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Sister cities celebrate 35 years of friendship

Pleasanton welcomes Tulancingo delegation next week

A delegation from Pleasanton's Sister City Tulancingo, Mexico will be in town next week to celebrate the association's 35th anniversary. Here's a look back at Tulancingo and Pleasanton students meeting at the Pleasanton Civic Center flanked by Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne and PTSCA president Jorge Victoria. (Photo courtesy of PTSCA)

Pleasanton will host a delegation of 30 representatives from its sister city Tulancingo, Mexico next week to mark the 35th year of friendship between the two communities.

The Tulancingo visitors will join local members of the Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association (PTSCA) for a six-day celebration that will start with a breakfast Wednesday at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel. After meetings with city officials, wine-tasting and a Bay cruise, the anniversary event will conclude April 22 with a farewell dinner and a final breakfast the next day.

The public is invited to join in some events by invitation from PTSCA members and to a picnic from noon to 4 p.m. April 22 at the Amador Recreation Center. Those planning to attend must let association representatives know ahead of time.

The Sister Cities program was created by President Dwight Eisenhower after World War II as a means of fostering bonds between people from different communities around the world. By forming these relationships, Eisenhower reasoned that people from different cultures could understand, appreciate and celebrate their differences while building partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.

Today, this network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers in over 500 member communities with more than 2,000 partnerships in 145 countries on six continents.

"The PTSCA has allowed many in Pleasanton and Tulancingo to know each other's culture at a personal level, which has led to a better understanding between our communities and families that we wouldn't have had the opportunity to share otherwise," said Margo Tarver, a member of PTSCA since 1989 and currently the organization's publicity director.

"Through this organization, we've also created a student exchange program that helps high school students to enrich their experiences in many ways, including improving their skills in speaking and understanding English and Spanish," she added.

After participating in the program, Natalie Kleffman, who was a senior at Foothill High School at the time, told Tarver that by staying with a family in Tulancingo during a summer, she had "the feeling of complete and total security in a foreign country."

"You made friends in two months that you feel closer to than people you've known for two years," Kleffman said.

Similar to Kleffman's trip, the PTSCA arranges for youths from local schools to travel to their sister city where families host the students in their homes for three weeks. This allows them to experience another culture in a safe, monitored environment.

But PTSCA is more than a student exchange program. As Eisenhower envisioned, the Pleasanton-Tulancingo compact has evolved into a bilateral swapping of ideas, friendship, business and culture. Even the climate, farmers markets and city governments are similar.

That's what led Bob Athenour, an Amador Valley High School Spanish teacher (now retired), and former real estate executive Steve Noble to choose Tulancingo after a group met to seek out a sister city for Pleasanton. Traveling there and finding similar interest from Tulancingo civic leaders, the two encouraged the city councils of both cities to ratify a sister-city affiliation May 10, 1983.

The first delegation of 17 people from Tulancingo came to Pleasanton in September 1984. It was greeted by a parade on Main Street, a band performance at Amador Valley High and local business leaders. Delegates from each city have been meeting ever since.

Nearly every year, the PTSCA hosts a Cinco de Mayo fiesta, sends a Pleasanton delegation to Tulancingo or hosts one from there, participates with a float in the Pleasanton Holiday Parade, and sponsors seminars, booths and discussions on Mexico-related topics, including coordinating events with both Pleasanton high school Spanish clubs, local businesses and local service and charitable organizations.

"I've been in Tulancingo many times and always marvel at the similarity between our two cities," said Tarver, who served eight years on the Pleasanton Library Commission.

She continued: "They make cheese like we used to do at the Cheese Factory; they have a dairy industry like Pleasanton once had. Even the view from the hills as you drive toward Tulancingo is much like the one we have of Pleasanton as we drive down the Dublin grade on I-580. It's a marvelous experience."

Tarver will join other members of Pleasanton's PTSCA delegation in next week's festivities. They will include Jorge Victoria, president; Noble and David Streubing, vice presidents; past president Rita Prieto-Galvin and her husband Jay, association historian Corrine Mavridis and Athenour, who is now director emeritus.

The Tulancingo delegation will include its current president Martha Soto and four past presidents as well as the Tulancingo fire chief Jesus Garcia.

Just three years ago, Garcia received two out-of-service fire trucks that were donated by the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department. Last year, during a visit by a Pleasanton delegation, Garcia unveiled the two trucks that his department had refurbished and are now in use in Tulancingo.

On tap for the coming week's celebration are a welcome dinner at Castlewood Country Club next Wednesday night, a tour of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in Livermore on Thursday, a Hornblower cruise on the Bay and "Big Band Night" at Garre Winery on Friday and the picnic and farewell dinner that Sunday.

Next Saturday, the Tulancingo visitors will travel to Benicia, which is also their sister city.

Although Tulancingo is Pleasanton's oldest sister city, the city also has established a sister city association with Blairgowrie, Scotland and Fergus, Ontario.

Two other Tri-Valley cities also have sister-city affiliations. Dublin's sister city is Bray, Ireland. Livermore has three: Quetzaltenango, Guatemala; Snezhinsk, Russia; and Yotsukaido, Japan.

For more information about the Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association and its schedule of events for the 35th anniversary celebration, sign on to www.ptsca.org.

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