling the hood and smashing the windshield causing about $1200 USD in damage. And, of course, whoever was responsible left the premises.

I took one look at the van when my husband brought it home and was seriously considering just blowing up the abysmal piece of excrement and sending it into oblivion.

I feel we are doing more than our part in keeping the local mechanics and body shop professionals in business. Specially since our van seems to be a magnet for bad drivers. This is not the first time the van was hit in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The first time we were sideswiped. After a night at a local restaurant, someone put what looks like a baseball bat sized dent in the back by the window, and there are lots of little dings and dents from car doors banging into the van. I am to the point where I told my husband I refuse to fix any more body damage unless there is an equipment problem (this last time, there was a lot of equipment damage.)

Now a lot of Mexican drivers don’t carry insurance, even though I believe they are required to, and that lack of insurance is why they hit-and-run. But we also found out, again the hard way, that when there is a lot of damage to your vehicle, you are expected to carry a copy of the police report of the accident with you. The local police are attempting to crack down on hit-and-run accidents. The only problem here was that this damage occurred on private property, and no police report was filed. So the police gave us one, along with the threat of a ticket.

Whoever hit the van that day had to be driving a large red truck. Large because of the amount of damage and the height it needed to be in order to cause the damage to the hood and windshield, and red because of the huge red streak across the top of the hood. What amazes me was that this accident should have been seen and heard by everyone in the parking lot…yet when asked, no one saw a thing. Not the car washers, not the people entering or exiting Wal-Mart, not even the cop that sits near the entrance looking for gringos to pull over.

I guess it was one of those invisible red trucks.

For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com

Ojo Del Lago
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