Nov 19, 2011, 11:15 PM
Post #1 of 3
It’s never pleasant to be a crime victim, but filing a criminal complaint is not as bad as it is made out to be, and there are good reasons to do so, even in relatively minor matters. I had to evict a fellow who was staying in my house — not so much that he was late enough on the rent to legally evict him, but he was refusing to allow “his” room to be cleaned (as called for in the agreement), and because he was using my house to conduct business he wasn’t allowed to do in Mexico.
Like a lot of gringos, his reaction was to threaten to sue. Legally he could squat in “his” room for up to a month from the eviction date before I could take further legal action (although, as a practical matter, it will be made as unpleasant as humanly possible). Threats to sue are normal U.S. style reactions, but — despite claims to be an expert on living in Mexico — what he didn’t seem to cotton on to was that making threats (physical and verbal) against people at least 25 years older, and shorter, is neither socially nor legally acceptable.
Nor is robbery: I had known my unwanted tenant was stealing food out of my pantry, which I overlooked because I wanted to avoid possible violent confrontations over something minor like a few cartons of milk and juice and whatnot, and figured the guy’s claims that he had a large payment for a project (before, at his request, I ended all communication), just another in a series of less-than-credible statements. When I was finally able to legally access “his” room, I found he’d destroyed a hand-crafted frame for a coin collection, prying the coins out of a display and hiding the broken parts under a mattress.
The collection had been a gift from someone who was impressed by my interest in her country’s history and culture. The monetary value of the stolen coins was not all that much, and I guess this was done out of spite more than necessity: in a society which places high value on propriety and good manners, it was an unforgivable attack on my dignidad. Unacceptable, from a social or legal standpoint.
So, off to the Ministerio Publico. My housemate — understandably upset by the threats — doesn’t understand much Spanish, so we went to the Ministerio specializing in crimes against tourists. It’s also close to my work-site, so easy for me to get to during the workday. Sinaloa still uses an old-fashioned intake process, dependent on written declarations, and a lot of paper copies. While both of us are legal residents and work here, we still needed three copies each of our Mexican ID, as well as the photo pages of our passports.
I assume the intake form (in English) was unique to the “tourist” minister’s office asking questions your activities in Mexico (mostly related to the types of places you frequent), your religion, your sexual orientation, whether the “perp” was a Mexican or a foreigner, etc. I suppose there might be some forensic value in these kinds of questions (and the ones about things like religion and sexual orientation might have to do with human rights concerns).
After about an hour of questioning as to the facts of the crimes, we had to return the next day to sign our own denunciacíones and witness statements. Ah bureaucracy: I had to sign and leave my thumb print on every page. Just for a simple robbery, the denunciacíon was five pages. And the ministerio had to make five copies of each statement (two for the ministerio’s witnesses, one for my witness, one for myself, and one for the procurador).
The requirements that witnesses also visit the ministerio, and the time consuming process might be a factor in the underreporting of crimes you hear about. I can understand that for minor crimes like these, it was unusual to be in a position to make denunciacíones. I don’t know if it’s a quirk in Sinaloa, or — as my housemate believes — a way to avoid prosecuting these types of crimes — but to pursue the charges related to the threats, he will need to have a psychological examination (at the prosecutor’s expense). We were treated with the utmost respect and shown genuine concern by the state officials even if these weren’t important crimes in the great scheme of things, and unlikely to lead to anything further.
That’s probably beside the point: “gringo on gringo” crime — or even socially unacceptable behavior AMONG gringos — falls outside the concern of your community (anything from my building, to your block, to your colonia to your extended family) and can’t easily be resolved informally. That the fellow was selling his “expertise” on retiring to Mexico (at the age of 31?) filing the complaint probably prevented a few more “gringo on gringo” crimes, too.
A few observations:
- Breaking the Mexican “social contract” may invalidate any legal contract (especially informal ones you think are binding). What I mean is that once the fellow began disregarding the basic social rules (rudeness and showing contempt for the basic Mexican obsession with cleanliness), legal niceties like paying the rent on time were beside the point. He would have had to leave by the end of the next month no matter what.
- If you shout at people (let alone threaten then), you've already lost the argument. It's over.
- Cleanliness is a Mexican value, and money is not the only motivator.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Socially or legally, and sometimes both, actions have consequences.
(This post was edited by richmx2 on Nov 19, 2011, 11:19 PM)