Receiving Mail
in Mexico

By Carl Franz

Your probable address will be Lista de Correos (General Delivery). Lista de Correos is often more convenient and reliable than other methods of receiving mail (American Express, consulates, hotels, etc.) because post offices are located in every town. Using General Delivery is especially valuable when you have no firm schedule or route.

Your complete address will look like this:

Richard Smith
Lista de Correos
Oaxaca, 68000, Oaxaca (city, postal code and state)

Tell your family and friends to print your name and address clearly, as the post office people often have trouble deciphering unfamiliar names. When the Lista is posted (which should be daily but often isn't) interpret it liberally. I know when I see MRcarl on the Lista that it's probably for me.

If the Lista is not posted, go to the clerk and ask, "¿Está la lista de hoy?" ("Is today's list here?"). Should he say "¡Sí!" tell him your name (better yet, write it down) and he'll look through the letters.

In the more efficient post offices just note the number next to your name and the date of the Lista. Give both to the clerk and he'll give you your mail. He may ask for identification. Don't expect to be able to pick up mail for friends or even relatives. Some obliging types will give you another person's mail if you show both your identification and the identification of the person who's mail you want. Other clerks may ask for a letter of authority, a carta poder. Forms are available at the post office for a legal carta poder (you must buy special stamps to affix to this form letter). They will often accept a handwritten letter as well. It should say something like: Administrador, Oficina de Correos (name of town and state): Favor de entregar mi correspondencia (or cartas) a (name of person picking up mail). Gracias. Add your name and the date. The neater and more official it looks, the better.

All mail, including registered letters, telegrams and packages addressed to Lista de Correos will be posted on the daily list. Mail sent Post Restante will be treated as General Delivery, but not posted on the Lista. The addressee will have to inquire for mail. Post Restante is convenient for fugitives.

Mail is held for ten to fourteen days when addressed to Lista de Correos or Post Restante and then returned to the sender if not claimed. Anticipate this when advising people of your address to avoid arriving somewhere after your correspondence has started the return trip.

You can also write "hold for arrival" (Favor retener, paga almacenaje.) but expect to pay a fee for each additional day the mail is held.

Packages are held longer, but there is also a small daily storage fee.

Private mail services are common in larger towns and resident gringo communities. Some of these offer excellent service, but I'd ask around before entrusting a small business with anything of serious value. (DHL and major courier companies are fast and reliable but expensive.)

Unless you can arrange your route and schedule very tightly, you'll eventually have to have mail forwarded from one post office to another. This can be done by filling out a small white change of address card in the post office (Tarjeta de Cambio de Dirección). This card can be left at the post office as a forwarding address or sent back to retrieve mail left behind or expected at a previous post office. Address the card to: Administrador, Oficina de Correos, town, state, Mexico. Remember that the delivery time for the card itself will determine whether or not your mail meets you. Sending it back may take a week or more, and by the time it reaches your previous post office, your mail may have been returned.

The abbreviation for USA-bound mail is either EE.UU. or E.U.A., though USA is also understood.

*Translation: Please deliver my correspondence (letters) to (name).

Polite Letter to Mexicans

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©1972-2001 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens