More than 24,000 Mexicans live in Western North Carolina, according to the Consulate General of Mexico’s Raleigh, N.C., office. Nearly 9,000 of them live in Buncombe County, and about 8,500 in Henderson County. For the past three years, the Consulate has brought its office to Asheville so that these legal immigrants can get help with a variety of needs.
“Without the proper identification, people who have immigrated to this country from Mexico cannot even get a library card, let alone utilities or a bank account,” says Carolina McCready, co-director of the nonprofit El Centro of Henderson County. To overcome such barriers and help meet vital identification needs in the local Mexican community, El Centro is hosting a visit from the Mexican Consulate on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the WNC AG Center in the Expo Building.
Usually, in order to process the paperwork needed to obtain/renew passports, Mexican ID cards or power of attorney, WNC immigrants have to go to the Mexican Consulate’s office in Raleigh, which requires taking time off of work and taking children away from school. In addition to eight hours of driving, most visits require many hours at the Consulate office and an overnight stay. These logistics present an insurmountable challenge for many Mexicans living in this area, say organizers of the October event.
Led by Consulate General of Mexico Javier Díaz de León, a team of 10 people from the Raleigh office will be available on Oct. 19. Stations will be set up for each of the various services offered by the Consulate. There will also be information tables with nonprofit organizations and businesses that serve the Latino community.
El Centro estimates that somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 people will attend this event. Those interested in obtaining services need to make an appointment by calling the Mexitel hotline, 877-639-4835, through Oct. 18, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
“We feel very honored that the Consulate has chosen to visit Henderson County,” says McCready. The Consulate has visited this area every year for the past three years, but before that it had been five years since representatives from had here traveled from Raleigh.
As a small nonprofit, hosting this visit stretches the resources of El Centro, which is responsible for all of the expenses related to the event including renting the Expo Center. To offset these costs, the organization is soliciting sponsorships. They are also raffling off a handmade Aztec sculpture, donated by a longtime friend of the center. The piece is made from clay and natural dyes and is depiction of the Aztec god of rain,Tlaloc. Raffle tickets are $2 for one or two for $5. They are available through El Centro.
Located at 508 N. Grove Streetin in Hendersonville, El Centro can be reached by phone at 693-1981, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Facebook (facebook.com/el.c.comunitario).