Shortly after moving into our house, and before the adventure of buying and licensing a car, we decided one morning to ask a friend if she would take us to the INAPAM office in downtown Mérida. The goal was obtaining Senior Citizen cards in Mexico.
INAPAM is the Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores, (National Institute for Senior Citizens), and their office in Mérida is near the lovely Dragones arch. It is in a grand, but slightly dilapidated, old casona across from an even grander old casona in the historic center. The cards entitle you to loads of discounts, and they are available to anyone over the age of 60.
We arrived at the office and there was no line, just a nice old man sitting in a plastic garden chair at a collapsible card table in the courtyard. He was carefully and methodically filling out forms, none of which resembled the forms we had downloaded and printed out online
Marshal forgot some of his documentation, so we had to have a new set of photocopies made at the conveniently located copy shop near the entrance to the facility. The cost was about US$1.25 for the two required mini-photos and 33 cents for six copies. That was much less than I paid in our colonia for the same items.
We presented all the required paperwork in triplicate (in Mexico they DO love paperwork). We were then escorted into a poorly lighted room where a nice lady sat at a desk with three broken drawers that could no longer open – perhaps it was a thrift-shop find or the government was cutting back at the time. She clearly had nothing to do and was just passing the minutes checking the latest posts on her cell phone. She motioned for us to go to the next desk, which was a similarly ill-maintained and non-functioning piece of furniture. At this station a clerk smiled and took our paperwork. She retrieved two business card-sized pieces of paper from a stack on her desk and started typing the information, using the one digit method on an antique manual typewriter. I hadn’t encountered one of these in an actual place of business in decades!
The clerk mistyped the zip code on my card, but when I pointed this out, no one seemed very bothered, and no correction was made. We handed her five pesos (about thirty cents) each, which she dumped into an open straw basket on her desk. She then laminated the cards. There was no sign of technology beyond the use of the laminating machine, and no computers in sight, apart from cell phones. It looked like a DIY project in every regard. We had seen friends with INAPAM cards that were computer-generated and very professional looking, much like our residency cards, but they had obtained theirs in Veracruz, so perhaps it is a local thing.
I was somewhat skeptical of the results, but they assured us this would be all we needed, and presto, we would have discounts galore. For example, for the next evening’s concert we would pay only US $1.50 for a ticket instead of US$3. Bring on the savings, woo-hoo! We would recoup the total cost of this excursion, including the seventy- five cents parking charge, the first time the cards were used. There are also savings on movies, bus tickets or plane fares. Entrance to many government museums and archaeological sites is free.
Our archaic-looking INAMPAM cards proved to be sufficient after all, and saved us US$13 each a few weeks later at Chichén Itzá, not an insignificant amount for people living on a fixed income. Depending on the value of one’s home, they can also save 50 percent on property taxes.
This is probably the easiest part of Mexico’s infamous bureaucracy to negotiate, and it is refreshing not to have to make multiple trips for what seems like the simplest process, but I felt like I was in a time warp. I was reminded of Salvador Dalí’s famous line: “There is no way I’m going back to Mexico. I can’t stand to be in a country that is more surrealist than my paintings.”
Indeed, Mexico is always an adventure, but isn’t that part of why we love it?