Paper, Stamps and Seals: The Mexican Obsession with Paperwork

Although we live in a digital age, paper consumption is still at very high levels. This is evident for any person who lives in Mexico, where there seems to be an obsession, even love affair, with paper. Any kind of paper and paper products. Oh- and we cannot forget stamps and seals to go with paper. Of course, just like any society, Mexico publishes multitudes of newspapers, advertising brochures, government booklets, etc.  However, Mexico is on overload when it comes to paper and sometimes stamps/seals. Here are some observations regarding paper and paperwork in Mexico.

*A fideicomiso, or land trust held by a bank, can be up to 20 or more pages. Every single page has a notary seal and signature.

*Many notary offices still utilize huge books to handwrite entries for real estate transactions. These volumes of books are kept in the office “libraries”.

*Bank receipts, even for a simple deposit, many times will have a stamp and signature somewhere on the printed document.


*Some medical offices, no matter what technology is available, will still use the old-school, leather-bound appointment books.

*Simple, printed receipts from stores can be printed on 8″ x 10″ paper.  With seals, of course!  The whole process of a purchase in stores can be quite humorous, as you must get the “Pagado” (paid) stamp, followed by a trip to another window to pick up the merchandise and to receive an “Entregado” (delivered) stamp.  Many times it is the same clerk who will move from one desk to another!  Below is the outcome of a simple light fixture purchase. A huge receipt, with the ‘paid’ and ‘delivered’ stamps.  All that, for a small light!


*Speaking of simple receipts, in most small stores the old-fashioned and handwritten receipts are still used.


*Volantes (flyers). You cannot walk down the street without passing businesses who post employees outside to hand out flyers. Walking past homes, you will see lots of small advertisements taped to doors, gates and windows.

*Poster board. What was once a staple for school children’s projects before our technology overload is still widely used in Mexico.  Restaurants will post their daily specials; barbers will promote their cheap haircuts; market stand vendors will label their products; street food vendors will post their offerings and more! You can spot the bright, fluorescent poster board with black marker writing a kilometer away!

molida               SONY DSC

*Booklets for healthcare visits. If you belong to the Mexican Social Security Medical system, you are given a booklet and all your visits will be documented in writing and stamped inside the booklet on the appropriate pages.  Sometimes, even veterinarian offices will utilize a ‘carnet’ to handwrite checkups, vaccinations, etc.


Paper, paper and more paper!!! I have no idea why all this paper has drawn my attention. I am always comparing life in Mexico to that in the U.S. With so many differences, why paper usage and paperwork have such a lasting impression is beyond my comprehension.  Perhaps, it is because paper documents are so important to get things done here.  FYI- If you ever live in Mexico, DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR ELECTRIC OR WATER BILLS!  They, along with many copies of them, are needed to do just about anything here!  In fact, copies of everything may be needed!  That may be why copy shops are so prominent here. That topic can be a future post!


12 thoughts on “Paper, Stamps and Seals: The Mexican Obsession with Paperwork

  1. Interesting observation. Do you think it is because Mexico lacks the technology (ie computers and computerized systems) that we do here? It reminds me of what things were like here before the computer age. I even recall seeing poster board in grocery stores when I was growing up!

    • Many things in Mexico remind you of days gone by. But, this paper ‘situation’ has nothing to do with technology, for the most part. In fact, sometimes they are a bit more advanced. They also love QR codes. You can scan the QR code on your electric bill with your smartphone and access your account. Even our ticket to the state fair had a QR code! One scan and it gave you in real time the events for the day! It’s a crazy contradiction!

  2. And it all starts when you enter Mexico at the airport and get your passport stamped, and your visa stamped. I love that sound of stamp, stamp, stamp heard….it tells me I’ve arrived in Mexico!

  3. It’s funny because every time I read one of your posts, it sounds Mexico is really similar to Thailand. Thai also love their paperwork, often asking for many copies of the same thing only to give back all but saying they never needed the others. 🙂

  4. When I first moved here, you had to get documents for the Immigration office typed up by hand, and there were people with typewriters who would charge for just that. That was in 2004! Now, finally, almost all the forms can be filled out online.

  5. Reblogged this on howdoyousaytacoinspanish and commented:
    At lunch today with my boss and a fellow co-worker, we were wondering how the work we do was completed prior to computers.?! Our boss who has been with the company for almost twenty years described cutting, and pasting, and wow.! We shook our heads disbelievingly. The crazy part of the story is that sort of stuff still happens in Mexico. Don’t get me wrong, Mexico is part of the 21st century with computer and cell phone use. But some things like mobile apps, paying bills online, and check deposits via your phone are completely out there. Some transactions are still done the old-fashioned way – in person and with paper.!! I thought Mexico: Live it, Love it does a fine post explaining this love affair or obsession.! Enjoy.!!

  6. Part of the problem is the legacy of the Socialist state. This is all very reminiscent of eastern Europe and Russia in particular, during the days of communism. Mexico was a “revolutionary” state until very recently; with strong (and corrupt) socialist, big-government tendencies. As we know, these sort of government systems are VERY bureaucratic; and there is nothing bureaucrats like more than paperwork!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s