The Green Angels started in 1960 when driving tourists were the kings of tourism. There were no toll roads and most highways were two-lane. Gas stations were few. In response to these conditions and to improve the perception of safety (stories of banditos were plentiful, but like today, unfounded), the Secretary of Tourism started this service.
Newbies driving to Mexico ask, “What happens if I break down on the highway? “
You are more likely to be helped by someone in Mexico than in the USA. Don’t take my word for it, here is an email I received from a family I’d planned a trip for. “We arrived at our destination (San Miguel de Allende). We didn’t see or experience any crime or bad guys, just lots of police and military patrolling the highways. All the authorities we interacted with were professional and polite. We did have one problem though. About 2 hours north of San Miguel de Allende we were cruising down the highway when the truck suddenly died. We coasted onto the shoulder, and within 20 minutes a father and a son stopped to offer help, then two Federal Police, then two highway workers, then Green Angels.
The tourism department of Mexico has a program called Angeles Verdes. They are mechanics who drive the roads of Mexico in green and white pickups helping stranded motorists. Our particular Green Angel, Javier, first used his pickup to push our pickup up and over a hill and down to a rest stop. Then he tested the electrical system to determine the problem, which was the alternator had died. He removed the alternator, and he and I drove into the nearby town of San Louis Potosi. Even though it was Sunday afternoon and 90% of the businesses were closed, there was an alternator repair shop open. Yes, an alternator repair shop, that’s all they do. Try to find that in the U.S. They replaced the broken parts and had us on our way within the hour. Javier drove us back to the truck and replaced the alternator. All at no charge (I gave him a hefty tip). The repaired alternator costs a third of what a new one would cost. And 4 hours after the truck died, we continued on our way to San Miguel. There is no shortage of bad guys in Mexico, but all we met were good people. Que se vayan bien, Rob”
What a great introduction to Mexico! Most importantly, based on my own 40 years of driving Mexico and that of the thousands of people I’ve talked to, this is not an uncommon story.
History of the “Green Angels”
There is some confusion about where the Green Angels patrol. Some writers say that they are only on the toll roads. Not true. The Green Angels told me personally that they ply all the national highways, cuota or libre. I believe the confusion stems from the word “national.” A national highway can be both toll and free. MEX-57 and MEX-57D are both national. The one with the “D” is a toll road.
Their numbers have fluctuated over the years and now there are more than 200 Green Angels. They drive 60,000 kilometers of highways daily between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM. I’ve never put this to the test, but theoretically, you can stand on any spot on a federal highway all day you’ll the same Green Angels fly by twice.
Many old-timers are surprised the Green Angels are still around. They say they don’t see them as often. There is some truth to this. The Green Angels fleet shrank in the late 1990s, but they are growing again.
The Green Angels will help anyone motorist. They provide fuel (gas or diesel), emergency medical services, road information, make minor repairs for free, but if you don’t tip them, then you deserve to be called an Ugly American or Codo Canadiense.
So, now you know who to call when in trouble in Mexico. You can reach the Green Angels by dialing 078 from any phone in Mexico, or on the toll roads, by picking up the SOS phones.
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