McALLEN — As the sun was setting and downtown McAllen began taking on its familiar Saturday night atmosphere, about a dozen people waited outside of the Mexican Consulate here in hopes of registering to vote in the July presidential election.
More than 300 people were processed Saturday, of which 237 were able to register, the consulate reported. It was open from 8 a.m. to midnight solely to register voters.
Anyone missing the required documents — birth certificate, photo ID and proof of residency — was unable to register that day. Although they can register at a later date, they won’t receive an absentee ballot by July 1.
Lulis Pi, a Mexican citizen and longtime McAllen resident, only had her Mexican passport with her. She claims her original birth certificate was taken upon receiving her passport.
“They sabotage you with things like that so less people vote,” she alleged. “That’s politics. … It makes me angry, because I want to vote and I can’t.”
Mexican nationals living in the United States can register to vote in their country’s elections, so long as they have the necessary documents. This was the first year, however, that they could register from outside Mexico to cast absentee ballots.
Consul General Eduardo Bernal said that while it was “unfortunate” that some didn’t come with the documentation necessary to register, he was “very happy with the turnout.”
“It’s a right that you have as a citizen, no matter where you are,” Bernal said in Spanish.
Up to 40 people could wait at a time in the consulate’s lobby, and the process took at least a few hours, but for those who didn’t schedule an appointment, it was much longer.
One man walked into the lobby and was angered after being told to come back later that evening.
“This is exactly why we need to vote; Mexico needs to learn to do things the right way,” he exclaimed in Spanish to those waiting before telling those inside to vote for Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador. He then excused himself by saying, “Viva Mexico.”
Lopez-Obrador is leading the presidential race, despite several unsuccessful runs in previous elections. His name quickly became a source of contention among the impatient crowd.
“Those of us who are here still love our country, independent of the corruption,” said Orlando Gutierrez, a McAllen resident and dual citizen. “We wish we could be there, but unfortunately, we can’t.”
Gutierrez said he was kidnapped several years ago in Mexico and held for ransom for 12 days. After that experience, he said he decided to stay in the United States.
Such stories were exchanged outside of the consulate.
“The fact that there’s an exodus, an abandonment of the country where one was born to go to another one — in this case, the U.S. — is precisely why we can’t prosper,” Gutierrez said in Spanish. “It’s hard to live a decent life and do things the right way in Mexico.”
Gutierrez said that although he hopes to see change in his home country, he’s certain that “the cancer of the corruption isn’t going to go away so easily.”
Despite this, he still found himself outside of the Mexican consulate late Saturday night, hoping he’d be able to register before the midnight deadline. He’s never missed an election.
“Why do I vote? I do it for my personal conscience,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I don’t think things are going to change.
“I know my people; I know my country…”