In Chicago, A Tale of Two Mexican Consulates

On the left, the alternate consulate on 59th Street. On the right, the official Mexican consulate. i i

On the left, the alternate consulate on 59th Street. On the right, the official Mexican consulate on South Ashland Avenue. Cheryl Corley, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Corley, NPR
On the left, the alternate consulate on 59th Street. On the right, the official Mexican consulate.

On the left, the alternate consulate on 59th Street. On the right, the official Mexican consulate on South Ashland Avenue.

Cheryl Corley, NPR
Renee Magana, left, and Jorge Mujica are the organizers of the alternate consulate. i i

Renee Magana, left, and Jorge Mujica are the organizers of the alternate consulate. "This not just a rebellion out of the blue or to have fun," Mujica says. Cheryl Corley, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Corley, NPR
Renee Magana, left, and Jorge Mujica are the organizers of the alternate consulate.

Renee Magana, left, and Jorge Mujica are the organizers of the alternate consulate. "This not just a rebellion out of the blue or to have fun," Mujica says.

Cheryl Corley, NPR
Salvador Pedroza is president of the Illinois Chapter of the National Action Party. i i

Salvador Pedroza is president of the Illinois Chapter of the National Action Party, and a supporter of new Mexican President Felipe Calderon. "They need to learn to be losers," he says of supporters of Lopez Obrador. Cheryl Corley, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Corley, NPR
Salvador Pedroza is president of the Illinois Chapter of the National Action Party.

Salvador Pedroza is president of the Illinois Chapter of the National Action Party, and a supporter of new Mexican President Felipe Calderon. "They need to learn to be losers," he says of supporters of Lopez Obrador.

Cheryl Corley, NPR

Mexico's recent political strife has migrated to Chicago... in a quieter form. No public fisticuffs, no brawling over the installation of President Felipe Calderon. Instead, supporters of opposition leader Manuel Lopez Obrador's PRD party have set up what they call an "alternate consulate."

Why Chicago? More than 1.5 million people of Mexican descent live in the Chicago area. The new diplomatic entity is in a storefront on the city's southwest side.

Jorge Mujica, a top official of the PRD in Illinois, is the spokesman for the alternate consulate and Rene Magana is the self-appointed consul. Although they joke about their protest, both men are serious in their belief that Lopez Obrador was cheated out of the Mexican presidency.

So, following steps being taken in Mexico, they created their own parallel government entity.

"This not just a rebellion out of the blue or to have fun," Mujica insists. "This is a serious government plan."

Mujica wants Mexican immigrants to bypass the official consulate altogether. He says the PRD is working to devise ways to get documents and information directly from state governments in Mexico to streamline an often clogged process at the consulate.

Veronica Bernabe is one of about 250,000 people who come to the official consulate each year for help. On a recent visit, her husband was renewing his passport so he could travel to Mexico.

They had heard about the alternate consulate, but weren't sure they could get what they needed there. Also, Bernabe's husband is not a Lopez Obrador supporter.

The spokesman for the official consulate, Caesar Romero, says representatives from all three of Mexico's major parties have worked closely with the consulate in the past, often putting political differences aside.

"We don't play Mexico politics here," Romero says. "We represent the Mexican government, the Mexican people by law."

He's concerned the alternate consulate will create confusion for Mexican nationals in the Chicago area. So is Salvador Pedroza, president of the Illinois Chapter of Felipe Calderon's National Action Party (PAN). A picture of Pedroza and former Mexican President Vicente Fox sits on a bookshelf. He says its time for the PRD to realize the election is over.

"They need to learn to be losers," he says. "They need to accept it."

But at the alternate consulate on 59th street, Mujica says his party is not ready to quit. And he says more alternate Mexican consulates are likely.

"There's PRD all over the United States," he says. "And beyond PRD, there's sympathizers with Lopez Orbardor government. So this might take off."

If so, the alternate consulates might play a role in the ongoing battle being waged in Mexico over the legitimacy of the nation's new president.

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