In April, Pleasanton welcomed more than two dozen officials and community representatives from Tulancingo, Mexico. As Jeremy Walsh documented in a recent article, this delegation came to commemorate a milestone anniversary for the two sister cities. The members exchanged gifts, toured local Tri-Valley landmarks, and explored the natural beauty of the Bay Area.
Pleasanton’s relationship with Tulancingo is part of a forty year friendship stemming from the Sister Cities program.
The Sister Cities program is a citizen diplomacy initiative that seeks to establish relationships between communities in different countries. It is a program that aims to promote cultural understanding, economic development, and international cooperation. The United States has been involved in the Sister Cities program for over half a century.
One of the first Sister City relationships was established between the cities of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in the Soviet Union and Coventry in the United Kingdom in 1944 during World War II. Coventry and Volgograd were two cities with a remarkably similar population and industry (tractor manufacturing).
After hearing about the devastation that the German army unleashed on the Russian city, the woman of Coventry started sending over aid. This aid was reciprocated and the citizens of the two cities formed a bond that lasted through the Cold War to this day.
The origins of the United States sister cities program can be traced back to 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed the idea of people-to-people exchanges as a way to promote international understanding and peace.
That same year the United States sent a delegation of mayors to the World Conference of Mayors in Brussels, Belgium, to explore the idea of establishing partnerships between American and European cities.
The first official Sister City relationship in the United States was established in 1956 between the cities of Toledo, Ohio, and Toledo, Spain in 1931. Since then, the program has grown significantly, with more than 500 American cities participating in Sister City relationships with over 2,000 cities in 150 countries around the world.
The program gained momentum in the 1960s and 1970s, during the Cold War era. Many cities sought to establish relationships with cities in other countries as a way to build bridges and promote cultural understanding. The Sister Cities program provided a means for citizens to connect with people in other countries and to learn about their culture, language, and way of life.
One of the most famous Sister City relationships is between San Francisco and Osaka, Japan. The relationship has led to cultural exchanges, business partnerships, and student exchanges. The two cities have also worked together on disaster relief efforts, such as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco and the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Osaka.
The Sister Cities program has also been used to foster economic development and promote cultural understanding. Many American cities have established Sister City relationships with cities in other countries to create business partnerships and to attract foreign investment.
For example, the city of Chicago has a Sister City relationship with Shanghai, China, that has led to increased trade and investment between the two cities.
These programs also provide opportunities for students to study abroad and to learn about different cultures. It’s even been used to establish teacher exchange programs, where teachers from one city teach in the other city for a period of time.
There is no limit to the amount of sisters a city can have. Unlike actual siblings you don’t have to worry about snacks in your pantry or your favorite clothes mysteriously disappearing. Maybe in the future Pleasanton can add to our international relationships and forge some new city bonds.
Editor's Note: The "Notes on the Valley" blog is written by Monith Ilavarasan, who grew up in Pleasanton. After a career in tech, he took a sabbatical to be a community organizer. He has continued to work in tech and shares his thoughts on the people, places and events that make up and shape the Tri-Valley.