Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendívil, the new Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio, hit the ground running from the moment she took her post almost four months ago.

Torres arrived during a critical juncture in the United States’ relationship with Mexico, with a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement looming and lingering tensions over President Donald Trump’s push for a wall along the border. Most recently, Torres dealt with one of the deadliest human smuggling tragedies in the U.S. in more than 10 years.

A total of 10 immigrants, the majority from Mexico, died after being transported to San Antonio inside a sweltering tractor-trailer on July 23. About 30 survivors suffering from heat-related injuries and trauma were taken to area hospitals, and 20 of those who have been discharged are in federal custody as material witnesses. The Mexican Consulate contacted families, assisted with repatriating the bodies of the dead, and offered legal support to survivors.

On Thursday, Torres paused to attend a cocktail reception to officially welcome her to San Antonio. City Council and the San Antonio-Mexico Friendship Council (SAMFCO) hosted the reception at the Mexican Cultural Institute that was attended by civic and business leaders representing the City, IBC Bank, Port San Antonio, Frost Bank, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, among others. IBC Bank was the main sponsor of the event.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg with Ambassador and Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio Reyna Torres Mendívil meet to discuss shared goals. Credit: Courtesy / Mexican Consulate in San Antonio

“We are both committed to fostering strong relationships that will help expand opportunities for trade and investment, as well as educational and cultural opportunities between our two countries,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who met privately with the ambassador to discuss shared goals.

Torres, who has been a member of the Mexican foreign service since 1991, told civic leaders that the modernization of NAFTA is critical for everyone and that San Antonio’s voice should be heard in the process.

“I only see friends in this room, and we wouldn’t be able to do anything without these alliances and partnerships,” she said. “There are many things to do. We are facing a lot of challenges – small ones and big ones. But I’m sure with the help of all of you, any task will be better addressed with your help.”

Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) and Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) praised Torres for her work in engaging the Mexican community in San Antonio almost immediately upon her arrival. In July, Torres participated in a workshop at the consulate at which law enforcement, city leaders, and immigration advocates came together to clarify the role of local law enforcement in immigration issues.

“As soon as she got here, she started with work that was piling up,” Saldaña said. “Before we even got to say hello and dress up in pomp and circumstance around roses and flores we went straight to work to make sure we had ‘know your rights’ campaigns out in the community, and she was front and center organizing in all parts of the city.”

Torres also has been working alongside consular officials to handle a spike in requests from Mexican nationals for consular assistance. With increased immigration enforcement under the Trump administration and the pending state “sanctuary cities” law, many are requesting to renew passports or complete paperwork for their U.S.-born children to apply for Mexican citizenship in case their family is separated.

The consulate released data highlighting that the number of citizens asking for legal advice at Mexican consulates in Texas increased 60% after Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in May. The law would allow local law enforcement officers to ask about the immigration status of anyone they detain and also would punish elected officials who fail to honor requests from federal immigration authorities to hold certain individuals.

“She has been somebody that not only holds a position and has a title,” Saldaña said. “I think that’s important, but not the most important quality that we have in the amazing embajadora that we got. It’s a heart for the work, a heart for the people, and a passion to do right by them.”

Estoy muy conmovida – I am touched,” Torres said, thanking the business leaders and city officials present. “With the consulate and the institute on one side and with your partnership and your friendship, we’re going to do good work in the coming years.”

Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...