By Amelia Orozco, Hola America
There is nothing like being with family, especially at Christmas, New Year’s and on Mother’s Day. But if you are a Mexican living abroad, these moments are usually the most difficult. After working and saving a little to help the family back home, many are left to celebrate new traditions mixed with a little bit of home.
But a little ray of hope is available in a city far from home and it’s found in an office that sometimes sprouts wings and goes to towns and cities on the outskirts of the bustling city. That office is the home of all Mexicans in the United States, the Mexican Consulate in Chicago. That is where Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendivil works. She’s the Consul General of Mexico in Chicago, who took her position in the Windy City in 2019. Prior to this most recent post, she served in the same capacity in other parts of the country, in San Antonio, Texas and in Fresno, California.
The ambassador has had a career in diplomacy since 1992. Her bachelor’s degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) is in International Relations. In addition, she earned her Master’s degree at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science. Ambassador Torres Mendivil also served as head of the Foreign Ministry at the Embassy of Mexico in the Czech Republic.
In a conversation with Hola América, the ambassador told us how satisfied she feels to be able to serve her people in this capacity. She says, “Since I started my career I have been interested in politics, security and humanitarian issues.” She found herself in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico in negotiations at the national level. She always followed politics in the United States and was focused on immigration issues. “When I was first in the Central California area in Fresno, I could see the difference in what you do in Mexico City or in Washington; you have the ability to help people. You can see the difference, something you don’t see elsewhere in diplomacy,” says the ambassador.
At the consulate’s office, Mexican citizens can carry out certain common transactions such as identification cards, birth certificates and passports. It is also an information hub where several free resources are shared with the community, along with assistance in filling out Medicaid applications. Free services are also offered in the area of finance education.
“The most complex service,” says Torres Mendivil, “is the power of attorney, because you are giving the authority to someone else from here, to act in your place there [Mexico], for things like banking or an inheritance. It is not easy, and the person has to be interviewed. There is a lot of formality because of how important that function is,” she adds. The office is part of a lawyer’s bar, an association of lawyers that helps prevent fraud. It is important to remember that notaries and their functions are very different in the U.S. than in Mexico. In the United States, notaries are not lawyers.
In addition to all the important services and information offered by the office, whether in Chicago or in a remote location, the Mexican consulate in Chicago is committed to bringing the necessary resources to communities. And that’s why the ambassador says that, “It wouldn’t be fair if we just sat in our office in Chicago.” They often visit places on the outskirts of the state, farming communities in southern Illinois, and places in Iowa. They go where there are other Mexican nationals working, raising their children and putting their kids through school. The consulate’s office sends boxes of books in Spanish to schools and they are received with great interest, “They are just like the books we studied in elementary school in Mexico,” Torres Mendivil says.
The ambassador emphasizes, “There is a lot of need, and our people are so honorable. Of course, there are different circumstances and situations when comparing people in Texas, California or in the Midwest. People do stand up for themselves, and raise their voices, and it’s a beautiful thing.” And she adds, “The immigration issue has become more politicized, which is used for good and for bad. We spent many years where we had a pro-immigrant government,” she said. “The census is important, but at times because there is fear for a grandfather or an uncle who does not want to attract attention, people will not participate. But it’s very important that everyone is counted in the census so that more services become available to these communities,” she adds.
On the subject of new immigrants from other countries who have recently arrived to Chicago, she says, “It is a challenge without a doubt for the state of Illinois and for Chicago. Different voices react a certain way, even within the Hispanic community. But we must not close our eyes to those who are arriving,” says Torres Mendivil. As of August 2022, the state of Texas has sent about 8,000 immigrants seeking asylum to Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York. (chicago.gov)
Truly, Mexico is well represented in Chicago and its surroundings by a leader like Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendivil, with principles that should make all Mexicans proud, a person who has worked far from her home country for years, and has always done so with compassion and care. By her example, we can be sure that, although it can be difficult to support one another at times, if one succeeds, we all succeed.