Sister Cities create connections and expand global communities

Minneapolis currently has nine sister cities on five continents

Kim Melchert

With connections established all over the world, Minneapolis is now looking to add another to its list of “sister cities.”

The Minneapolis Sister Cities program met with a group from the municipality of Cuernavaca, Mexico , late last week to discuss the terms of joining the program.

Claudia Delgado Palacio of the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul said the program has been in the works for four or five years.

“Neither side has made the final push to make it work but both cities are interested in making this sister city program work,” Palacio said. “That is why so many people from the city of Minneapolis and why the secretary of Cuernavaca (joined) us as well.”

Despite the meeting, nothing has been decided yet.

“There were some agreements about things on which both sides were going to start working,” she said.

The program has a long history in the United States. President Dwight D. Eisenhower started Sister Cities International in 1956 as a diplomacy initiative, according to the program’s Web site.

Currently, Minneapolis has nine sister cities on five continents. These relationships vary with each program – from research to information exchange.

One of the most noted Sister City relationships is in Ibaraki, Japan , which is involved in biomedical research. BioBusiness Alliance Chief Executive Officer Dale Wahlstrom said his company is trying to build and understand how the global community is evolving.

“Whether you are talking academic research or economic development, we have the potential to help each other,” Wahlstrom said.

The University’s Academic Corporate Relations Center was also used to connect travelers to University professionals for help in research and contacts abroad. No students were directly involved in research.

However, relationships between cities are not solely used as means for research. Uppsala, Sweden, also participates in a public school teacher-exchange program.

Former head of the Minneapolis program Katie Fournier said while it can lead to commercial advantages, it’s meant to connect citizens.

“If people are expecting they are going to get commercial benefits out of these connections, their expectations are misplaced,” she said. “The interests of the sponsor groups usually aren’t commercial; they are friendship connections, subject-area connections, like music or like learning about professional life in other places.”

Palacio said meetings have been set for later this summer and as late as this January for the groups from Cuernavaca and Minneapolis to finalize details.

He also said that documentation has already been sent to Minneapolis to begin the process.

“We hope to have things up and running in less than a year,” Palacio said.

Students from Augsburg College have already been working in Cuernavaca, Palacio said, and the Minneapolis sister city group has plans to invite University students to be part of the commission for the project as well.

“Everyone is working toward this sisterhood. We are all in synch now and keeping it going,” Palacio said.