Shaken down by the Federales!

Philip Morgan

I was shaken down by the Federales once in Mexico.

My friends and I had walked across the border in one of those small border towns in Texas and then caught a bus to Monterrey.

That trip involved travelling from the state of Coahuila to Nuevo Leon, and that border crossing is where the Federales got on the bus, checked everybody's papers, and found that my friends and I had no tourist visa. We had no idea that was needed.

The Federales pulled us off the bus into their little border crossing office building.


They tried to explain to us that we needed the tourist visa, and they suggested a propina (a tip) would be in order for their being so understanding about our violation of the law.

We used our high school-level Spanish to barely decipher what they were asking for, gave them all our spare pesos, thanked them for their service, and were allowed to return to the bus and continue on to Monterrey.

There are several dictionary definitions of a shakedown:

  1. The act of taking something (such as money) from someone by using threats or deception
  2. A thorough search of something
  3. A thorough test of a new ship, airplane, etc., in order to make sure there are no problems or defects

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