The Foreign Service Journal, April 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2020 49 I t all began with a claim I had heard repeatedly since arriving at post as a first-tour consular officer in the summer of 2017: Consulate General Matamoros, so the story went, had been founded in 1832 and was the world’s oldest continuously operating U.S. consulate. But I soon ran into a contradiction when I learned the consulate in Ponta Delgada in the Azores Islands, founded in 1795, has long been recognized as the world’s oldest U.S. consulate. So was the founding date of our post in Matamoros as mythical as its claim to be the oldest consulate in the world? In fact, I would soon find, it was. This is howmy passion for correcting the historical record and using our rich, long-lost post history to advance U.S. foreign policy priorities began. As I researched my post’s history, I real- ized that I was blazing a trail that any officer can follow to break ground and advance U.S. foreign policy objectives. We just need to know how. Moises Mendoza left Matamoros, Mexico, in June 2019 after serving two years as a first-tour consular officer. His next post is Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, where he will be a political officer. He is currently working with the State Department’s Office of the Historian on a project to enable posts to more easily access and use historical records. The views expressed in this article are his own and are not necessarily those of the U.S. government. The author would like to thank Bill McAllister with the Office of the Historian, David Langbart with the National Archives and Records Administration, and Foreign Service Officer Telside Manson for their assistance with this article. Digging deep into his post’s history unearthed more than this FSO ever expected—including a passion for discovering and sharing knowledge to aid public diplomacy and boost morale. BY MO I SES MENDOZA FS HERITAGE Discovering Our Consulate’s History, We Discovered Ourselves v My curiosity about Matamoros led me to the State Depart- ment’s Office of the Historian. There, I was provided with scans of old personnel cards that seemed to indicate the first consul in Matamoros had been appointed in 1832. Indeed, official State Department records listed that date, too. I decided to dig deeper, however, and contacted the National Archives and the Library of Congress. I talked to the Bunche Library at the Department of State. I pored over archives of department publications. Finally, at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, in Brownsville, Texas, I found the Holy Grail. In a copy of a National Archives and Records Administration microfilm publication con- taining reproductions of original records was the first despatch written by a consul in Matamoros—dated 1826, not 1832. Further investigation into newspaper records revealed that our first consul had actually been appointed in 1825, when the city was