In January of 1997, I joined a group of vulcanologists on a technical tour of the Pico de Orizaba, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. The group was traveling in three vans around the volcano, studying the sedimentation produced by the eruptions over a period of 10,000 years.

One evening, as we approached Cordoba, the first van was stopped by two highway patrol officers for what appeared to be a routine check. Since we were traveling in a caravan, we all stopped and waited. After about 15 minutes, it was obvious to us that something had gone wrong.

A Mexican colleague and I came down from the third van and inquired about the delay, but we could get no resolution of the problem from either our tour leader or the police officers. Apparently, we had not done anything wrong; it was just that the cops wanted something, and our tour leader was uncompromising.

After a reasonable time had passed, my colleague said to me: "I will fix this right now..." He pulled 50 pesos and handed it over discreetly to one of the cops, who immediately pronounced to his companion: "These gentlemen are behaving rather nicely... let them go."

Relieved, we continued our trip. As we headed back to the vans, one of the cops approached me and said: "Here is a number... if you are stopped later, give them this number and they will let you go."

We had been given the Mexican vaccine.


Olmeca statue al La Venta, Villahermosa,
Tabasco, Mexico.