In a week or less, I'll be moving to another neighborhood of Mexico City.
Given that, last night I had a few beers with a guy I have become friends with named Andres.
We happened to be hanging around on Malacachon street at street food spot selling hamburgers, fries, hotdogs and some beers.
While hanging around just talking and having some beers in public in the middle of the road as this street food spot didn't have any seats or tables, we were just enjoying the night.
Until, out of nowhere, a police vehicle showed up and began driving down our street.
Immediately, I screamed out "NO!!! NO!!!!! THEY'RE COMING FOR US!!!"
Andres screamed also "NO!!! WE'RE GOING TO JAIL FOR DRINKING IN PUBLIC!!!"
We both threw our beers onto the ground and began running.
Climbing up buildings and jumping from roof to roof as the police chased us with guns shooting at us.
Right behind me, I could see a bullet going through the head of Andres, causing his brain to splatter all over the ground.
The cop who shot the bullet stood over his dead body and laughed "this is what you get for drinking in public!!"
Before then shooting him a few more times in the back.
I kept running and jumping from building to building.
At the end of the street, I jump down onto the sidewalk and see an innocent Uber Eats driver looking for his customer.
I immediately wave at him pretending to be the guy he is looking to deliver food to.
He drives up to me.
Then I kick him off the motorcycle and escape the scene of the crime.
The crime of drinking in public.
That Was All Bullshit
Actually, we did have some drinks on Malacachon street in Pedregal de Santo Domingo of CDMX.
And we were having a good time before my eventual departure from this neighborhood.
Drinking in public (literally standing in the middle of the road) with music playing from the street food spot.
There was, indeed, an actual cop car that drove onto our street.
Several of them actually!
Did they give us any trouble?
They didn't give a shit.
Not one word said.
Didn't slow down to check us out.
We clearly had, under the lights of the house in front of us, beers in our hands.
As guilty of the crime as we could be!
Beers in hand and drinking literally in the middle of the street.
There were even a few empty beer cans laying on the side of the road behind us that someone else littered.
Couldn't be more obvious that we were drinking in public.
On one occasion of a cop car coming down the road, we obviously got out of the way so the vehicle can keep driving down.
And no fucks were given by that vehicle or any cops that passed by that night.
Eventually, we finished the night and I walked back home (literally a 10 second walk) with a few more drinks in hand that you can see here.
Still, it's a question, isn't it?
Can you drink in public in Latin America?
Can You Drink in Public in Latin America?
Legally, the answer is no but often the law doesn't mean shit down here.
The fact is that there is a difference between legality and what happens in real life.
"The rules" are not always enforced.
At the same time that I write this, I'm also part of various "Expats in Mexico City" groups on Facebook and you occasionally get a story of some gringo being targeted by a cop for drinking in public.
In every single instance that I have seen a story like this published on Facebook, it is ALWAYS a gringo somewhere in Polanco, Roma Norte, Condesa, etc.
Some nicer area of the city.
And that is a key element to the "can you drink in public?" question.
If you can depends heavily on three things:
1. Are you making such an ass out of yourself where you are black out drunk and making a violent or uncomfortable scene that would basically beg for a cop to fuck with you?
2. How economically developed is the specific neighborhood you are in and how touristy is the area?
3. Are there any poor as fuck cops nearby that need quick bribe money to take his mistress to a motel for the night because his morbidly obese wife that looks like she came from an indigenous village in rural Oaxaca won't give him head?
That's basically what it comes down to.
If you are making an obvious ass out of yourself, it's not the drinking in of itself that could get you in trouble obvious. The beer in hand doesn't matter. It's your behavior. Obviously you might get in trouble then depending on what you are doing.
Second, there is definitely -- without question -- a strong correlation between how developed a very specific area is and how likely the cops give a fuck about random strangers walking outside with an open beer can in hand.
Here in Pedregal de Santo Domingo, I've seen PLENTY of people outside late at night walking the streets with an open beer in hand and drinking it right there.
Most of the time, it's been on Ahuanusco street so you can't say "well, there must not be any cops nearby."
There's PLENTY of cops on that street because of how active it is.
They genuinely do not give a fuck if you are drinking from an open beer in hand.
I've seen people order micheladas from street food spots that I was ordering from and then walking away with them in public and drinking them as they go home or wherever they are going to.
On the flip side, I wouldn't try drinking in public in a nicer area of the city where the cops don't always have better things to do and where rules are enforced "a little more" than elsewhere.
Similarly, areas with lots of foreigners or tourists also attract more corrupt cops looking for a bribe.
Over the last year, there's been seemingly a lot more stories coming out of corrupt cops demanding bribes from foreigners in the nicer areas of Mexico City and this last year has also seen a lot more foreigners arriving to those areas of the city.
Still, that's not to say that you couldn't get approached by a cop looking to enforce the rules and/or look for bribe money outside of touristy and/or more developed areas.
It's just your chances of not being targeted for drinking in public are lower in areas already described before.
Of course, all of this discussion has been about Mexico City in this article so far.
That obviously doesn't represent most of Latin America.
But I'm not going to make you bored with countless stories I've had of drinking in public in random spots of Latin America.
Be it Barranquilla, Cochabamba, etc.
The stories would be nothing more than "I had a beer in public with friends. Either cops were driving by or they were not depending on the night. No fucks given."
And that's one of the common themes from my observations: no fucks given by cops whenever I've had a beer in hand.
Never once, over my 7 years living in Latin America as of this writing and having visited most countries in the region, has a cop fucked with me or anyone I saw for having a beer in public.
Still, like I said, there is some risk that it could happen to you.
And, as Latin America does develop more, I do think enforcement of rules about this will change in more areas slowly.
But I also think that you'll always have, for the foreseeable future, plenty of areas where you can have that beer in hand and no cop gives a fuck.
Ultimately though, like I said before, it does come down to geography not just for which specific country we are talking about but also specific neighborhoods of specific cities as we have seen with Mexico City for example.
Go into the barrio? HAVE THAT BEER, SON.
Into Fresa territory? OH SHIT, THE COPS ARE NEAR.
And, if it does happen to you where they want to fuck with you for a beer, what should you do?
Well, it depends on your morals, doesn't it?
If I had to guess, the cop is most likely going to be demanding a bribe.
I've heard of people bribing cops down here with as little as 5 bucks. I bribed one as much as 20 once as you can read here.
Many stories I've heard on Facebook though -- especially when it's a foreigner being targeted -- involve the cop with dollar signs in his eyes, rubbing his hands together and gleefully going "JEJEJEJE!!! YOU GOT HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS FOR ME, GRINGO?!?"
Of course, I think you could beat that cop down to just 10 or 20 bucks really. Depends on how you handle the issue. I've done it.
To be fair though, some folks take issue with bribing cops and say "it encourages corruption."
I'm not here to judge. If you bribe, I don't give a fuck.
But I already wrote articles on how to deal with cops wanting a bribe so, if you want more information, check them out here or here for example (among others I might have written).
Anyway, that's all for now.
So, when it comes to the final verdict, can you drink in public in Latin America?
Legally no but your mileage will vary depending on luck, the conditions described above and where you are specifically.
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Thanks for reading.