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New Mexican consulate opens in Westchase area of Houston
Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón opened the new state-of-the art headquarters of the Mexican Consulate in Houston’s Westchase area Friday.
“This new headquarters will help us to significantly increase our presence in the region and to be able to provide better services for both Mexicans and people interested in Mexico,” Ebrard said at a ceremony in an art gallery in the new complex.
The consulate — in Houston for 100 years as of September 2020 — is one of the largest among the 50 diplomatic representations Mexico has in the United States. It serves more than 2 million people of Mexican origin in 37 Texas counties. It is also the largest governmental office from a Latin American country in Houston.
The consulate provides a host of services to Mexicans living in Houston and the surrounding region, including legal assistance and aid related to vital records and travel documents.
The new 50,000-square-foot facility at 10555 Richmond in what is essentially Houston’s embassy corridor doubles the space of the former headquarters near downtown. It’s also the first large construction undertaken in a Mexican diplomatic quarter under current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Ebrard said the new consulate is a stepping stone to a revamped relationship between Houston and Mexico.
“We think that if we strengthen the ties between our cities and economies, we are going… to provide our communities a stronger future,” Ebrard said, citing as example collaborations during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the consulate helped with free coronavirus vaccination and test drives for about 5,000 people.
The relocation of the consulate was announced in 2019 after the Texas Transportation Commission approved a plan to swap the land at the old location with the new one as part of a plan to rebuild the downtown freeway system.
The move was seen by some as inconvenience given that the highly visible previous address near San Jacinto and Interstate 69 was more centrally located.
“We understand that the news is surprising for many people,” Consul General Alicia Kerber Palma said when the move was announced.
But the new facility has several advantages, such as its own parking lot. Many people visiting the previous building used to complain about predatory businesses around the area charging exorbitant fees for parking space around the consulate.
“This is truly a special moment for us as we moved from a building that we occupied for the last 20 years,” Kerber Palma said Friday. “This new building will allow us to serve Mexican nationals and guests in an efficient and safe manner.”
Roberto Velasco Alvarez, chief officer for North America at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited diversity as an attribute of the new consulate.
“We believe that this consulate is a model space for diversity, for inclusion, to generate dialogue, to generate reflection, and to be able to detonate conversations even through art, as we are seeing here,” he said.
Mexico and the Houston region have ties in the tourism, trade and investment sectors, Ebrard said. But he added that his government plans to strengthen collaborations in areas such as “clean energy (and) developing medical capacities because what we saw in this pandemic showed us that we have to work more together.”
According to the consulate, Houston is already a strong Mexican partner, with many direct flights, investments by large Mexican companies and a strong presence in Mexico of Houston companies.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Mexico is currently the second largest trading partner of the city with an average of $19 billion in trade per year.
The opening of the consulate “highlights the strong and dynamic relationship between Houston and Mexico… not just in terms of an economic point of view but in terms of culture, education and medicine,” Turner said.
Turner also announced that the first international post-pandemic trip of his government will be to Mexico at the end of August.
“As partners, it’s the people-to-people relationship that we value the most right here in Houston,” Turner said. “Mexican Americans are part of this community as doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, in our government and in every industry in this city. Our city is stronger with their presence.”
Turner took the opportunity to contrast his administration’s position to that of former U.S. President Donald Trump, who vilified Mexican immigrants to justify the need for a border wall.
“In Houston we do not build walls, we build relationships,” the mayor said. “And in the city of Houston it does not matter if you’re documented or undocumented, where you are from, what religion you practice, or who you love. As long as you are in this city, I am your mayor.”
The new consulate has four floors and multiple areas to serve the public. The art gallery that served as backdrop for Friday’s ceremony exhibits paintings by Edgar Medina, a Houston artist of Mexican origin.
More than 100 people attended, including Houston City Council members, representatives from local agencies and Mexican consulates from other U.S. cities.
“It really takes all of us working together to pull off a project like this,” said U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston. “The (political) climate is not sometimes where we want it to be, but if every one of us here carries the message of goodwill, cooperation and collaboration and working together, I know we can overcome it.”