Blame the Past


Most historians believe that corruption is woven deep in the culture and history of Mexico, dating to the Spanish colonization of the New World in the XVI century.

Historical records show that the king’s viceroys would sometimes reply to royal decrees by saying, “I obey but [do] not comply.”

Today, the phrase still describes “the attitude of Mexican public officials towards government, who behave as if they own their post,” Aguayo told 100Reporters.

Much more than that phrase comes from those days as well. In Mexico, exaggerated bureaucracy has its origins in the Spanish Crown, which countered the power of its conquering soldiers by dispatching legions of royal officials to insure the crown controlled decisions made in its colonies.

This resulted in an avalanche of paperwork, with witnesses going back and forth between the viceroys and the royal envoys. Long journeys were made and stacks of documents written for all procedures, big and small.

Old habits die hard. Since then, regular citizens in Mexico’s XXI Century have to fill out complicated forms for all transactions, always stamped, sealed and signed by the right authorities -most of whom are seldom available -often in triplicate.

Small wonder that, rather than going through an exhaustive and possibly costly legal process to ensure that all rules have been followed to the letter, there is often the temptation to bypass them by placing money in someone’s hands or in a brown envelope. MLP

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is co-founding executive editor of 100Reporters and an award-winning former foreign, national and cultural correspondent for The New York Times and the Baltimore Sun.
Diana Jean Schemo

Latest posts by Diana Jean Schemo (see all)


  1. There is something to it, but, the “blame the Spaniards” as a convenient (and politically correct) excuse for today’s stuctural flaws in L. American societies ran its course,…centuries ago!