Saturday, July 28, 2012

A License To Kill For

Get one if you can!
On our return from the United States a few weeks ago, we were dismayed to discover that through an oversight, our Michoacán drivers' licenses had expired. We promptly sought advice from our usual reliable sources: SFC (US Army, Ret.) Ric Hoffman and Ms Jennifer Rose.

Our first, simple task was to to the Centro de Salud in the outskirts of Pátzcuaro to obtain a certificate of good health. That wasn't very difficult. After a short wait, a nurse briefly interviewed us, took our waist measurements, blood pressure and weight. We passed the exam, and on paying a modest fee at the cashier's window, we were issued our Certificates of Health.

You may wonder why I failed to mention the vision test. Because there was none.

No vision test! Thanks.

Following our guided plan, we then went to the Pátzcuaro Tránsito office near the Mercado Tariacuri in the former Lo Tengo building. There we were told that we didn't need to be there, because they didn't administer drivers' tests, but if we wanted to take one, we could have it in Morelia. I said that I would prefer not to, and the official asked me "¿No le gusta Morelia?" I said I liked it fine, but not to go for a test.
He then told us that we should go to La Administracíon de La Renta, known as La Renta for brevity. It is where the licenses are finalized, or at least, used to be.

That is the building in Pátzcuaro next to IMSS with several long lines of people outside and a security guard at the door. I went up the guard to ask about las licencias para manejar. He told me that we'd have to go to Morelia to get them. He didn't know where, exactly. A kind lady in the line told us that  there was a módulo at the Terminal de Autobuses Morelia; maybe also at Plaza Capuchinas. But, with expired licenses, it didn't seem prudent to run the possible gauntlet of keen eyed tránsitos with powerful thirsts for refrescos.

Of course, we could take a bus to the Terminal de Autobuses Morelia, but we'd also heard that there were waiting lines up to 5 hours, due to the issuing of placas at the same time. There was an alternative office on Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas in Morelia, close to the Cristalería Corona, a restaurant equipment house with which I'm familiar. But the report was a year old, and the official had been recalcitrant to issue the license until Ms Rose persuaded her otherwise.

Late news arrived from friends who live near Quiroga that it was a piece of cake to get your license there. All you had to do was give up your birthright birth certificate. But on further explanation we came to realize that it was a certified copy of a birth certificate, the original, of course, being held in the vaults of ones' natal city. Our new interpretation is that the birth certificates are for first time applicants. Maybe.

Our friend Ron related that when he renewed his license in Pátzcuaro last year, when they were still doing it, he was required to get an official Spanish translation of his birth certificate. Where? In Morelia. At least the service was free, and only required two trips to our state capital city.

Next to Quiroga on Monday with our friends, the Fergusons. It was miraculously too good to be true that we got a parking spot at the front door of the administration building, on a narrow back street in Quiroga Centro, across from the Hotel Tarasco II. (Read the address in the header, if you can. There's your vision test.)

Once inside, we were crestfallen to learn that the agency was fresh out of fichas and that we would have to try in Morelia. We returned to the Ferguson's house, regrouped, snacked and called an information number, 070, which didn't work. Later we found out that it works only from a landline phone.

Richard offered to drive us to Morelia, which we gratefully accepted. It's a beautiful drive, until east of Capula, where we entered the ugly outskirts of Morelia. It got even uglier when we were blocked by a police barrier on Avenida Camelinas before reaching the Governor's Palace, forcing us to detour through interminably slow traffic until we could emerge again.

During the detour, we were making calls on our cell phone and basically being rebuffed at almost every attempt to find out where licences might be obtained. One exceptional person gave us hope that we could perhaps get the licenses at the Plaza Capuchinas módulo. That was encouraging, as I knew the area fairly well.

Richard double parked his vehicle at Plaza Capuchinas while I went into the Colonial edifice to check. It was a spacious patio with reasonably well sorted lines waiting for various services. But again, I was told that no fichas were available hasta mañana, so I retreated.

After the debacle. we soothed ourselves with a nice lunch at LangoStiko's on Av. Santamaría. We returned to Quiroga,again squirming past traffic jams, the worst of which that we encountered on Calzada La Huerta after passing through Av. Universidad.

Tuesday was a rest day.

On Wednesday, we dared to drive back to Morelia in our van. After an short visit to INM on unrelated migratory matters, we headed for the Centro de Convenciones módulo. Unfortunately, we didn't get into the lateral in time, so we missed the turn from Camelinas onto Ventura Puente.

Instead, we headed back to the módulo at the Administracíon building, on the south eastern corner of Plaza Capuchinas, on Calle Ortega y Montañez, Centro. We arrived at a few minutes before 10 a.m. I ran inside and at the Informacíon booth found out that ¡Sí, hay licencias!

Again, through some miracle, I located a parking spot just outside the door. Just too good to be true.

We parked to the right of the handicapped slot

Once inside, we settled into the correct line to obtain our numbered fichas. After some waiting, we approached the desk (outside the building but under the portales) and after the señorita inspected our documents, we were given our numbered tickets.

"They also serve who only stand and wait." And wait.

Hours crept past as the sun reached its zenith, then slowly slid toward its shady siesta. But we were fortunate in finding seating. Without that, and shade, water, and antojitos, we might not have survived.

I went out on walks around Plaza Capuchinas while Doña Cuevas held the position inside. I found a place called "El Sope Caribeño", east side of Plaza Capuchinas, owned and operated by a Mexican-American couple, where I bought inexpensive but tasty antojitos para llevar.

Back inside, the drama intensified when the snail paced but steadily moving lines were further refined into "Placas y Trámites" on one side and "Licencias" on the other.

Slowly, slowly, the lines reduced as the numbers called went up.

At about 1:50, our numbers, 68 and 69 were called. I was nearly bursting with need for a bathroom, but I gritted my teeth and held on.

We were almost home free and had reached the penultimate window where passports, comprobante de domicilio, but  our not migratory documents were again reviewed. We were interviewed again, then digitally fingerprinted of both hands' index fingers. We passed to the cashier's window across the room. We chose licenses with 10 years' duration. By the time they expire, we may not be living or may be incapable of driving, but: we will never have to renew them again!


We then crossed back to the photo booth and showed our PAGADO receipts. Another digital scan fingerprint and we were photographed. Almost all the staff were pleasant and of good humor. We were feeling better, too.

After my photo, I took advantage of a pause and found the baños: to the back of the patio, a right down the hallway, down a few steps and outside, and there were the baños. Then I felt even better.

The whole thing took about 4 hours. In hindsight, we should have gone there first and postponed Migracíon for another day.

Afterwards, we were exhausted but happy. We met friends and celebrated with a great meal at Restaurante Parrilla y Canilla , up in Sta. María de Guido.

* There is the possible, that if we change our migratory status from FM3 to FM2, we would have to give up our vehicle import permit and obtain Michoacán placas.

Por favor, señor; la fila para placas está a la derecha.

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