By Christian Chapman
Martha Vera is a rare gem, she is beautiful, and multi-faceted. The arts and education have played heavily in her life as with life altering decisions. Married to Dr. Robert Vera, the community service oriented couple can be seen out and about in support of various events to make El Paso a better place to live. Vera serves as Director of Sales and Marketing at Desert Imaging, Honorary Consul of Spain and Studied Cell Biology/Biochemistry/Ballet at University of Texas at El Paso ‘82.
What are the duties/functions/responsibilities of your Honorary Post? My job encompasses protecting Spanish citizens that may be visiting or living in my jurisdiction. I handle questions about passports, Visa Waivers, and ICE or deportation issues. In addition to that, I promote the history, culture, education, music, art, and gastronomy of Spain. I work with the Trade Commissioner at our Spanish Embassy to promote El Paso as a possible place to locate Spanish businesses interested in our Maquila industry. On a more serious note, I am responsible for locating any Spanish citizen during a catastrophe. All Honorary Consuls work closely with the US State Department and our Embassy on this matter
What kind of problems do you deal with? I deal with deportations, lost or stolen passports, and immigration. I also deal with issues regarding any students studying in the US within my jurisdiction.
What kinds of decisions do you make? The General Consul’s office will call me with any issues that need to be taken care of. It is my decision as to how I address it and what route I need to take to ensure that all parties are taken care of fairly. Some projects or issues may take days or months.
Why did this type of service interest you and how did you get started? I have always been interested in foreign affairs, especially Spain because I come from Spanish lines on both sides of my family. I am also interested in promoting peace and understanding. Our world has been overtaken with hate and misunderstanding. I want to make a difference.
How were you selected for the post? I assisted the previous Honorary Consul, Mari Angeles Gallardo and at that time, the Consul General, Miguel Angel Fernandez de Mazarambroz in a project that was very difficult. When the position came available, I applied. The selection process is very time consuming and actually took about 8 months. The General Consul has to approve you, the Spanish Embassy needs to approve you, and the United States State Department needs to clear you. I underwent a through and lengthy investigation.
What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position? That is an interesting question because my whole working life has been a great experience in my present position. I was blessed to work for companies where I was responsible for business development, marketing, and dealing with people of all cultures, beliefs and comportment.
What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your post / occupation? The satisfaction is meeting the challenge and finding the solutions to issues, after all, it is all about helping people. Dissatisfaction is not in my vocabulary.
What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? It is helping people. When I see someone smile and finally relax after their issue is taken care of, it warms my heart. Many of these issues are disheartening for the people going through them. Many of them face the possibility of not returning to the US for at least 7 years.
Most challenging? I have not experienced the most challenging, yet. That one would be if a catastrophic event ever happened. God willing, it won’t.
What do you like and not like about working in this industry? I love every aspect of it!
What did you do before you entered this occupation? I continue to work for Desert Imaging as Marketing Director. Before that, I owned and operated Imaging El Paso.
What is your day like? I work for Desert Imaging as Marketing Director, so my day is busy with my work. As Honorary Consul of Spain, I work around my schedule to take care of business that may be sent my way by the Consul General of Spain, Enric Panés. I am an extension of the Consular Office in Houston. An Honorary Consul is not paid to do the job. It is an honor to do it.
Which have been most helpful? All of my work experience has helped me, however, my position of Business Development and Medical Education Manager for Merck trained me to work with diverse departments and people at a national and international level.
Why did you decide to work for this organization? I decided I wanted to serve as Honorary Consul to give back to my country, my community, Spain, and to make a difference there.
What do you like most about this organization? I love working with people and solving problems that arise.
What social obligations go along with a job in your occupation? There are many Consular events with the National, State and Local Consular Corps that I attend.
Are there other things you are expected to do outside of work hours? Yes, always. I am on call at all times, especially if the State Department calls.
From your perspective, what are the problems you see working in this field? This position is all about solving problems should they arise. I work very closely with the General Consul and all my Honorary Consular counterparts. We all work together to arrive at a solution.
What are the educational requirements for this job? You do need a degree or two.
What other types of credentials or licenses are required? We need State Department clearance.
What types of training do companies offer persons entering this field? We are trained by our General Consul, the US State Department, and the Consular Corps College.
Does your work relate to any experiences or studies you had in college? Yes, Political Science and History have come in quite handy. It is so important to have a well-rounded education. I encourage all students to learn as much as they can. Every course they are taking today will help them later in life.
What are some of your current projects? I am currently working on a project with historians and archeologists from Mexico, France, Spain and the US to make our area, concentrating on the Camino Real, Missions, the Tigua Pueblo a World Heritage site. Presidio, Alpine and up to Santa Fe are coming together to get this done through UNESCO which is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Our own Adair Margo has served on their Board. Sul Ross University and UT Austin are very active on this project. I would like to see UTEP get involved.
How well did your college experience prepare you for this job? My college experience was well-rounded and has certainly helped me with every job I have had. In my Honorary Consul position, I promote education in Spain and vice versa. We have programs for students, teachers, and professors to study and work in Spain. We have an interchange program that I would like to implement here with our schools, EPCC, UTEP, and NMSU. That experience in teaching or studying abroad is so enriching. I hope our teachers, professors and students will take advantage of it.
Are there any written materials you suggest be read? Mr. Rolando Pablos and Mr. Anthony Giuliani at the Borderplex have started a new entity for El Paso, the World Affairs Council, which educates our public and students in current World Affairs. They will be bringing World Affairs speakers and current information to El Paso. We are currently working the World Affairs Council on an International Ball with the Polish Society, Alliance Francais, Jewish Federation and other countries such as, Colombia, Mexico, etc. to raise funds for the World Affairs Council and their educational efforts. I hope you will be there.
What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for someone pursuing a career in this field? I would encourage them to get involved with our community. Do what you love. There are many wonderful non-profits that need help. These entities ensure a better community. If you would like to get involved with the Sociedad Cultural de España, or for speaking engagements with your organization or school, please send an email to Martha Vera, firstname.lastname@example.org.