Mexico’s INAPAM, or Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores (Senior Citizen National Institute) provides for our country’s senior population—foreign residents, too—through a series of welfare programs that include a senior discount card. Distributed for free, the INAPAM card offers benefits and discounts for folks 60 years of age and older in many different areas, including transportation (air, land, etc.), property taxes and water bills, medical and legal services and so on. But the INAPAM cards are difficult to come by in Puerto Vallarta. Read on to decide for yourself if they are worth the hassle.
This article came about during a recent lecture I offered at the International Friendship Club (IFC) at which an attendee spoke about her frustration trying to get a card for months. I volunteered to look into it for her. These are my findings.
For me, it all started with a telephone call to the local INAPAM office (114-3946) where I asked about the cards. “This is the place,” a nice lady confirmed, “but we haven’t had them for weeks, so we recommend you call back once a week.” The first thing that came up in my mind was some sort of fancy COSTCO-like ID card printer for which they had run out of hard-to-find plastic cards or something to that effect. But Margaret at the IFC had told us that she’d been calling for months and getting the same response over and over…
Intrigued, I decided to pay a visit to the local INAPAM office in Colonia La Aurora, not far from my home. This was tricky on its own, as the official INAPAM directory of Jalisco customer service modules stated the address to be ‘Milenio 143,’ which did not appear on my car navigation app. Through trial and error, however, I discovered that the actual address is Milenium 143. Keep this in mind, or have a look at the map, below:
Once there, I made the rookie mistake of identifying myself as a journalist. It’s amazing how friendly folks can be towards you when you ask a question, and how reluctant they become once they learn you are a journalist! “You have to go to the main office,” the lady in charge said. When I insisted, wanting to simply know the basic requirements, she offered me a small piece of paper with information, which included “bring your own pen” in bold letters.
I left the INAPAM office puzzled about the apparent shortage of cards wondering if perhaps they are distributed in limited quantities. But I followed her lead by calling the DIF Vallarta Office (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, or Integral Family Development, 225-9936), located at the old regional hospital, the same place where the Libramiento Saturday Market that I wrote about recently takes shape on a weekly basis.
It’s amazing how friendly folks can be towards you when you ask a question, and how reluctant they become once they learn you are a journalist!
I was transferred with Yadira, an assistant in Comunicación Social, the Spanish equivalent of ‘Customer Service.’ (FYI, just about every government dependency in Mexico has a Comunicación Social office, so this is a useful phrase to memorize for future reference!) She suggested I speak with Psychologist Cesar Venegas, who is Program Subdirector at DIF Vallarta. Again, as soon as I mentioned I was writing about this, he insisted—politely but firmly—I speak with Yasmín González who heads their Comunicación Social. So he took my number and told me that she would be calling me in a few minutes. She did not, but more on them later. Meanwhile, I began wondering if I would be better off contacting the state office in Guadalajara. My instinct paid off.
I called the INAPAM State Office at Palacio Federal in Guadalajara (333 658 5254) and the phone was answered by ex-delegate Miguel Angel Cárdenas, one of only four people that work at the dependency, and someone who graciously took over 20 minutes of his time to answer my questions politely and with every detail. (¡Muchísimas gracias, Sr. Cárdenas, por su finísima atención!)
One of INAPAM’s many responsibilities includes negotiating agreements with private sector businesses—from small grocery stores to airline companies—to offer discounts for Mexico’s senior population. The actual cards are distributed nationwide from the main office in CDMX (Mexico City) to the state offices that, in turn, distribute them to the municipalities. In the case of Jalisco there are approximately 130 different municipal modules state-wide. It is the modules’ responsibility to distribute these cards and submit reports of their distribution back to the state office in order to request more. It couldn’t be simpler, “but there are things to keep in mind,” explained Cárdenas.
There are cases in which the personnel is simply not qualified to do the work and we don’t get complete, accurate reports.
“There are certain times of the year in which there is a genuine high-demand for cards. For example, February is National Will and Testament Month and we’ve arranged for special discounts for senior citizens to be able to process theirs at a discount.” But the flip side of this is that the state office relies on municipal offices to properly report the distribution of the cards and request more. “We don’t hire employees at municipal offices. They are hired by each municipality,” he said. “As such, there are cases in which the personnel is simply not qualified to do the work and we don’t get complete, accurate reports. We even insist that, for example, if they receive 500 cards for distribution, they report 250 and request another 250, even if they still have some in stock, just to ensure that they will always have some available. Unfortunately, in those cases, it takes citizens like you to make inquiries in order to get to the root of the problem.”
Finally, I asked if I would be more likely to obtain the card during a trip to Guadalajara. Contreras explained that there are six locations in Guadalajara where you can obtain the card, but you must make an appointment to request it. “Here at the Palacio Federal office, we handle 100 people on a daily basis,” he added. “People start lining up as early as 7 or 8 am to secure their turn and receive a card on the same day. There are days in which we get less than 100, and there are times in which we have to apologize when we cap our limit.”
What is the INAPAM Card Good For, Anyway?
INAPAM maintains a very complete online list of benefits for cardholders, broken down into different categories, such as food, legal services, health, transportation, and so forth. Since the discounts are agreed by the state offices, most of the benefits are available only in capital cities, such as Guadalajara, with a few notable exceptions available nationwide:
- ETN buses offer a 50% discount for INAPAM cardholders.
- Aeromexico offers a 15% discount.
- Magnicharters offers 5 – 10%.
- Last but not least, INAPAM negotiates substantial property tax and water bill discounts, nationwide.
Why are there not many discounts and benefits available in smaller cities, such as Puerto Vallarta? “We rely on local offices to put together agreements with their own communities,” explained Cárdenas.
Back to the Puerto Vallarta Office…
With most of my questions answered and a broader appreciation of how the entire system works, I remained with the uncertainty about Puerto Vallarta. Is it the case of high local demand, a negligent office, or a combination of both? When I told Cárdenas that I wrote for the local anglophone community, he quickly commented that they get a lot of requests from both Puerto Vallarta and Ajijic anglophones.
I called the Puerto Vallarta office again, this time asking to be transferred with Yasmin González, who heads Comunicación Social. My call was again taken by Yadira. She suggested I speak to the nice people at the office in La Aurora, where the cards are distributed, the same people that directed me to the main Puerto Vallarta office in the first place!
I laughed at the lovely gift of bona fide Mexican bureaucracy at work.
As it turns out, she told me, Yasmín González is on vacation this week, but she took my number nonetheless and promised to relay my concerns to her boss, so she could get back to me. If she does, you’ll be the first to know.
Is getting an INAPAM card worth your while? I guess it depends on where you live, your timing, and last but not least, your patience. Personally, I’d love the 50% ETN discount for my frequent trips to Guadalajara! There may be local benefits not listed on the official website that I’m not aware of. If you happen to know of additional benefits available in Puerto Vallarta or have experience using your INAPAM card that you’d like to share, please leave a comment, below.
In the meantime, this entire exercise reminds me of the Gershwins’ lyrics for the eponymous 1937 song: nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try. But more so, I’m reminded of Cybill Shepherd’s take on the lyrics for her 1995-98 CBS sitcom: nice work if you can get it, and if you get it, won’t you tell me how? Two years must go by for me to be eligible for my very own INAPAM, so if I start calling the local office now, maybe they’ll have the cards available by then? Who knows.
- 60 years of age and older
- CURP number certificate (original and copy)
- Birth certificate
- Voting card (credencial de elector)
- A bill with your local address in it (not older than three months)
- Two color photographs, tamaño infantil (child-size) with a clear forehead and without glasses, taken at a photo studio and printed on matte paper
- Name and telephone of a local relative.
- Foreign residents must present their FM2 or FM3 and a passport.
And don’t forget to bring a pen!
INAPAM Puerto Vallarta is located at Milenium 143, in Colonia La Aurora (see map, above). Office hours are 8 AM – 2 PM. The telephone number you must call to inquire about card availability is 114-3946. Best of luck with that!
Having posted this less than two hours ago, I did hear back from Cesar Venegas at DIF Vallarta who invited me to his office. We had a wonderful conversation in which he shared additional information. The last batch of INAPAM cards set aside for Puerto Vallarta (all 200 of them) arrived this past November. Since there, the local office has been informed that INAPAM is making changes to the entire program at a national level, maybe even removing the cards altogether and simply extending benefits to anyone with an official ID, but nothing has been set in stone officially. In the mean time, the local office is caught between a rock and a hard place. Venegas suggested calling the local number for INAPAM (114-3946) on a weekly basis. He also suggested following DIF Vallarta on Facebook, as they make announcements that the cards are available on their page.
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