By NESTOR CASTIGLIONE
ELYSIAN VALLEY — The newest hot spot in this neighborhood is not a cafe or art space. It’s the Guatemalan consulate.
After a soft opening in January, the Consulate General of Guatemala in Los Angeles officially opened their new facilities at 1975 Riverside Drive this summer. An estimated 400 to 700 people make use of consular services on a daily basis.
The consulate’s new, two-building compound next to the interchange of the 5 and 2 freeways is rather low profile compared to its former Wilshire Boulevard address. But the complex — purchased for about $4.26 million — is larger than the previous consulate and represents an “enormous improvement in services for Guatemalan citizens,” said Consul General Edwin Roberto Archila in a phone interview.
Among the services that the facilities provide to Guatemalans are passports and national identification cards, services which account for 85% of the Consulate General’s requests, according to staff. They also provide assistance to Guatemalan citizens who are detained by law enforcement, have been hospitalized, or are deemed vulnerable.
According to statistics compiled by the Consulate General, there are approximately 3.1 million Guatemalan citizens in the United States. Of those, 1.2 million—an estimated 45%—reside in Southern California.
“Year by year, decade by decade, the amount of Guatemalans that have migrated to the United States has increased,” Archila explained in a Spanish language phone interview last week. “Therefore the need and range of services that we provide to Guatemalans have had to increase accordingly.”
After purchasing the property, another $270,000 was spent on renovations.
“In order to serve Guatemalans, the building was in need of repairs and retrofits,” said Archila “[The Consulate General] worked on all aspects of opening this new office: The planning, budgeting, and execution of this project.”
Archila reminded Guatemalans seeking passports that there was a “serious” backlog of passport applications that have yet to be cleared, adding that the situation was out of the Consulate General’s hands.
“We only collect the information,” he said. “It’s the Ministry of Government that is responsible for the purchasing, printing, and delivery of passports.”
Guatemalan citizens requesting consular services are asked to call (845)805-1011 Mondays through Saturdays from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Néstor Castiglione is a journalist born and raised in Los Angeles who also writes and lectures on classical music and the popular music of Japan, 1925 – 1945.