September 14, 2007

Mexican consul leaves San Diego: Grito will be his last official act

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

The current Mexican consul in San Diego will leave his post this Sunday, Sept. 16, and next week he will travel to South Africa where he will become Mexico’s ambassador.

Luis Cabrera has been the Mexican consul here for the past three years and a half.

But before leaving for South Africa, he will head the official ceremony of Mexican Independence Day at El Festival del Grito Sunday at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The event is organized by the Mexican Consulate and Univision Radio.

Cabrera will give the traditional “grito,” or declaration of Independence, with a “Viva México!”

El Festival del Grito will include a line-up of some of the most popular Mexican regional bands, including the popular El Coyote y su Banda Tierra Santa.

The festival, which was founded in 1999, will be a free family event that will open its door to the public at 11 a.m.

The festival will include mariachi music, ballet folklorico, Mexican food stands, as well as community informational booths, with topics such as health and education.

“It is the commemoration of Mexico’s decision to become an independent and sovereign nation,” Cabrera said last year. “In Mexico and abroad, we must celebrate this important date because it marks the beginning of modern Mexico. I have the honor of giving the grito [or declaration] of Independence.”

This is the last official event Cabrera participates in San Diego as consul.

His administration in San Diego is seen as a typical consulate administration, where, as a career diplomat, he didn’t raise his voice as much as many immigrant rights activists would’ve wanted him to.

“There’s always room for improvement in part of all consuls,” said Enrique Morones, a vocal immigrant rights activist who’s president of the non-profit Border Angels. “Each consul has a different style of administrating the consulate.”

Morones said that during Cabrera’s administration there were many immigration events that took place in San Diego that, in other places, would’ve been cause for violence among the people.

Morones referred to the increase of deaths at the border, the immigration rallies in 2006, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in Mexican communities, the Border Patrol’s raid in front of the consulate, the founding of the Minutemen and other vigilante groups.

“Consul Cabrera, I believe, was able to help maintain peace during these difficult times for our gente,” Morones said.

The immigration activist did point out that Cabrera was rather conservative, in part due to his development as a career diplomat.

In fact, before coming to San Diego, Cabrera was a Mexican diplomat in London, Berlin and France. He also worked in Brazil and Belgium.

Before San Diego, he was consul in Phoenix, Arizona.

Pedro Rios, director of American Friends Service Committee, a human-rights organization in San Diego, said that the committee had a good relationship with the consulate during Cabreara’s administration, often sharing information on Mexican nationals facing deportation.

“During his administration we had an open relationship,” Rios said. “He was willing to attend to our questions.”

Rios said that Mexico should allocate more resources to its consulates in the United States to meet the needs of Mexican immigrants.

“Consulates are sometimes limited on how they can respond to emergencies,” Rios said.

Morones said that the ideal profile of a Mexican consul in the new era of anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States would be one that has a grassroots, activist background in Mexico.

Most of the Mexican consuls that have worked in San Diego have been career diplomats who often don’t understand the situation of Mexican immigrants because their backgrounds are completely different.

“There’s a lot of improvement for the consul and the consulate institution in general,” he said.

Ricardo Pineda will serve as interim consul while Mexico appoints a new consul in San Diego, said Consulate spokesperson Alberto Lozano.

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