From Part 4 of this blog, I had passed my “interview” with immigration in Cancun and was told my Mexican “green card” would be arriving within 10 business days. Having received nothing in the mail, electronic or otherwise, after a month we decided to go back to Cancun and inquire at the immigration office. We got there relatively early; it was crowded as always. At this point, I recognized a few people in the waiting area, but no one seemed to remember me or want to acknowledge it at any rate. After a short wait we got up to the information counter. We explained the situation to the agent, who asked for my name.
“’Sonia Yvette Molinar’? Oh yeah, we have your card. Have a seat over there,” the woman said to me, without even consulting the computer. I was amazed that she would remember my name from among all the gazillion names that must pass through her desk every day. “You’ll need to wait outside,” she told Marco.
I took a seat in the main waiting area in front of a new and exciting counter. After about 10 minutes, a surly young girl with a giant bow clipped to the side of her slicked back hair called my name. I jumped up excitedly in anticipation of getting my hands on my card. “Good morning, I’m Sonia Molinar,” I told her with a smile.
She did not return the smile. She reminded me of Minnie Mouse, if Minnie Mouse had a really bad case of PMS and hemorrhoids and had just found out that Mickey had lost the rent money in a poker game. She asked me for my passport, glared at it, then glared back at me and told me to take a seat again. I sat there for the next hour wondering if there was a mistake, or a problem, or if they had just forgotten about me. I watched person after person being called to the Document Reception counter turn in their applications and leave. To my dismay, I felt my flip flop-clad feet being bitten with gusto by whatever bug was biting that day (WHY did I forget the bug spray that morning!?). I was right next to the counter and could see Minnie jawing sullenly with her coworker, her festooned head propped up by her hand.
Finally she barked my name out. When I returned to the counter, she had a stack of papers for me to sign. The first was a wordy resolution regarding my change of status from tourist to temporary resident. It said in legalese that I had complied with all the terms of the sundry laws and articles, paid the required fees, and that my card was issued with a validity period of one year (I have to renew my card at that point, and I’m sure, pay another fee and have my prints taken again; when I hit the two year mark I can apply for permanent resident status). For some reason, it was dated January 3rd, over a week before I had my appointment to pay my 2nd fee. It had three seals stamped on it; not as many as I was expecting but enough to make it look official; Latin America LOVES to stamp stuff.
The second document was a summary of my rights and responsibilities as a temporary resident. I was surprised to see that I, along with any other individual who is in Mexico, have the right to “free movement within the national territory, access to educational and medical services, and the enforcement and due process of law.” That is, if you go to the emergency room, they will not turn you away for lack of insurance or legal immigration status. So progressive and humanitarian…and such a contrast to their judicial system that literally assumes you are guilty until proven innocent. (More on that here: http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/root/pdfs/telegalcriminalguide.pdf)
My responsibilities, as listed:
- Protecting and guarding the documentation that confirms my identity and [immigration] status;
- Presenting the documentation that confirms my identity and authorized immigration status to immigration officials when required of me;
- Informing immigration of any change of civil status, address, nationality, or workplace within 90 days of said change;
- Renewing my card before 30 days of its expiration; and
- Only foreigners with the condition of LT status obtained through a work offer and permanent residents have permission to work.
(This last one left me scratching my head. So, I wasn’t allowed to work until I got my permanent resident card in two years? Marco explained to me that in Mexico, a job offer letter was enough to confer “LT Status”. This doesn’t sit right with me, but again, I’m thinking with my American brain.)
I signed the multiple copies of the documents where indicated. She date stamped my copies of the two documents “ISSUED” and slid them and my card over the counter to me without a word. The picture was hideous; you could barely make out my eyebrows and eyes and one nostril. But otherwise, it was a thing of beauty, with a large rainbow hologram of the eagle and the snake (the national coat of arms of Mexico) distracting from my Michael Jackson impersonation when held just so in the light.
Now that I had my card, I knew I could apply for a CURP, similar to a Social Security number in the U.S. that I would need to open a bank account or apply for a credit card or anything else. I wondered what fresh hell we’d have to go through for that process, but Marco had the smarts to suggest we go back to the information desk. Incredibly enough, the agent told us how to easily apply online (and it actually worked).
So, all in all, the whole process only took 48 days (probably less if we had come back to the office sooner). While remarkably quick, I feel like I lived a couple of years in between the first visit and the last; the nature of culture shock, for me anyway, is that the more I settle in, the more I grasp just how long it’s going to take for me to settle in.
This card represents one more thing I can check off of my agenda of practicalities, like getting my teeth cleaned (note to self: must get teeth cleaned) and figuring out how to file tax returns (note: ditto).
The longer list of Real Everyday Life in Mexico agenda items is much more daunting, including but not limited to:
- Figuring out how to be a first-time mom at 48 to two kids;
- Figuring out how to organize and run a two-story house with different conveniences than I’m accustomed to;
- Figuring out how to run a business for the first time doing something I’ve never done before;
- Figuring out how to ride the sneaker waves of culture shock;
- Figuring out how to acclimate to a (sometimes unbearably) hot and humid climate; and
- Figuring out how to communicate effectively in my second tongue with my new husband from a very different culture about all of the above.
I was perhaps, not exactly ready for all of this, when I left Portland almost 6 months ago. But in the words of the wonderful Hugh Laurie:
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
So I guess my timing is perfect.
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