Jun 7, 2024 - News

Charlotte is getting a Colombian consulate

five people stand around a table

Karol Cortes, co-president of Festival Colombiano and Natalia Silva, president of Festival Colombiano handing then-Colombian ambassador Luis Guillermo Murillo the petition to bring a Colombian consulate to Charlotte in 2023. Photo: Courtesy of Festival Colombiano

The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently announced that five new Colombian consulates will open in Charlotte, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas and Seattle.

Why it matters: The Charlotte consulate will serve more than 60,000 Colombians living in North and South Carolina, plus surrounding states like Virginia and Tennessee.

Context: The closest Colombian consulate to Charlotte is in Atlanta. Making a trip there to renew a passport, acquire an ID, apply for a visa, register births and deaths, or undertake other legal matters can be quite an ordeal.

  • "There are people who don't have cars who have to coordinate rides, you have to take time off of work; if you're missing a document, they send you right back ... sometimes you have to stay overnight, now you have to pay for a hotel and food," says Natalia Silva, who spearheaded the petition to bring the consulate here.

Catch up quick: Silva is among the dozens of local Colombian community leaders and business owners who have petitioned for the consulate for over a year.

  • During last year's Festival Colombiano, which more than 10,000 people attended, they handed a petition with more than 5,000 signatures to the then-Colombian Ambassador Luis Guillermo Murillo, asking him to bring a consulate here.
  • On Tuesday, May 28, now Chancellor Murillo announced that their petition was successful.

What they're saying: "The governor welcomes the new Colombian consulate to Charlotte and the additional resources and support they will provide the Colombian community in North Carolina and beyond," Jordan Monaghan, deputy communications director for Gov. Roy Cooper, said in a statement to Axios.

The big picture: Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in North Carolina. Mecklenburg County has the largest number of Hispanic residents in the state.

  • North Carolina is home to career and honorary consulates representing over 20 nations. Charlotte has consulates representing Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, among other countries.

Zoom in: The Colombian consulate sometimes sends a mobile pop-up to Charlotte from Atlanta to provide support services to locals. When it came to the Festival Colombiano last year, about a hundred people who waited in line were left unattended.

  • "They tended to 180 people in a day," Silva said.

What's next: Several steps need to happen before the Colombian consulate opens in Charlotte, including approval from the U.S. Secretary of State and a decision on a location.

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