All you need to know about Iberian America

Quick Tip to Get Around Required Documents in Latin America

Published October 1, 2022 in Personal Stories & Opinions - 0 Comments

When trying to get into some place in Latin America or past some security dude, you might be asked for your ID or some other necessary document.

While you'd think it must be some required rule for them to ask to make sure you are not up to anything bad, you'll find time and time again in Latin America that sometimes these little rules are just thrown to the side.

In contrast to back home where the person requesting the document is much more likely to demand it and won't cooperate with you.

One classic example is the ID to get into a bar.

In the US, you always hear stories of that older looking person who clearly isn't 18 being required to show ID to buy beer or whatever.

Here in Latin America, as I wrote here, you basically never get asked for your ID ever.

I think it's happened to me like twice or whatever in the years here, and as I showed here, I actually got away with showing a metro card as my "ID" to buy beer even though obviously that isn't an ID nor does it show any picture or birthday.

But in that last moment described, the thing that probably worked in my favor was that 1) I'm a gringo and 2) people generally seem to lose patience down here quicker than people back home and will just wave you along to whatever you want if you are taking too much time to show whatever document they ask.

That's the key difference.

While I'm sure some people act like that in the US, it just seems from my experience and the experience of other gringos I know that it's more common down here for people to "wave away" the rules if it's taking you too long to show whatever they asked for.

A very typical "ah fuck it, I'm sure you're OK" type attitude.

Some would call it "typically South American" just because the idea is that seemingly more people are relaxed about minor regulations and rules that, in all liklihood, probably just don't matter that much.

In contrast, you would have more people in the US who are stricter on this shit.

A lot more hall monitor types too, it seems.

But people in general who simply take "the rules" more seriously and will stick to their guns more strongly.

Therefore, if you wish to get around showing your ID because perhaps you forgot it, it's possible to just play "the dumb foreigner" spending an unreasonable amount of time trying to find whatever they asked for.

Just the other day, I was reminded of this little detail to life here.

I was sitting in a taxi wanting to visit the "Heroico Colegio Militar" in Mexico City.

It's one of Mexico's most important military educational institutions.

So you'd think -- given its importance and that it's their military -- that they'd take the rules more seriously, no?

Well, while sitting in the taxi, the taxi driver approaches the guard and says to me "I don't think they're going to let us in."

After all, it's not a very touristy place.

It's a very important military institution and they probably are more restrictive on who they let in for reasons.

Anyway, I tell the taxi driver to just keep driving forward and we'll take our shot.

After all, we're already here so why not?

The guard then walks up to our window and the taxi driver explains the situation.

"He's a foreign tourists. Just wants to take pictures."

"Take pictures of what?" the guard asks after giving me a good look.

And the guard was nice about it.

He just seemed  confused as to what a "foreign tourist" is doing here and what he wants to see.

And I explain that "well, just whatever. I'm curious about the area."

He gives it a second to think about it but then leaves to ask his supervisor.

They approve but have us escorted around the place.

Before escorting us though, the guard wants my passport.

So I begin looking through my phone for a picture of my passport.

I'm pretty sure it's in there somewhere but I got like some few thousand photos in my phone and was finding it difficult to find.

After a few minutes or searching and looking all very serious going through my phone, the guard goes "ah well, just keep on going. It's OK."

We keep on going.

I ended up giving them a fake name actually because I don't like giving my real name sometimes.

And so, in actuality, they let in someone who they didn't even know the identity of to this so important place.

Similarly, I remember being at the Mexico City airport a few years ago and was with an old girlfriend at the time.

We were kinda lost and trying to find our way to some part of the airport (whatever it was, I don't remember) and were stopped by some security dude working at the airport.

We explain that we were probably just looking for the gate or whatever it was and were lost.

He points us in the right direction but wants to see my ticket before letting us go forward.

So I whip out my phone and try getting access to the ticket in my gmail.

However, I needed to log into my gmail account and, for those who don't know, my passwords for anything are extremely long and completely random.

I actually have to take out a little notebook I have to find out what the password is because I can't even remember how it is exactly.

But I'm having trouble finding the exact page where I wrote the passwords because it's been a while since I looked at the thing.

While spending an easy five minutes or so going through my notebook and even trying old passwords that I forgot to scribble out (and were not working obviously), the security dude just waves us on through.

"Ah fuck it, you seem like someone I could trust. Probably not a terrorist, right? Go on through!"

So we did.

No ticket needed to be shown.

Waving the Rules Away

Personally, part of the reason why some people act like this down here is because I'm a gringo.

While you do have xenophobic types who don't trust foreigners, I do think that, in cases like this, being a gringo helps.

After all, what's the likelihood that a gringo is going to arrive to Mexico and then try to leave Mexico while not having a proper ticket?

Granted, you do have some gringos who do bad shit down here like the ones who traffic drugs as I wrote about here.

Regardless, the dude probably assumed that I wasn't trying to sneak past security with drugs and being a gringo probably helped a little bit.

If I was some barrio looking fella from Neza who sounded a bit "mal educado" to the dude, then maybe we'd have less luck.

Who knows.

Another thing too is that, as I said before, I also think it's just a matter of people being more relaxed on whatever rules there are.

And a little bit of laziness with not feeling the need to enforce them too strongly if the situation is proving to take too much time to follow some minor rule that they probably don't consider too important.

For the gringo who is used to rules always being enforced though (no exceptions), then this might come as a minor surprise to you at first when living down here.

It reminds me of this video here of an American talking about how he had to show proof of yellow fever vaccination at the airport in Brazil and, after some odd minutes or arguing it over, they just wave him through without having to show anything.

So it is what it is.

Above all, I suppose the tip for when they ask for your ID and you don't have it on you is to just sit there looking all serious while pretending to be looking for it.

Perhaps you'll  get lucky with having a guard who is losing patience and who wants to go back to texting Maria for nudes.

If you got anything to add, drop a comment below.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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