After lengthy courtship, Aurora lands deal to host state’s new Salvadoran consulate

“That will be our first international consulate office in the city,” said Ricardo Gambetta, manager of Aurora's office of international and immigrant affairs. “That's why it's a big deal — because now we are truly an international city."

AURORA | In a coup for city officials aching to poach a project from their sibling city to the west, Aurora has landed El Salvador’s new Colorado consulate.

Ricardo Gambetta, manager of the city’s office of international and immigrant affairs, said Aurora recently inked a formal deal with the Central American nation to open a consulate in the former city hall building on South Havana Street and East Florida Avenue.

While several details have yet to be fleshed out, Gambetta said city officials expect the Salvadoran government to begin operating the facility sometime next month. He said representatives from El Salvador are expected to sign a lease on the Havana Street building in the coming days.

“We knew from the beginning that this was a long shot because, I guess, the perception was that they will try to have the office in Denver, but we knew that we had a potential in our city,” Gambetta said. “It took almost 10 months, but we are so pleased that the government already made the decision to open the office here in Aurora.”

He said the new consulate will also serve residents in Wyoming and Kansas, totaling a population of about 25,000 native Salvadorans in that three-state region.

Citing U.S. Census data, Gambetta said about one-third of Colorado’s Salvadoran residents live in Aurora,  slightly fewer than 2,500 people, according to the City of Aurora’s 2016 demographic report. According to the report, Aurora residents from El Salvador make up the city’s third-highest population of foreign-born residents, behind only Ethiopia and Mexico.

Gambetta said the city has already initiated talks with the Salvadoran government to establish business and trade relationships between the state and the central American nation, which borders Guatemala and Honduras. He added the city worked closely on the deal with SARCO, an Aurora-based business group for Salvadorans living in Colorado.

“What we, I think, as a community need to be aware of is this is just another form of economic development,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said Tuesday. “This is business, and to have it in Aurora just makes it special.”

Hogan travelled to El Salvador last year in an effort to woo the country’s consulate to Aurora. Hogan has said that part of his motivation for courting the Salvadorans was to prove Aurora could land a project that would typically be established in a state capital.

“Obviously I’m excited by that prospect,” Hogan said. “I think it’s great news for our residents from El Salvador because they are one of our largest populations, but it’s also great news for the city. Consulates usually settle in a capital city in a state or the largest population center of a state, so to have a decision made that brings business to Aurora is important to us.”

José Manuel Castillo, the newly appointed consul general of El Salvador, visited Hogan in Aurora last week, reciprocating the mayor’s visit to Castillo’s homeland last year, according to Gambetta.

Each of the consulates currently operating in the state — those tied to Canada, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Japan — are located in Denver, Gambetta said.

“That will be our first international consulate office in the city,” he said. “That’s why it’s a big deal — because now we are truly an international city.”