The Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs named University staff member Juan Moreno as Minnesota’s honorary consul of Ecuador.
As consul, Moreno will head a new Ecuadorian Consulate, which will open in the Twin Cities in the coming months.
The consulate will give Ecuadorian immigrants access to an Ecuadorian government agency and give them a voice within the community, said Moreno, diversity and inclusion specialist for the University’s Extension Service.
Ecuadorian immigrants will be able to go to the consulate to retrieve necessary legal documents such as birth certificates, visas and passports.
The nearest consulate in Chicago, and many immigrants find it difficult to travel because of their jobs, Moreno said.
When the consulate opens in the Twin Cities, it will be much easier for them to conduct legal transactions, he said.
“The consulate will also give voice and visibility to the (Ecuadorian) community – like a PR role,” Moreno said.
Ecuadorian immigrants make up the second-largest Latin American population in Minnesota, and the community is growing, Moreno said.
He said he has been working very hard during the last 10 years to petition the Ecuadorian government to open a consulate in the Twin Cities.
It will be one of only six or seven in the United States, he said.
Volunteers from community-based organizations will mostly operate the consulate.
“There are a lot of people ready to volunteer time,” said Maria Zavala, community organizer for Family and Children Services.
The nonprofit group started plans for bringing a consulate to the Twin Cities 2 1/2 years ago, Zavala said.
They petitioned community members and the Ecuadorian government, she said.
Zavala said she is glad the consulate is almost ready to open after all the work participants put in.
“I am happy not just for myself but for the whole community,” Zavala said.
Because the position of honorary consul is voluntary, Zavala said, she has a lot of respect for Moreno.
“The fact that he is taking this step talks a lot about him as a person,” Zavala said.
The Ecuadorian Consulate will be on Lake Street in south Minneapolis or near Central Avenue in the northeast area of the city, where there are the most Ecuadorians.