How I Was a Threat To Mexican National Security
Riding your vintage scooter through Mexico is one thing, riding it through with a pair of guns on the front is another…
So, there I was, riding my vintage Vespa p200 scooter through Baja, Mexico. I’ve taken various two-wheeled vehicles to Mexico before, but this is the first time I’d had the harebrained idea that I should burst ahead of the group for several miles and wind up at a military checkpoint all on my own: a woman, on an old scooter, alone… with automatic weapon barrels strapped to the front of the bike.
See, weapons are massively illegal in Mexico. Everyone I know has stories about friends of friends being imprisoned for years for having a bullet discovered in their cars. I’ve also hear that Mexican jails are no fun at all. There are random and expected military checkpoints on the major roads. I was warned in advance. “Guns are illegal in Mexico.” Said the text from Steve, the ride organizer, and a close friend. “If you leave them on your bike, you’re asking for trouble.”
Oh, it’ll be fine. I had my heart in my throat the first time I took the scooter across the border, but I figured I’d be stopped when entering the country. After the first trip I relaxed, and after many more visits I’d dismissed the potential danger completely.
Except now that I was deeper into Mexico and at a major military checkpoint, suddenly it wasn’t fine at all. The first guard let me through, not comprehending what he was seeing. So did the second guard. The third guard took one look at my bike, physically blocked the road with his body, hand on his weapon, and ordered me to stop.
In angry, frantic Spanish: “Where are the guns? Where is the rest of the guns??”
In scared, frantic English: “No guns! I have no guns!”
In Spanish: “Get off the motorcycle! Turn it off! Where are the guns? Who are you with??”
I saw my friends, four other scooters and a chase truck, approaching in the distance. I’m ashamed to say that I actually widened my stance so that I could wind my arm up further to throw my friends under the bus: “I’m with THEM!” (Pointing dramatically)
That’s how everyone had all of their belongings thoroughly searched. It’s also how we discovered I’d make a terrible spy and that I should never be trusted with state secrets.
The Federale who stopped me was full of questions, asked through my friend who spoke Spanish: Why gun barrels? (Because they’re funny decoration). Where did you get them? (From a friend who was throwing away the damaged barrels.) Why did you bring them where you knew they were illegal? (The firing mechanisms and bullets are illegal, but I thought that gun parts were passable.)
There was a long silence after I answered all of his questions. Now, one of the things I’ve learned about getting into trouble over the years: if the person in authority nods at you, you’re in a whole mess of trouble. If they shake their heads at you, you’ll be OK… He signed hugely, then shook his head as if to say, “Idiota.” Which I was. You can even tell in the photo… look how much fun I’m having being detained by a foreign militia.
Once I relaxed, he relaxed, the friend that was interpreting for me relaxed, we got down to the question of what to do with the gun parts. My Federale sent for a higher-ranking guy, and he showed up with braid on his shoulder. Then another guy was summoned, ostensibly higher-ranking, as this guy had braid on his shoulder and flair on his hat. After extended negotiation, it was determined that I’d be released and the gun barrels removed from the scooter and confiscated.
I’m sad that my scooter lost some really defining decoration, but the bottom line is it’s pretty cool to have had my Vespa be deemed to be a threat to the national security of another country.