Friday: ‘Sister City’ relationships sought with Puebla, Santiago
de los Caballeros
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
Toledo soon may have two additional Sister Cities, if the current
efforts bear fruit in the coming months. The Sofia Quintero
Art and Cultural Center (SQACC) is spearheading the effort
to seek relationships with Santiago de los Caballeros in
the Caribbean’s Dominican Republic as well as Puebla,
Toledo, Ohio USA, already has a Sister City relationship with:
Toledo, Spain; Szeged, Hungry; Poznan, Poland; Delmenhorst,
Germany; Londrina, Brazil; Tanga, Tanzania; Qinhuangdao, China;
and Toyohashi, Japan—all of which is managed by Toledo Sister
Sister Cities relationships usually involve governmental, cultural,
economic, and educational exchanges between the two
SQACC board members Lourdes Santiago and Milva
Valenzuela-Wagner provided an update on the group’s efforts
during the Center’s monthly First Friday event on Aug. 3,
2012, which also celebrate the art work of Leandra Leroux.
“We have gotten a lot of steps done regarding that connection and
establishing that relationship,” said Ms. Santiago. “They were
very receptive, just very enchanted that we were there. They are
very excited to make this relationship work.”
She explained a contingent had already traveled to Santiago de los
Caballeros earlier this year to meet with the mayor and other
local officials there. Currently, the Dominican city only has
one other Sister City relationship, a twinning agreement with
New York City.
“We were also able to meet extensively with a business owner there
who processes different fruits, primarily pineapple,” said Ms.
Santiago of the Santiago de los Caballeros trip. “That
commercial entity just visited Toledo. The individual met with
the Regional Growth Partnership and they’re already talking
about what’s needed to bring some of their products here. We
also gave a sample of his products to The Andersons
(specialty food store).”
The effort is far enough along that the group is trying to
coordinate a follow-up visit in January with Toledo Mayor
Mike Bell to formalize the relationship at the invitation of
the mayor of the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic.
A SQACC board member currently is organizing that second trip,
which the group hopes will include a climb up Pico de Duarte,
the highest peak in all the
Caribbean islands. Ms. Santiago called it “an enticement”
for Toledo’s notoriously adventurous mayor
“Because I’m sure he would get into something like that,” she
said with a wide grin.
There is a small population of Latinos that have settled in
Toledo, who originally hail from the Dominican Republic,
including Ms. Valenzuela-Wagner.
also came to the Glass City in recent years from
Santiago de los Caballeros
to go into business rolling cigars for five local shops. He also
travels to local events, such as weddings and golf outings, and
gives demonstrations, handpicking tobacco leaves for the best
combinations of quality and to promote unique flavor.
“I hope there is a family-related connection between Santiago
and Toledo,” he said in Spanish, translated by Ms.
Valenzuela-Wagner. “Cultural exchanges, religious exchanges and
sports-related (are all possible). We can bring people here for
sports events, artistic events.”
Santiago de los Caballeros
Saint James of the Knights or Gentlemen)
was founded in 1495, one of the first cities established by
Spanish explorers in the New World.
Santiago de los Caballeros has at times been the
capital of the country, and was an important strategic city in
Dominican War of Independence in 1844.
“There is a lot of culture on the whole island,” said Ms.
Valenzuela-Wagner. “There is a large artist community, a lot
of talent. There are some opportunities for business exchanges.
We’ve always had a good relationship with the United States, so
there is a lot of potential for what could be developed.”
Arturo Quintero, Mary Jane Flores
and others in the Latino community have traveled to the
Dominican Republic for years on medical missions and have a
strong familiarity with the island nation.
“It just seemed like a really good fit to make the connection,”
said Ms. Santiago, who emphasized the importance of both
Caribbean and Mexican Sister City relationships in order to
actively engage the entire Latino community. Aside from Toledo’s
twinning agreement with Toledo, Spain, there is no active
relationship with another Spanish-speaking Latin country.
SQACC board members and other local Latino leaders will travel to
Puebla, Mexico next month to meet with city officials there to
cement relationships that could lead to a second Sister Cities
Puebla, Mexico, also is of historic significance because of Spanish
settlers in the New World. The city was established in 1531
along the main route between the port city of Veracruz and
Mexico City. It has been known over the years as the
City of Angels, City of Tiles, and Heroic City of Zaragoza.
Puebla's appearance is the most European of all the colonial
cities, because it was planned from the ground up by a Spanish
city designer rather than being built within an existing Indian
community. It became well-known throughout Mexico for milling,
textiles, exquisitely decorated pottery and tiles, and for the
Puebla is also
the reason that anyone celebrates Cinco de Mayo—where
General Zaragoza led Mexican soldiers to an unlikely victory
over the much larger French army in 1862. The city was later
Heróica Puebla de Zaragoza in the general’s honor.
the 150th anniversary of this historic event in May with a
huge fiesta, including a military parade, a re-enactment of the
battle, and an international mole festival.
“Of course, we have a great affinity because of the
Mexican-American community that’s in Toledo,” said Ms. Santiago.
“We’ve already made some headway there. For example, we want to
bring the Talavera tile to Toledo and hopefully
incorporate some of that into some of the housing that is
developed in the area.”
Talavera pottery, in general, and tile, in particular, are
highly-sought and only made in Puebla and a handful of
surrounding communities. It is unique because of its milky-white
the quality of the natural clay found in the region, and the
tradition of production which goes back to the 16th century.
Talavera tile is colorful and ingrained in the architecture of
Puebla’s churches and other historic buildings.
SQACC leaders believe developing both a Caribbean and Mexican
Sister Cities will offer a chance to engage the entire Latino
community in the effort, as well as encourage young people to
learn more about their heritage and keep family and cultural
“It is the community we’re using to make sure this happens,”
explained Ms. Santiago. “We need to make sure our community is
engaged with the project so we don’t put the cart before the
horse. It’s very exciting.”