New Salt Lake consulate already helping many of the 20,000 Salvadorans in Utah
Mar 24, 2023, 11:13 AM
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — Salvadorans in Utah finally had their requests for a consulate answered earlier this month.
The Central American country opened a consulate in Salt Lake City in March based on the requests. The opening is part of a push from President Nayib Bukele’s administration to open more consulates to better serve those affected by the country’s diaspora, 2.8 million of whom live in the U.S.
Gladis Rodríguez, executive director of Comunidad de Salvadoreños en Utah, said previous letters requesting a consulate were answered.
“The importance of having a consulate in our state is huge” she said in Spanish. “The Salvadoran community in Utah is very happy and satisfied because we have a consulate in our state, it’s like having a little piece of our country in Utah.”
Salt Lake City is the country’s 28th consulate in the U.S., and Consul General Fernando Pérez, who runs the consulate along with two colleagues, said about 20,000 Salvadorans live in Utah. Prior to the Salt Lake consulate’s opening, the closest consulate for Utahns was in Las Vegas. Rodriguez volunteered during the Las Vegas consulate’s mobile visits to Utah and said the consulate was never able to help all the people who were in line to receive services.
Daniel Espinoza said he put off renewing his passport for three months because he didn’t have the time to make the trip to Las Vegas. He moved to Salt Lake City seven years ago to join family and had made the trip previously.
“The truth is, going to Las Vegas to do this type of process is complicated. It takes time and sometimes it gets complicated,” he said in Spanish. “It was really good news to find out that the consulate is here. … I don’t know how big the Salvadoran community in Utah is, but I think it’ll be a relief for the majority.”
Pérez, the consul general, estimated the consul has helped about 100 Salvadoran since opening on March 8.
“We’re really happy because we have received a lot of Salvadorans since day one,” he said. “At the beginning, people are excited. So people are coming in maybe just to ask questions or introduce themselves.”
He hopes to work with community organizations as well as local and state officials on issues ranging from culture and sports to the economy. He hopes those efforts will benefit not just Salvadorans but the broader Hispanic community as well. El Salvador is the second country, alongside Mexico, that has a consulate in Utah. A handful of other countries, like Peru and Uruguay, have honorary consuls in the state.
“I’m trying to be a link between the state of Utah, the city of Salt Lake and the Salvadoran community like, ‘Here we are, we exist,'” Pérez said. “Because it’s new, it’s really interesting because you have a lot of opportunities and a lot of ways you can work together for the Salvadoran community, for Salt Lake City and also for El Salvador itself.”