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The Nevada Independent

Indy Q&A: Departing consul looks back on his 3 years representing Mexico in Las Vegas

From processing passports to promoting Mexican art, the consulate plays a key role for Nevada’s many Mexican-born residents.
Jannelle Calderon
Jannelle Calderon

Julián Escutia Rodríguez, the consul of Mexico in Las Vegas, is leaving the post and the city on Jan. 31 after three years — during which he helped organize COVID-19 vaccination and testing events at the consulate, worked to improve information distribution, organized community cultural events and promoted Mexican culture and the contributions of Mexicans in the United States. 

While his replacement is not known yet, and there’s no timeframe for when the new consul will be appointed, the Mexican Consulate will not go unattended as Vice Consul Jeremias Guzmán Barrera will step up during the interim, Escutia Rodríguez said. 

The consulate acts as a representative of Mexico's government abroad and is directed by Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mexico has more than 50 consulates in the United States — some serve entire states while others focus on cities or counties.

Consuls such as Escutia Rodríguez build relationships with local and state governments and advocate for the rights of individuals born in Mexico. Consulates conduct more than 50 document procedures involving Mexican passports, consular registration, voter identification for Mexico, birth and marriage certificates and military identification cards. 

In Nevada, Mexicans account for 39 percent (the largest bloc) of Latino immigrants.

Escutia Rodríguez, who took over the seat in September 2020, said career diplomats often serve in cycles of three or four years, meaning it’s time for him to move on to other opportunities. 

“I have already completed three years in Las Vegas. Three very nice years, full of challenges and opportunities,” Escutia Rodríguez told The Nevada Independent in an interview in Spanish for the Cafecito Nevada podcast and radio show. 

He looked back at the challenges and achievements of his tenure and shared what’s next. The interview has been translated into English and edited for brevity and clarity.

What’s next for you after Jan. 31?

The [Mexican] Ministry of Foreign Affairs has authorized me to return to Mexico and I am going to head a foundation [Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that is] based in the United States, but it is a global foundation, dedicated to the protection of marine life. So I am going to leave the consular [duties] for a few years, but I am not leaving the foreign ministry and I am not leaving the foreign service. I am still a career diplomat in the service of Mexico. 

What are some of the things that were achieved during your tenure?

Something very positive, in my opinion, is that we reactivated the consulate’s cultural agenda and one of the big things we did was a mural painted at the East Las Vegas Community Center with the support of Councilwoman Olivia Diaz. That community center was rehabilitated, remodeled and as part of that rehabilitation, we brought in a brilliant Mexican muralist. Her name is Adry del Rocio. Many people from our community pass by that street [Eastern and Stewart avenues] and when they see that great mural, they see themselves reflected in it. 

Another cultural [partnership we started] with Mayor Carolyn Goodman [is] we have an art exhibit every year in which Las Vegas artists of all origins … submit their works of art to be included. 

This was something people wanted, more Mexican culture, for the talent that exists here to be showcased. So I think that's an accomplishment that people see in their culture as a source of pride and strength.

Mural by Mexican artist Adry Del Rocio at the East Las Vegas Community Center on the corner of Eastern and Stewart avenues on Jan. 18, 2024. (Jannelle Calderon/The Nevada Independent)

What are some of the main challenges you faced during your tenure?

The main one was the pandemic. I arrived here in 2020. When I arrived, we were serving a very limited number of people due to the restrictions imposed by the local authorities and because there was still no vaccine. In short, it was a very uncertain environment.

One of the first actions I took was to ask the authorities in the City of Las Vegas to consider the Mexican Consulate as an ally as soon as the vaccine was available. I am very proud to say that this consulate, out of the 50 or so Mexican consulates in the United States, was the first one to have a COVID vaccination clinic. I think it was in February or March of 2021, very early on. 

There were several vaccination days that were open to the whole community, not just Mexicans. Many of our neighbors came here to get vaccinated. Also unhoused people. As you know, downtown Las Vegas faces several challenges with people who are homeless and, well, many of them who are our neighbors, they came to the Mexican Consulate to get vaccinated. 

What are the main functions of a Mexican consulate in the United States?

Well, precisely the promotion of trade, investment and tourism is one of them. It is something that is not well-known, but it is something we do every day. And especially this consulate, because we have to remember that we cover the entire state of Nevada, so we also cover the capital [Carson City].

Part of the diplomatic and political relationship between my country and this state is to have communication with the different political actors, elected and appointed officials. So, for example, in 2023, I spent several days in Carson City during the Nevada Legislature, talking about Mexico, about the opportunities to do business and so on with Mexico. So, during these years I’ve maintained a very close collaboration and communication with mayors, councilmen, with the entire delegation of the U.S. Congress, with the entire delegation of the state Legislature and, of course, with then-Gov. [Steve] Sisolak and now with Gov. [Joe] Lombardo. 

And what are some functions that cannot be performed by a Mexican consul in the United States?

Some of the things that we cannot do ourselves is, for example, litigate, go to court, represent someone. We are not licensed lawyers in the United States. We cannot get you out of jail if you committed a crime. We can tell you what your rights are and we can refer you to a lawyer. We cannot mediate between a divorcing couple. 

There are many people who approach the secretary or consulates looking for relatives and sometimes those relatives do not want to be found. So we cannot do that, we cannot disclose information. We have a lot of private, confidential information about the people who come here on a daily basis. 

What have you done during your tenure to address the complaints we have seen from the public about some difficulties in obtaining appointments at the Mexican Consulate? What about businesses that charge for making those appointments? 

We are transparent in the number of appointments that are available each week. On social networks, we say how many appointments there are and we say what week they are for. The chancellery enabled the option of making appointments by WhatsApp. The truth is that it works very well. In less than three minutes you make the appointment by WhatsApp. 

And we have been consistent for more than two years that appointments open up on Thursday afternoons. So a very peculiar thing has happened; there are people who come on Thursday afternoons to make their appointment here at the consulate and we help them. We have explained that the appointments are generated in a call center with a centralized service that is in Mexico. In other words, you can make your appointment wherever you are. With WhatsApp, you can also make them over the phone and you can also make them over the internet. You do not have to come to the consulate to make the appointment. Complaints have reduced because it's becoming clearer that appointments are easy to get. 

About the sale of appointments, I have been very clear that this problem is not going to end until our own people stop paying for that service. We have denounced those businesses. The authorities have taken action.

You don't need an appointment to ask questions. You can come to the consulate to ask. Every day hundreds of people come to the consulate to receive services and to receive information and orientation. We are open every day, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. [at 823 S. 6th St. in Las Vegas]. 

And if you have an emergency, you can come and tell me that you have surgery tomorrow morning and you prove it to me — bring a letter from the doctor saying that you need an emergency surgery tomorrow morning — and you do not have an ID. I will give you the [Mexican] ID and you will have it in less than an hour. This service has been available since the pandemic and continues to be available. 

Did you feel that there was something left to do in your tenure as consul or something else that could be improved?

Of course, there are always things to do. One thing that is missing is more trade and investment between Mexico and Nevada. I think there are a lot of opportunities. The North American Free Trade Agreement has not materialized or has not been fully taken advantage of; it is a great tool to increase those flows of trade, of investment.


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