An Office with Open Doors
Subhead: Local government department helps expats and NGOs to navigate Mexican culture
By Jesús Aguado
The expat community’s problems can be varied and specific, but they will always find an answer at the Dirección de Vinculación con ONGs y Atención a Extranjeros (Office of Customer Service to the Expat Community and Nongovernmental Organizations), where the employees speak Spanish, English, and French. Currently the government department is expanding its accessibility by working on launching a bilingual (Spanish and English) 24-hour emergency hotline.
Francisco Garay Russo heads the Dirección de Desarrollo Economico y Relaciones Internacionales (Office of Economic Development and International Affairs). But, with his staff, he is also responsible for contact with nongovernmental organizations and supporting the expat community.
“We invite the expat and NGO community to our office. Our door is open to all, and specialized personnel will give them support tailored to their situation, directing them to help from the most appropriate local, state, or federal office.”
A liaison for nonprofit organizations
His department’s main goal is to work as a team with NGOs to “economize their resources. We want them to integrate their strategies and actions to serve a wider number of people, and to team up with the local administration.”
For that purpose, he said, they are working on a map of NGOs “in order to know where they are working, which rural communities or neighborhoods they are serving, and how to get NGOs into those places where the help has been limited.” The office will share information with the Dirección de Desarollo Humano y Social (Office of Human and Social Development).
Garay Russo said that in San Miguel de Allende, there are approximately 160 nonprofit organizations. However only 120 have registered with his office. He invited all those nonregistered organizations to team up with the administration “to coordinate efforts and help more people.” The only requirement for registering is that the organization have its NGO certificate.
His office offers helpful benefits, Russo said, including training in applying for state and federal grants.
Francisco Garay Russo
Russo was born in San Miguel and studied public policy and international affairs at Princeton University. Later he worked for Kaiser Associates in Washington DC.
He has a master in corporate law from Stanford University and worked for a law firm in New York until he returned to San Miguel three years ago. He worked on Luis Alberto Villarreal’s mayoral campaign, generating proposals and strategies to integrate all the sectors of San Miguel.
Services and activities available from the International Affairs and Nonprofit Organization Department
Holistic attention to the needs of the expat community
Connections to local, state, and federal offices
International connections and access to events with officials from other countries (like embassies and consulates)
Connection with foreign nonprofit organizations
Institutional support for nonprofits, including assistance with applying for federal and state registration and grant funding, assistance with complying with tax requirements, and assistance with filing tax returns
Publicity of activities and campaigns of registered NGOs
The office is located at Plaza Principal 4 (in front of the Jardín). It is open Monday–Friday, 8:30am–4pm.