Mexican consul adjusts to Boise

His job is to represent his nation as 'really your friend south of the border'

sberg@idahostatesman.comJuly 16, 2013 


    Excerpts from the Mexican diplomat's interview with the Statesman

    Q: In what ways is Mexico a cultural superpower?

    A: Everything. Mexico, in many ways, is still the heartland of the Americas. Since the 16th century, it was the place for a huge empire, a very strong one. We have the heritage of all that history. We have a very nice archaeological history. We have a very wide and important ethnographic history. We offer all kinds of tourism in our country. We have everything from deserts to oceans to mountains to snow to tropical areas.

    Q: How has the job of diplomat changed in your career?

    A: We are looking at a more integrated world, I think. A world that is walking toward shared values, universally shared values, and in which ideology is no longer the main issue for conflict. I entered the Mexican Foreign Service at the top of the Cold War and now I'm in globalization.

    Q: What kind of challenge does the talk of immigration reform pose to your office here in Boise?

    A: We are just paying attention. We just follow it and we are ready to cooperate in any way, in whatever may be needed. But, of course, we are just a respectful country that is looking from the outside. We understand clearly that this is a reform that would be to the benefit of both countries, to the benefit of our economies, and it's going to be also to the benefit of the recognition of the contribution of Mexican workers in the United States to this country. This is absolutely an issue that has to do with the sovereign right of the United States to govern itself and to improve its laws according to its national interests. Mexico is just attentive.

    Q: How common is race- or nationality-related abuse of Mexicans here?

    A: It happens everywhere. I would say that here it is almost nonexistent.

    Q: Regarding monitoring the legal status of incarcerated Mexicans in the consulate's jurisdiction:

    A: We pay frequent visits to detention centers, jails. We have contact with (U.S. Customs and Border Protection), (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), Homeland Security - all those agencies that take care of Mexicans that, for whatever reason, have been detained.

    The other thing that we do here is to protect our people. And protect means not to interfere with the authority of the United States, just to make sure that they are well-treated and that they have all the rights to proper legal advice and those things.

Guillermo Ordorica has spent his career in exotic and important places around the world.

In 25 years as a diplomat, his duties in the Mexican Foreign Service have taken him to the Vatican, Paris, Washington, D.C., and El Paso, Texas. Last month, he moved to Boise as the newest consul stationed here.

Shortly after he arrived, Ordorica met Gov. Butch Otter, who asked him which place, of all the ones he's lived, he liked best.

"Boise, sir," Ordorica said.

"You're a diplomat," Otter replied.

All joking aside, Ordorica's job involves more than charming fellow dignitaries. In a broad sense, the mission of the consulate, which opened in 2009, is to represent and promote Mexico, its interests and the interests of Mexicans in its jurisdiction, which includes most of Idaho, western Montana, and small slices of Oregon and Nevada.

On a daily basis, that means helping patrons navigate the immigration process, legal system and various challenges that people face outside their homeland. The staff helps Mexicans obtain birth certificates, provides health education and makes frequent trips to jails to ensure that incarcerated Mexicans are being treated properly.

In El Paso, his most recent post, documentation requests dominated the workload, Ordorica said.

"Here, things are different," he said. "We are not on the border. We are several thousand miles from the border. Of course, we have a daily demand for these kinds of services. Not in the amount that we used to have in El Paso or in other consulates where the Mexican population is really big."

The Boise staff spends much of the time reaching out to pockets of Mexicans and informing them of the help the consulate can provide. They help organize cultural events and hold workshops that teach business owners basic principles, from managing bank accounts to registering corporations with the Secretary of State's Office.

Carmen Gonzales, executive director of the Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the consulate has made a big difference to the region in its four years. It's more than the workshops and events the office helps put on, Gonzales said. Perhaps the biggest benefit for Mexicans, especially those who live in the Treasure Valley, is being able to walk into the office and talk to trained professionals.

"Imagine just having a brand-new store in town that you always needed, but you always had to do mail order or you had to get online to pick up the things that you needed," Gonzales said. "Well, now, here they are. They're what, four miles from me? And it is so convenient. It's easy. They're always ready to help. It doesn't matter what time you walk in."

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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