Marcela Celorio: San Diego’s Newest Consul General
June 30, 2016
She has worked in major cities such as New York, Washington, Tel Aviv, and Brussels. But now, Marcela Celorio is ready for San Diego. The career diplomat has begun her post as Mexico’s new Consul General in San Diego, leading a staff of roughly 60 employees. During a one on one sit down interview with La Prensa San Diego, Celorio weighed in on her new job and her plans for the consulate.
“I’ve been here for just a couple of weeks,” says Celorio in her Little Italy office. “The thing that strikes me the most is that San Diego and Tijuana are essentially one region. For people who cross the border on a regular basis, it seems more like a traffic stop than an actual border.”
For over 20 years, Celorio has been surrounded by a world of law, diplomacy and politics. As a teenager though, she actually had her eyes set on the world of sports and even philosophy. Her focused shifted when her father gave her a few words of advice.
“My dad was a lawyer,” says the Consul General. “He told me ‘I don’t really see you as the next Socrates of the 21st century. Why don’t you become a lawyer first and then, once you graduate, you can focus on philosophy.’ So, I took his advice,” recalls Celorio with a smile. “I had other interests at the time. I also told my mom I wanted to play professional soccer, but I didn’t end up doing that either.”
While soccer may be unmatched in fanfare and excitement, Celorio, 50, has no regrets about pursuing the field of foreign affairs. She earned a law degree at Mexico CIty’s prestigious Escuela Libre de Derecho law school. She completed her master’s degrees in diplomacy from the Matías Romero Institute and also attended the Colegio de la Defensa Nacional where she studied defense and national security. She started off her career in Mexico’s Foreign Service back in 1999. Since then, she has traveled the world representing Mexico and Mexicans abroad.
“I fell in love with the job and how I could help migrants,” says Celorio. “Without a doubt, I chose the right field.”
The Mexican Consulate in San Diego is one of 49 across the United States. While the role of each consulate somewhat shifts and adapts to the needs of the community, the country’s Foreign Ministry is calling on its departments to shatter misconceptions about Mexico – especially in light of the prominent role immigration has taken in the U.S. presidential campaign. Celorio says some of those misconceptions can disappear by focusing on specific political, economical and social matters along the border.
“When we talk about politics in the region, there’s the issue of having dual citizenship that’s recognized in Mexico and in the United States,” says Celorio. “When it tomes to the economy, the consulate can educate our community on issues like opening a bank account or requesting an individual taxpayer identification number if one doesn’t have a social security number. Last but not least, there’s the issue of having our community learn English. It’s not about just learning the language, it’s about adapting to the culture and understanding it.”
While Celorio wants to encourage Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living abroad to integrate and learn proper English, she also believes there are two sides to the issue. Americans, she says, can also enrich the cross-border culture by learning Spanish.
Celorio is replacing former San Diego Consul General, Remedios Gomez Arnau, who now serves in Mexico’s Consulate in Raleigh, NC. But Celorio is no stranger to the role of consulates. She served in New York and Washington for many years, but San Diego brings in a new dynamic because of the city’s proximity to the border and the binational nature of the region. In fact, the new Consul General decided to introduce herself to the press at the Cross Border Xpress pedestrian bridge, where travelers can literally walk from Tijuana’s airport to San Diego’s Otay Mesa and vice-versa.
“I want to reiterate that I’m here to represent Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living abroad here in San Diego County” says Celorio. “When it comes down to it, and when all the formalities are left aside, I’m a public servant and I’m here to serve.”
While for many, the word consulate equates to bureaucracy and paperwork, Celorio is hoping to go beyond those stereotypes, be it in the realm of protecting human rights or issuing passports.
“It’s very easy to think about the consulate as a place where one just stamps approval letters or issues passports,” says Celorio. “But sometimes we forget that an official document can give a person an identity. It can open doors to social, educational and even medical services. A passport is much more than just a traveling document.”
Celorio is a Mexico City native. So, after working abroad for so many years, what does she miss most about Mexico?
“I miss my family of course and having them nearby,” says Celorio. “But working outside of Mexico, I’ve also learned more about my country. The creativity, joy, and generosity of our people all shine through, and that’s something a lot of other cultures don’t have – Mexicans have these in droves.”