I've officially lost count of how many times Chino and I have paid off the traffic police here in Mexico. The traffic police are separate from the regular police and this is what they do - they drive around (or sometimes just stand in the street,) pull people over with reason or at random, scare the shit out of them, threaten them and then let them go after they've offered a "solution" to the problem not involving going to the police station.
The "solution" is perhaps paying the officer to do you a "favor" or maybe it's pretending to believe that he's offering you a discounted fine if you pay him there on the street, others just strait out tell you what you need to pay them to make them go away and sometimes they'll just say "Give me money "for the cokes" and I'll let you go."
"For the Cokes," meaning - so I can go and buy some Coca Colas - is a HUGE figure of speech here and it seems everybody uses it. Sometimes it's used between friends like when if they give you a ride and you ask how much you owe them for gas and they'd say "Oh, just for the cokes." Usually though it involves bribery.
You need to get a new location in the flea market? Pay the guard "for some cokes" and he'll find you a good spot but you'd better be prepared to pay him for some MORE cokes to get the number of the person who owns the slot. Honest to God, when Chino and I were robbed the 3rd time and we had a lead on who did it and the real police (not the traffic police) came, they said they'd go check on the lead but first told us that we should pay for the cokes because they were doing something for us. We'd just had about $2,500.00 in stuff stolen from us and the police were asking us to BRIBE them to do something about it. Chino refused and the police never called us to say what they did.
Last January Chino went to get his drivers license and they told him he'd have to wait till July for it to come in (and unlike in the U.S. you don't get a paper that says you're legal, you just keep driving around with nothing) but a few weeks ago one of his family members told him that he has a friend at the DMV who would get it put through same-day - for a "favor." Forty dollars and one hour later and Chino was finally driving legal. On the way home from getting his license he was pulled over for a random inspection by the traffic police and ended up STILL having to pay the cokes because while the officer couldn't find anything wrong, he said that he would make something wrong if he didn't get some money for cokes.
Chino's getting really good at it these days though and I'm relieved. As soon as we're pulled over I stuff all of Chino's money and my money in my bra and we leave 20 to 50 pesos (2 - 5 dollars) in his wallet so that when he's asked to pay TWO HUNDRED dollars (because yes, they will try to scare amazing amounts out of you) Chino can say that we're horribly poor and are trying to feed our 10 children and that we're homeless and that he doesn't have a job and blah blah on and on until the traffic cops gets worn down by the talk and just takes what ever Chino has in his wallet. Sometimes it gets ugly and they have to do man-chest-puffing and yell at each other and say "chingow" a lot, but in the end they take the 20 and go.
These days we never pay more than 50 pesos unless Chino forgets to carry around change and gets pinched for 100 or 200 pesos but all in all it's not so bad. We don't complain about it because we pay the same when we're doing something wrong and when we're not. He DID drive the wrong way down a one way once, he DID drive without a license for about two years, got caught running a yellow light, and even took a turn where there was no turn allowed (he's kind of a sucky driver ;D) and he's never received a real ticket for any of it.
Actually though, here where we are there are no tickets. When you have to pay a FOR REAL traffic fine (if they exist?) you don't get a slip of paper to pay later, you are escorted by the officer to the station and you pay then and there or have your family bring you some money or you leave on foot because your car is no longer yours. So no, we don't complain about having to pay the officers off weather we're in the right or wrong.
It all seemed so shocking when we first moved here and now it's so common place it amazes me to think that I've sat here and wrote out this whole post with nothing but a glimmer of "this is insane" shining in the back of my mind. In case you're wondering? We tried to go to the station and pay a real ticket once, but the officer wouldn't take us, it just doesn't happen.
Go out to get tripe fajita tacos, drive around a heard of donkeys, grab a snow cone from a man selling them from his bicycle cart, pay off the traffic cop and go home to your neighborhood where dogs live on roofs and chickens live on the side of houses. Who needs to fall down a rabbit hole when you can just come to Mexico?