Sunday, January 15, 2012


Yikes! in Southern Mexico

MEXICO view chiapasAfter we had spent an extra day in San Cristobal de Las Casas we were finally able to get a bus down to Palenque. Why the delay? We went to buy tickets and we were told that the road was closed. OK, no problem. We went back the next day, boarded the first-class bus  and both settled into window seats for the journey.

MEXICO Highway Extortion
Uh-oh. We came to a stop. Time ticked away and the line of cars and buses didn't move in either direction on this 2 lane highway. Being rather curious and unafraid, I ventured outside and walked up the road - yep, just like the last time but this time it was daylight so I felt very comfortable. That is until I reached the road block. Yes, a political road block had been set up in the small village of Abasolo. This gringa quickly turned around and headed back to the bus.

After 3 hours, traffic moved and we were finally allowed to approach the protesters. These photos were covertly taken from inside the safety of the bus. The groups of men approached each vehicle and apparently stated their cause - and demanded money to pass. From what I gathered, these are an indigenous group who feel that the government hasn't come through with financial support to their people. So they resort to closing the only highway in the region and disrupt the flow of commerce. Yes, I had seen, during my earlier expedition outside, that the local police were in on it too by actually using their vehicles to block the highway.
MEXICO Nail Board to stop traffic
Nail Board

So what happens if you don't want to make a "voluntary contribution"? See this 2 x 4 wood board with the nails sticking up on it? This is swung into place in front of your vehicle until you pay up. Did anyone try to pass it? Yep. We saw a car with lots of flat tires on the side of the road.
MEXICO Extortion
Here is a photo of the men working verbally on our bus driver. At the same time, men were banging on the door on the other side of the bus and demanding to be let aboard. Sure was a tense several minutes. Finally our bus driver paid them enough money and we were allowed to proceed.

We never saw any weapons or violence, but that's always a concern when people get worked up about something. Thankfully, the extortion was running smoothly at least when we passed through. A few hours later, our bus approached the first Mexican Federal police car we had seen. The officer and our driver had a chat in the middle of the highway - I assume about what had happened. Well, they were laughing too so I don't know it they thought the whole thing was funny or had more interesting things to talk about.

We're just glad to be safe.

Omg, I would have been right there with you, traipsing off into the face of danger and then running for cover! What does Jonesy do when you do this? Does he go with you or save your seat on the bus?
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