HOUSTON / ATLANTA / MONROVIA

Hon. Maria Elena Orantes

Consul General Of Mexico Houston

By: Heidi PP – Editor in Chief, iF Magazine

Houston has a brand new fabulous Consul General. We are honored today to meet with the lovely Maria Elena Orantes, Consul General of Mexico in Houston. 

First of all let me thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. Tell me a little about yourself. How long have you been in the United States?

I officially arrived in the United States on June 14. I have been in charge of the Consulate General of Mexico in Houston for a month, with the excitement of working for the protection of Mexican men and women in their different federations and communities. It is an honor for me to be in charge of this office for Mexico, working and representing my country.

In life one always prepares his pathways and challenges, and thus achieves his/her goals. The goals may be achieved according to the possibilities that life gives us. I am a woman who entered the university program for communication. In addition, I practiced journalism in all its branches. My major course of study was in public policy.

I have dedicated a large part of my life to serving my country beginning with the legislative level, as a local deputy, a federal representative several times, Senator of the Republic and coordinator of a political institute.

During this administration, I worked in the foreign service law on several occasions and proposed several initiatives. I achieved several changes in this area. That is why I know perfectly well how the performance of foreign policy works through the scope and legal framework of the law. Additionally, I have always participated as the leader of the Foreign Relations Commissions. This is how being diplomatic and political is a synergy that is always combined for the service of Mexico and Mexicans.

Today, I am proud to be in charge of the Mexican Consulate in Houston. It is the third most important consulate in the United States in terms of income, likewise, we are part of the largest consular network in this country. No country has the consular network that we Mexicans have in the United States.

Have you always wanted to be in the diplomatic corps? How did you prepare yourself to be a Consul?

In preparing myself to be a consul, I presented a draft work plan that was reviewed and approved. First I presented it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later I appeared before the Senate of the Republic. It was reviewed by the President of Mexico and was ratified by the bilateral policy body, which is precisely the Senate of the Republic.

All my professional career I have served my country, I do it with deep love and dedication. Since I was small, I have felt a deep love for Mexico and my roots. That is why I have served, now as a Diplomat, but also as a congresswoman. I believe that my experience representing my home state, Chiapas, in Mexico’s internal politics and my academic training in public policy and gender studies have played a fundamental role.

I know how to build bridges between communities with diverse backgrounds. Chiapas has different ethnic groups with a wide variety of needs. I will do the same here in Houston, serving the community on a larger scale.

What area of the United States is included in your territory? Is there a term limit on your service here?

The Consulate’s constituency currently encompasses 37 counties in Texas. Harris, of course, is the biggest. Our constituency boundaries extend to Tyler, Angelina, Polk, St. Augustine, Newton, and Trinity. Full details of all the counties we cover can be found on our website. Right there, you can research some procedures on how to process the various documentation and the dates of the mobile consulates that we have.

At mobile consulates, we approach the documentation process for our compatriots. We have an extraordinary team of consuls and staff who dedicate their day to day service to our communities.

To answer the second part of your question, the law establishes that I will be serving the Mexican community in Houston for a maximum of six years.

Having mobile consulates is a very good idea. I am sure it makes serving the needs of Mexican citizens who live a long way from Houston so much more convenient. What are the duties and responsibilities of a Consul General?

The main duty of a consul general is, of course, the protection of the Mexican community, representing them, and also defending the interests of Mexico’s foreign policy abroad. With this, the government seeks to have a close relationship with local political actors, generate international trade, empower businessmen and women who come to invest and vice versa; those who are here and want to invest in Mexico.

Likewise, tourism promotion is an important part of our work. We also provide documentation through excellent services. Through the health, education, and financial windows, we also work as notaries public to be able to grant: birth certificates, powers of attorney, and legal guidance. We ensure at all times the validity of the Human Rights of Mexicans in the United States, especially from a gender perspective.

My work, broadly speaking, is being responsible for promoting cooperation between Mexico and Houston; such cooperation can take the form of economic, commercial, cultural and scientific exchange.

It seems that you have a lot of responsibility, and you enjoy it. What is your main concern for Mexico right now?

Cooperation, dialogue, peace and building bridges have always been priorities for Mexico, especially in the context of the migratory, economic and security phenomena that occur with the United States.

Migration is an important issue at the Consulate, and we see a wide variety of cases every day. For example, I think a lot about how we could maintain and improve our relationship for the benefit of the American and Mexican citizens who work and strive every day.

On the other hand, my main concern as head of this office for Mexico is to attend to each and every countryman, providing, to the best of our ability, that all services are closer to the community.

Speaking of the economy, what are the main products that Mexico exports to the USA? In your opinion, is tourism a large part of Mexico’s economy?

Some of the most relevant products that Mexico exports to the United States can be classified as: vehicles, machinery, electronics, medical instruments, and fuels. That’s not to mention the foods and vegetables we know and love like the avocado.

We are one of the largest trading partners of the United States. Last year, Mexico was the second largest supplier of products to the United States and the second largest recipient of US exports. Here, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, if you take 100 imported products at random, about 13 of them are likely to come from Mexico.

Mexico produces, in terms of agriculture and livestock, very high export quality standards. Today we are also promoting chocolate, which has risen to an art in our culture, in cocoa. We also want our coffee to reach the United States, especially Houston. For this reason, we are working to make these links a reality.

Another aspect to highlight is that we not only have beach destinations, but also gastronomic destinations, which are as diverse as Mexico City or in the southeast of the Republic, where the Mayan train is being built.

Tourism is a fundamental part of what Mexico has to offer to the world. On this side of the border, the main influx of tourism is from Houston precisely to our country, which is why it is also a big part of our economy, and that is why it is part of our responsibility to promote it.

Tourism between both countries represents 8.6% of Mexican GDP and is the source of income for millions of people (4.6 according to SECTUR in 2023). Approximately 6 out of every 100 Mexicans who work in the formal sector are linked to a tourism activity.

Most of these tourists are US citizens. If today we survey 100 hotel guests in any major tourist destination in Mexico, it is very likely that more than half come from the United States, 57% according to our Ministry of Tourism.

Does Mexico import many products from Houston? Would you say that we are a vital part of the economy?

I would certainly say that Texas is a vital trading partner, just as much as Mexico is a vital trading partner for Texas. Stacker’s data indicated in 2021 that Mexico is the country from which Texas imports the most goods, leaving China in second place. This reveals that the economic ties between Texas and Mexico are close enough to compete with an economic titan like China. Most of the Mexican products that Texas imports are computers, crude oil, and auto parts.

As you can see, the flow goes both ways, as Mexico is the top consumer of Texas oil, gas, food, machinery, and manufactured exports. The Ministry of Economy in Mexico pointed out that only in 2021, Texas exported a total value of $122.726 million dollars to our country. Most of that figure 27% came from the oil and gas industry.

I knew that the trade went both ways, but I did not know just how large the flow was. Do you have a goal in mind for the future of Mexico-Texas relations? What programs are you currently working on?

My goal is to further strengthen the ties that unite Texas and Mexico by promoting bilateral trade, investment, and cooperation in energy, education, culture, and tourism.

In addition, I am working on some other programs that could be useful to integrate and protect the Mexican community in the state, as well as to promote Mexican culture.

As you know, health issues in Houston are critical. Starting from there, Mexico is also interested in creating labor agreements through collaboration and cooperation. In that way, we plan to publicize the human talent that our country has.

We are also making several agreements and obtaining scholarships to prepare our young people to be able to study at the different universities with which the consulate has agreements. Those who live here and those who come from Mexico can have academic preparation. Through this plan we are achieving first, second and third generations of Mexicans each day more prepared with a country that offers this variety of educational opportunities.

You are to be congratulated on your plans for the future of Mexican citizens here. Is there something we have not touched on yet that you would like our readers to know? Please feel free to address it now.

Thank you, dear Heidi, because I would like to add that, after this first month of my administration and continuing with the official positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we are at a stage in which traditional diplomacy must revolve around serving Mexicans, a diplomacy close to compatriots abroad. For this reason, the Consulate General of Mexico in Houston must be, from now on, the home of all Mexicans.

Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure. I hope to see more of you and of Mexico. I look forward to working with you closely to promote Mexico in the future.

For further questions contact:

Heidi PP-Editor in Chief
iF Magazine
Latin Chair HITDC
heidipp@ifmagazine.net

Hon. Maria Elena Orantes Consulate General of Mexico
atencionpublicohouston@sre.gob.mx

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