Readers often ask me for recommendations about what they can bring with them to Mexico on their next trip to donate to charitable organizations, schools or churches.
My standard response it to make contact with the organization that they want to donate to prior to coming down in order to determine their specific needs. That’s the best way to ensure that their donation will have the most positive impact. Also, getting a letter from the charitable organization prior to your arrival will make it easier (and cheaper) to bring in those items. Otherwise you may be charged duty on the items.
I then follow up that advice by cautioning them not to bring a very common item that people like to donate: used clothing and shoes.
The reason is that the importation of used clothing and shoes to Mexico is strictly prohibited by law. Not only are the items subject to seizure when you arrive, you can also be fined. That certainly reminds me of that old saying, no good deed goes unpunished.
Of course, they aren’t referring to your personal clothing items in your luggage. Those are the ones you plan to wear during your trip, and hopefully take back home with you.
The Mexican government cites health reasons for the ban on the importation of used clothing and shoes; however, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find used clothing from the U.S. in Mexico — it’s literally everywhere. That’s because it is being illegally smuggled into the country, many times, by the same criminal organizations that are involved in more newsworthy illegal endeavors like drug trafficking and fuel thefts.
Don’t let this little setback dissuade you from donating items that aren’t prohibited. And, if you’re really dead set on donating clothing, you can always bring new clothes and/or shoes.