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License Plates in the Yucatan


SSP MapSSP PictureOnce we had nationalized our car, we needed to get Yucataco license plates (placas). To get placas for a newly nationalized car you need to go to SSP building across the street from the old prison and Parque de Paz.

The SSP offices open at 8 a.m. but they only issue entry numbers to the first 40 people in line.  So if you want to get in and get served you need to be there a little early.  We arrived at 7 a.m. and were rewarded with number 23 when the doors opened at 8.

Once you have a number you begin the process of showing papers and waiting, showing papers to some else and waiting.  The entire process is a series of queues.

When our number was called we presented the clerk with the original and a copy of the car title, my Telmex bill, FM2, original invoice and the Pedimento (the Bill of Lading issued by Aduana for importation).  That’s when we found out that we really needed a total of 4 copies of the Pedimento. So a quick run to the closest copy tienda for more copies. Some wise entrepreneurs have positioned copy tiendas to the side and back of SSP.  This leads me to believe that we are not the first to have arrived with insufficient copies.

After much vigorous stamping and stapling we were sent to the next queue to wait for our names to be called.  This area is for SSP to inspect the vehicle to ensure that the vehicle is the same one that Aduana approved.  First they checked the paperwork – yes the same paperwork that the previous clerk checked, stamped and stapled.  Lo and behold this clerk discovered that we had not copied the back of the title.  The back of the title which had nothing on it. So off to the convenient copy tienda to copy the backside of the title. Once completed the clerk was happy and we were told to wait for an available inspector.

While waiting for an inspector we entertained ourselves by watching the drivers in the parking lot. A section of the parking lot behind the building is set aside for taking the driving test. For those of you that have not yet gotten a Yucatan driver’s license, the driving test consists of parallel parking your vehicle between orange cones. Well today a newbie bus driver was taking his driver’s test. For twenty to twenty-five minutes this gentlemen had the bus (yes, a full-size bus) in every conceivable angle to the curb except parallel – at one point a complete 90 degrees to the curb. Eventually he got it close parallel with no wheels up on the curb and everyone called it good.

Eventually we were called to bring the car to the inspection area.  We then found out that the inspector call 15 vehicles at a time and must finish all 15 before calling an more. We were assigned slot 14, so we just barely made the cut for this round. We pulled into slot 14 and waited for the inspector.

After a few minutes one gentleman came out and took two photos of the vehicle, one side, one back.  Then another came by; he first verified the VIN and then asked the number of cylinders. He then pulled up the floor mat on the passenger side and put it back. He told us to park the car and go inside to wait.

Our name was called and we went to the counter to find out that there was yet another small problem. Because this was a one-time event and we didn’t want language to be a problem we took Yesenia Lope along to help with the entire process. Well, this clerk, the fourth or fifth since we arrived thought that her color photo copy of her identification was too dark. Yet again, off to the handy copy tienda for a lighter copy of her id.  More staples and stamps and were asked to take a seat.

Our name was called, all of the paperwork was in order.  Told to go to the caja and wait for our name to be called so that we could pay the Tenencia (the annual tax on vehicles).

When called we went to caja 11 while she calculated the total fee. While waiting I was reading the many signs all around saying that you could pay your charges with a credit card. So to preserve our cash, I pulled out a trusty credit card. The clerk quoted the fee and I presented the card. At which point everything came to a screeching halt.  If I wanted to use the credit card, she would have to get a supervisor’s approval.  She looked around desperately for a supervisor, but there was none is sight.  Not wanting to delay this already lengthy process any longer, I quickly withdrew the credit card and presented cash.  She stamped the paperwork and directed us to get in the line at the end of the hallway.

After a short wait, a clerk double-checked all names, addresses, and vehicle information on the paperwork.  Then he asked us to do the same.  I signed documents in the proper places and were given a brand new set of Yucatan license plates. In addition to the placas, we were given a decal with the same license number on it. We asked one of the police in the parking lot where to post the decal. He told us it supposed be at the top of the passenger side of the windshield. After looking at all of the sticker placements in Merida, we decided to do what a Mexicano friend told us to do – keep it in the glove compartment.

Total time at SSP – 6 1/2 hours! Now we understand why people here pay others to stand in the SSP line for them. We will be paying someone next time.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. 03/12/2011 05:35

    I think this post should become a special chapter when “Living in Merida” publishes its third edition.

  2. 03/12/2011 10:29

    If we didn’t need a car for transporting our animals here and there, I would seriously consider not having one! OMG.

  3. 04/12/2011 08:30


    Mexicans are hard working people. Yet their bureaucracy has inflicted a huge emotional tax upon their personal energy which should be an outrage to such dignified and productive people. Just imagine what they could do with all of the hours wasted on such nonsense!

    Your illustration of copying the back of nothing is the supreme illustration of this fact.


  4. 05/12/2011 07:41

    If I may elaborate on a solution:

    Back home, the County Clerk (a powerful elected official) realized how much people hated going to Department of Motor Vehicles. She decided that improving this office was a great political opportunity, so she made a major project (to win votes) of fixing the things people hated most at that office, by inviting feedback from the public which was delivered directly to her desk. She learned of waiting in the wrong line; grumpy cashiers; ridiculous rules, etc.

    Instead of many lines, there is now a FIRST LINE, with several employees to keep it moving fast. All customers visit that line first. First line employees ask about customer intentions and check customer documents, giving people the correct blanks to fill out while waiting. Along with the correct forms, they are also given a digital ticket showing the correct line which will call them in numerical order of their ticket. Employees who were causing problems were fired.

    This is now one of the most efficient offices in our county government. The lady who fixed the problems got noticed by the public. She has gone on from local politics to hold an important elected position in state government.

    Who says that bureaucracy must be allowed to run our lives? WE THE PEOPLE can change stuff, if we will step up and do our duty. It could happen here, too.


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