The People's Guide To Mexico

Border Crossings
Red Tape

Border Crossing with jugs hanging off the back?

Our Truck Runs on Veggie Oil

Puplished October 06

Dear Carl,

Friends sugested that I check out your website, as I hadn't moved past a dog-eared, decades-old copy of "People's Guide to Mexico." I appreciate the work you've put into helping so many people enjoy Mexico.

Here's my question. We drive a diesel pickup truck with a camper on it. We've converted the truck to run on used vegetable oil, which I collect from restaurants when they throw it away. Obviously on the FAQ page of the Aduana Mexicana website there is no written regulation regarding crossing into Mexico with jugs of veggie oil hanging off the back of the truck, but since that is what I'd like to do, I'd like to try avoiding any hassle at the border by getting a written opinion in advance. Do you have any relevant experience in communicating with the Aduana by e-mail or letter? Any suggestions?

Thanks so much,
Steve Crofter

Dear Steve,

I have to say, your question about the aduana is definitely "one for the book". I'm trying to imagine just how much vegetable oil you're planning to carry to Mexico but my imagination doesn't extend quite that far :)

As for querying the aduana in advance, I think the answer to that is rather easy -- forget it!

For better or worse, each aduana official can be a law unto themselves, depending on their mood and the situation. In your favor, however, is the high probability that a patient explanation of why you have such a mindboggling amount of veg oil on hand (if they even ask -- by no means should you point it out) will be sufficient to categorize you as just another loco gringo...In other words, welcome to Mexico, have a nice day!

The most important factor (other than having all of your paperwork in order) is the need to be patient and good humored but not condescending. It would be worth it, too, to do a Google search in Spanish and see if you could print out something on this for them to read. I doubt it would come to that with the aduana, who are typically rushed, but you're going to be the object of great curiosity as you travel.

I'm quite curious about your fuel range and your itinerary -- if you run out of Crisco can you then burn regular diesel?

All the best,

Hey Carl,

Sorry to take so long to get back to you, but we have been living here in a small town in San Luis Potosi, for about 7 weeks now, and you know how busy life can be in Mexico, right?

We've set up living in our camper, but have also installed electicity and water on a small lot that we're renting, and are asking permission of the ejido for us to cut wood to build a small house next month. What with all the visiting of neighbors we have to do every day, we don't seem to get much else done. Oh, we also installed a satellite dish so we have internet, and thus the ability to send this e-mail. Please note the new e-mail address:

To answer your question about the truck, yes we burn diesel when we run out of oil. Since we don't expect to find any used cooking oil here in Mexico, we patronize Pemex frequently, but we did drive from Vermont to Texas on about 200 gallons of free oil.

Crossing the border went well. We put our energy ahead of time into visualizations of friendly aduana and migra personnel welcoming us to Mexico, and that's pretty much how it went. At the second checkpoint, the aduana agent asked what was in all those jugs, but when I explained about running the truck on veggie oil, he said he had heard of that before. He was an older man who was obviously training a younger agent. We were all standing by the rear bumper of the camper. When the younger agent entered the camper to inspect, the older guy told me to close the door, which I did, thinking that he wanted to allow the other agent to inspect things without our interference. But when I closed the door, the old man started to laugh at the idea of trapping his co-worker inside the camper. It took me a minute to understand that I had unwittingly helped to carry off a practical joke, but sometimes I'm slow on the uptake.

By the way, I want to thank you for your books. Over the years they have been instrumental in helping shape my attitude of patience and appreciation for the culture of Mexico. My partner Laurel and I are carrying on your tradition in a sense, by writing regular e-mail letters about our experiences to share with friends and family back home. Much of what we are experiencing, of course, seems amusing or strange from a norteamericano perspective, but our overall tone of respect, I hope, will impart a more tolerant viewpoint in those with whom we communicate back in the USA. "Breaking down the border" is important work which I take seriously, and I appreciate your example of intercultural flexibility.

If you're down this way, you'd be welcome to visit.

Life is good.

Steve Crofter

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