It is customary for employers to give their employees an aguinaldo (Christmas bonus) the last working day of the year before the official start of the extended Christmas vacation. By law, the aguinaldo must be paid by December 20. The amount varies for each employee as it is based on the total number of days worked during the year and the current salary of the employee. Typically, however, it ends up being about 15 days pay.
Therefore, about the middle to end of December finds the average Mexican temporarily flush with cash. Of course, this is known to all and results in some extra fleecing by the police in the form of mordidas (bribes).
Last year, my husband went out the first day of vacation to load us up for water so that we wouldn’t have to worry about running out on our days off. (See Water Woes) Only he didn’t come home that night. Needless to say, my son and I were beside ourselves with worry. He arrived with the truck around 7 a.m. the following day.
It seems what happened was that in El Ojo del Medio de Agua where he was filling our water storage tanks, there was an alleged robbery of a stereo. The police arrived and searched the truck, my husband and the vehicle and person of another man who was also there filling up water containers. Not being content at finding nothing of value either in the pockets of the accused or the vehicles, they took both men into custody. They were taken and held in Yuriria. My husband didn’t have any cash on him, nor did he have a phone to call me to bring any, plus he hadn’t stolen anything, so did not make the customary mordida (bribe) offer. The police tried force him to pay una fianza (bail) before releasing him, but again, he didn’t have any money.
He walked from Yuriria back to where the truck had been left, about 5 miles as the crow flies and drove back home, without a full water load though.
This is not the first time something like this has happened to us around the Christmas season. The second year we were here, my husband and his brother-in-law were stopped by the police, who had removed any tags that might identify them, although they did not wear capuchis (masks). (See Safety and Security or lack thereof) Even after my husband showed them our permit from the aduana (customs), his driver’s license, and our marriage certificate, the officers threatened to impound the vehicle. Between the two of them, they had about $2000 pesos on hand and that was accepted graciously by said law enforcement with a Merry Christmas to you too.