By Haddon Libby
Something unique and special happened to a Coachella Valley city on Friday, March 20th. A ‘Hermanamiento’ or Sister Cities Agreement was signed between the cities of Coachella and Mexicali, Mexico.
The signing ceremony took place at the Casa de la Cultura in Mexicali and was attended by cultural, educational and government leaders from both cities. The Mexican delegation included Mexicali Mayor Jaime Rafael Diaz Ochoa, several members of the Baja California Tourism & Convention Bureau as well as representatives from the Presidents’ office. Our Coachella delegation included Mayor Steven Hernandez, City Attorney Carlos Campos, Coachella Economic Development Manager Mark Weber, Coachella Public Relations contractor Jeff Crider, Coachella Chamber of Commerce Manager Elsa Reyes, nonprofit ShareKitchen’s Executive Director Angela Janus and Univision Reporter, Marco Gonzalez
The agreement that was signed creates a long term partnership between the communities of Coachella and Mexicali to support each other in matters of culture, education and economics. The agreement was facilitated by Sister Cities International, whose goal is to ‘Connect globally and Thrive locally’. SCI was formed by desert resident, President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to promote diplomacy between US and international cities.
“We share a common language, common roots,” said Hernandez. “Most of our citizens in Coachella are of Mexican descent. Many have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters and other family members in Mexicali. We live in different countries with different histories, but there is much that we can learn from one another.”
During the agreement signing ceremony Mayor Hernandez presented a gift pack as a formal gesture to Mexicali Mayor Ochoa from “Desert Valley Dates” who also provided dates for the reception.
In return, Mexicali gifted each delegate with a basket of locally produced goods including Extra Virgin Olive Oil by Olivarera Bajamar; Artisan ‘Salsa De 4 Semillas’ by Yutt and marmalade and cranberry juice by Arandano Plus.
The two cities celebrated this new agreement with the first of many cultural exchanges during a reception following the ceremony which featured freshly harvested produce from the Coachella Valley that was prepared by Mexicali’s featured local artisan chef, Ilean Padilla Casillas of La Cava de Qorot. Casillas prepared an array of Hors d’oeuvres for the reception including Coachella Valley produce provided by ‘Sea Mist’ of Coachella. Foods served included jicama ceviche, artichoke Mexican chimichurri, stuffed dates with queso fresco crema and a broccoli, spinach and cauliflower crostini with cured Mexican ham.
ShareKitchen presented Mexicali’s officials with the locally made artisan products by Sylvia Garza of Que Mami Organics whose company and products are rooted in her family’s Mexican heritage. The recipes for Garza’s Roasted Tomato Salsa and Mami’s Mole Sauce come directly from her own mother Elvira’s recipes.
During the reception, Chefs Ilean Padilla Casillas and Angela Janus received special recognitions by Mayor Ochoa of Mexicali.
“We are very excited about this agreement. The opportunities for us to connect are significant,” said Ochoa. He added that the sister cities agreement with Coachella was approved at the highest levels of the Mexican government.
The Coachella official delegation also met with representatives of the Mexicali Industrial Development Commission, the Datilera Rio Colorado Date Producers Association of Mexicali, and Dean Mario Dipp from the Graduate Business School of CETYS Universidad, a technical high school and university that offers training in technical subjects, including aerospace, robotics and renewable energy.
“Our first round of meetings was very productive,” Hernandez said, adding that Coachella officials will schedule follow up meetings in the coming weeks to identify specific economic, cultural and educational objectives that the two cities can achieve in the short term. “Mexicali officials made it very clear to us that they want this to be a productive relationship that produces tangible economic, cultural and educational benefits for both cities and we share that desire and that commitment,” Hernandez said.