In November, a distinguished eight-person delegation from Salamanca, Mexico visited the Bryan-College Station area as part of the Sister Cities International program. The highlight of the four-day visit was recognition of Salamanca as an official B-CS Sister City. With all the receptions and fanfare, it’s easy for some to lose sight of what the program is all about and the immense value it brings to both communities.
What is Sister Cities?
Sister Cities International promotes peace through mutual respect, cultural understanding and cooperation among diverse communities around the world. Formed in 1956 at the behest of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the organization has grown to include about 1,900 communities in 135 countries. Sister Cities focuses on building strong relationships through education and arts, as well as municipal, business, professional, technical, and economic exchanges. Participants are extremely enthusiastic about connecting with people from around the world and learning about their cultures.
How We Got Involved
The success of the international organization inspired the formation of the Bryan-College Station Sister Cities Association in 1989. Salamanca is our fourth sister city, joining Kazan, Russia, Greifswald, Germany, and Zuazua, Mexico. I was fortunate to be part of the delegation that visited Salamanca in 2009 to begin the process of adding it as an exchange city. Later that year, a group from Salamanca paid its first visit to Bryan-College Station, and we made a return trip to Mexico in early 2010. Through these productive visits, our shared economic and cultural interests have continued to expand.
Intense Schedule was Productive
The group that visited in November included the town’s mayor and the Rector of the University of Guanajuato at Salamanca. The schedule of activities was intense, and the Research Valley Partnership did a terrific job of developing the itinerary. In addition receptions, dinners and luncheons with local community leaders, we visited a wide variety of businesses and research facilities. I’ve been a part of this community for 45 years, but I learned as much about the exciting things happening in our town as our visitors.
Facilities and businesses we toured included the Community Emergency Operations Center, Texas A&M Riverside campus, Texas A&M Health Sciences Center, Dynacon, Sexing Technologies, Neutral Posture, International Furniture and SkyFiber. It’s truly impressive that the innovative research being done here is having such a major impact on science and industry around the world. Our guests also had productive visits with representatives of the Brazos Valley Small Business Development Center, along with folks from the Research Valley International Gateway, Initiative for the Americas, A&M’s Global Supply Chain Laboratory and the A&M Research Park.
When we visited Salamanca last year, we saw the works of many gifted artisans, but they had no outlet for their work. At our invitation, they delivered samples for us to display at the Arts Council of Brazos Valley. The candles, dolls, hats and other items will be displayed in a glass case and if sufficient interest is shown, additional exchanges could be arranged.
The Honorable John Delaney, judge of the 272nd District Court, also invited us to his courtroom to watch the disposition of a case. After the court was dismissed, he explained how the court worked. The information was of special interest to the mayor’s wife, who’s involved with juvenile courts in Salamanca. Many business contacts were made and relationships were developed that will benefit both cities in multiple ways.
What the Future Holds
As we were driving our guests to Houston for their trip home, I had a chance to talk with the mayor and the university chancellor about our plans for the future. One idea we all liked was staying at homes rather than hotels when we visit each other’s communities. They truly enjoyed their stay at the LaSalle Hotel, but we agreed that home stays would be much more useful for getting better acquainted, which is one of the program’s primary goals.
The B-CS Sister Cities group plans to return to Salamanca in the spring, but we’re not sure when they will be back in the Brazos Valley since they have elections scheduled in November 2012. We may try to beat the election by a couple of months, or we may wait until afterward. We’re also looking at starting a youth program where ninth and tenth graders would exchange visits.
If nothing else happened in this program, it’s still been highly beneficial with folks simply getting to know one another. I’m looking forward with tremendous anticipation to our next visit to Salamanca as our relationships continue to develop and prosper.
Councilmember Place 6