|Locals visiting sister city in Mexico|
|By: Kurt Hildebrandt
|Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 4:32 pm
|ST. PETER — St. Peter and Petatlán, Mexico, may be half a world apart, but efforts are in place to help bridge that gap through the Sister City International program.
St. Peter and Petatlán officially became Sister Cities in December 2008, and five people from St. Peter, representing Gustavus Adolphus College, the city of St. Peter and the St. Peter Public School District will be traveling to Petatlán on Saturday to meet with city leaders there and find out how to make the most out of this new relationship during their week-long stay.
Those going on the trip include St. Peter Mayor Tim Strand, St. Peter High School Spanish instructor Mario Lanas and Gustavus Adolphus representatives Jeffrey Rathlef, director of Community Service and Service Learning, Chaz Brown, a student intern in Rathlef’s office, and Dr. Karla Marz, an assistant professor in biology.
Representatives from Petatlán will be making a reciprocal trip to St. Peter on October 20 for a five or six day visit.
Chaz Brown, a student intern through Gustavus Adolphus College’s Office of Service Learning and Community Learning, has helped make this new relationship between the Minnesota city and the city of 22,000 located on the Pacific Coast in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
“We kind of joke that we got together with Petatlán through the E-Harmony of sister city programs, but in a sense it was a lot like that,” Brown said. “Once the city of St. Peter agreed to become a part of the Sister City International program, we were able to browse other cities based up on their vitals to try and match up with a city similar to ours.”
Rathlef, who also was on the Sister City Initiative committee, said finding a sister city was a long and, at times, difficult process but in the end the selection of Petatlán seems to have been the right one.
“From the beginning, the initiative’s goal was to build upon the growing diversity here in St. Peter, and in part, with the Latino community and we got a lot of support from the community in choosing a Mexican city,” Rathlef said. “We also involved representatives from the Latino community, because their voice is often overlooked and originally thought we might target a city on the Gulf Coast side where many of them come from.
“However, they told us that Mexico is a huge country and they were interested in learning more about a part of their country they didn’t know about.”
While Petatlán might be about double the size in population as St. Peter, it was the closest one in size that had similar traits like having a college or university and was actively pursuing a sister city.
“It is my understanding that most of the cities in Mexico with a college looking for a Sister City had populations of a half million to a million, which wouldn’t have worked,” St. Peter Mayor Tim Strand said. “I’m really excited about the possibilities this creates for us culturally and through future exchange opportunities. It will be a wonderful learning experience for both sides and I look forward to developing this relationship.”
Rathlef said Petatlán officials have coordinated planned encounters for the St. Peter group during their stay in the areas of — education, cultural diversity, ecology/agriculture, tourism/commerce and community health/welfare.
“Our Initiative’s tag line is ‘building local communities through global relationships,’ and this relationship with Petatlán really fits well into that,” Rathlef said.
Those interested in keep up on the group’s trip can do so through daily updates and photographs, which Brown will update at http://gustavus.edu/go/sistercity/ ( or www.communityservice.blog.gustavus.edu).
“We hope to have each of the five going down take turns writing up a summary of that days activities to share with the people back here,” Brown said.