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Photos: Kianni Figuereo/Al DÍA News
Mexico’s Head Consul in Philly visits AL DÍA. Photos: Kianni Figuereo/Al DÍA News

“We are truly resilient,” Carlos Obrador Garrido Cuesta talks Philly’s Mexican community, plans for the Mexican Consulate and more with AL DÍA

Obrador Garrido visited AL DÍA on Thursday, Jan. 19 to also offer a snapshot of 2023.

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AL DÍA spoke to Carlos Obrador Garrido on Thursday, Jan. 19, the head consul at the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia. Obrador Garrido, who has held this position since 2017, talked his plans for the consulate in the new year, new partnerships, and about U.S.-Mexico relations. 

He spoke on the work being carried out by the consulate located inside the Bourse Building in Center City. They oversee PA, Delaware and eight counties in South New Jersey, and serve more or less 350,000 people of Mexican origin or Mexicans living in the Philly region. 

Obrador Garrido was previously the Head Consul for the Mexican Embassy in Del Rio, Texas. 

The Embassy carry out a number of tasks that include protecting the interests of Mexican citizens living or traveling in PA, Delaware and southern New Jersey, they act as a liaison for official government and business delegations, issue visas for non-Mexicans wishing to travel to Mexico and produce Powers of Attorneys that need to be enforced in Mexico. 

Their services and the Mexican community 

Obrador Garrido touched on daily life at the consulate where hundreds of people come to carry out different important tasks. 

“We have approximately 150 people who come to the consulate to carry out different procedures, but above all we call it the ‘food combo,’ because they come to ask for three essential and very important documents for their daily life,” he said. 

The “combo” is the Mexican passport, they then process their consular registration. It allows you to open bank accounts, to identify yourself to local or state police, or to receive medical attention. The third part is a voting card. 

Obrador Garrido has only been in Philadelphia for less than four years, but because of his unique position, has seen firsthand the growth of the Philly Mexican community in power and numbers, particularly in South Philadelphia, where a large number of Mexicans reside. 

He spoke to the particulars of growth for the “extremely hard-working community.” 

“It is proactive in the arts and industry. We are truly resilient. We have a significant number of Mexicans working in construction, services, but also creating jobs themselves, opening businesses as small entrepreneurs and for us, it is an obligation to work with them to provide orientation and services that they may need,” he said. 

From Texas to Philly 

Obrador Garrido was previously the head consul for the Embassy in Texas and given the differing political and ideological views on issues like immigration, he compared and contrasted what it was like to work the same job in two politically different cities — where one buses migrants and the other receives them with open arms. 

“When I found out I was coming to Philadelphia, I felt very happy. I felt that it would be easier to work here. Because I was in Texas during the time of President Trump. The change from one federal administration to another on migration issues was notorious,” Obrador Garrido said. 

Life for immigrants under Trump was tumultuous where a simple arrest, or a minor traffic violation, made them subject to deportation. 

He said it forced them as a consular network in Texas and the rest of the U.S. to establish rapid response mechanisms to advise those people in certain situations. 

But under a Democratic administration, and now in Philly, a sanctuary city, the situation is better and Obrador Garrido credits the city for how they view immigration compared to Texas. 

“It is a state where its authorities know the importance of immigrants. They are people and institutions who know the importance of attracting immigrants to their state and their communities. Because we are the future. The future of this country is immigrants,” he added. 

Photo: Alan Nunez/ Al Dia News

Building “essential" partnerships 

The consulate also maintains a number of partnerships with local and national organizations that include Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, African American Chambers of Commerce, American Jewish Committee, and the Asian American Chamber of Commerce. Obrador Garrido calls it “essential” that the consulate has these close ties with the organizations. 

“We could not do our job defending labor rights, human rights and the dignity of people without a network of allies, organizations of civil society, but also organizations and government agencies,” he said. 

Pandemic woes

The consulate, like the rest of the world, is just barely starting to come out of the pandemic fog that forced them to close their doors. Obrador Garrido explained to AL DÍA what those times were like, the problems they caused, and how they have come out the other side for the better. 

“Those three months that the consulate was closed caused a lag in the attention to our compatriots of more or less 10,000 documents, passports, and registration,” he said. “Once the work activity restarted, we gradually reduced the lag. We still have a certain lag but much less. We are working on different ways to beat it.” 

One way was extending hours to give more people the opportunity to go to the consulate, and receive their documents. They have also taken it upon themselves in what he called, ‘mobile consulates,’ where they head to parts of the state where the Mexican population is concentrated, such as Pittsburgh, and other suburbs. 

Mexico and U.S. Relations

When the topic of Mexico and U.S. relations was brought up, particularly between Presidents Joe Biden and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on the national scale, it got off to a rocky start when AMLO did not attend the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles last July, citing the exclusion of the Cuban, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan governments. 

Fortunately for the betterment of both, the two have seemingly been able to repair the relationship, and strengthen the ties between the two neighboring countries when Biden, AMLO, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau all were present at therecent  North American Leaders Summit in Mexico City. 

It was the first time a U.S. leader had visited Mexico in over a decade. 

Obrador Garrido spoke to the imperativeness that the two countries remain close, like a good marriage or friendship, they both need one another, and that “there is no other.” 

“We insist that for the U.S., there is no other and for Mexico, it is the case. We insist that for the U.S., there is no other relationship more important in the world than the bilateral and diplomatic relationship it has with Mexico. There is not a single case, an issue of daily life that does not affect a U.S. or Mexican citizen in all areas.”

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