Dignitaries from Wichita were recently welcomed to the city of Tlalnepantla, Mexico, to celebrate 40 years of city sisterhood.
Dr. Jerry Smartt, Friends University Professor of Spanish, accompanied Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and City Councilman Jeff Blubaugh, ‘98/99/02, on a trip to Tlalnepantla, just north of Mexico City in central Mexico, from Sept. 12 to Sept. 17. The trip marked 40 years since Wichita and Tlalnepantla formed an alliance through the Sister City program.
Though there was plenty to celebrate – not only the 40-year partnership, but also the 203rd anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain – there was also much work to be done.
“Besides the celebrations,” Dr. Smartt said, “we also planned and confirmed future projects between the two cities.”
Prospective projects include student exchanges between the cities, collaboration on domestic violence centers in both cities, equine therapy collaborations, police and fire department partnerships, and economic development through entrepreneurs.
Though Dr. Smartt served as interpreter for much of the visit, she was also able to present information about Friends University during an educational summit. After her presentation, Dr. Smartt said she was encouraged by the audience’s enthusiasm.
“They seem to have so much interest in our particular institution,” she said.
Dr. Smartt said there’s also a very strong cultural component in the Sister Cities program.
“The people of Tlalnepantla plan to donate a sculpture to Wichita titled ‘The Land in the Middle,’ which is what Tlalnepantla means in the Nahua language.”
Wichita has been officially part of the Sister City program since 1973. In addition to Tlalnepantla, Wichita is also in partnership with Orleans, France; Cancun, Mexico; and Kaifeng, China. The mission of the Sister City program is to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time.
“That’s really what we’re doing,” Dr. Smartt said. “We’re moving in that direction with our eye on the entrepreneurship piece that is very important to our two cities, and helping hands with all the social programs. That’s what family does. They help each other out. That’s the nice part of the program.”
Dr. Smartt says that Wichita’s current mayor, Carl Brewer, has taken a particular interest in the city’s international relationships. She said the visit was highly productive and ended on a hopeful note, and that the mayor of Tlalnepantla was invited to Wichita to celebrate Riverfest 2014.
“When you do a panoramic view of what this visit was,” she said, “we left with a positive feeling in our hearts that there was so much progress with the kinds of projects and endeavors we are working on.”