City of Santa Barbara Sister Cities Newest Brochure Premieres at First-Ever Sister Cities International Regional All Americas Summit

Summit Panel Luncheon on Strengthening Diplomacy Across the Americas. (Photo: Bonnie Carroll)

The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on the San Antonio Texas Riverwalk was the location of the first Sister Cities International (SCI) All Americas Summit 2024, sponsored by the City of San Antonio, Texas during Memorial Day weekend.

The four day program included welcomes from City of San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, SCI Chairman Peter Svarzbein, Ricki R. Garrett, PhD, President/CEO Sister Cities International, Greg Abbott, Governor of the State of Texas and Peter Sakai, Bexar County Judge along with the opening day Parade of Flags of the Western Hemisphere, as well as daily presentations from countless speakers representing a bevy of Sister Cities throughout the country and the world all addressing issues pertinent to the needs of attending SCI members at the event.

Long awaited visit to view the historic Alamo (Photo: Bonnie Carroll)

Activities included a spectacular Latin inspired Mayor’s Welcome Reception at the Tobin Performing Arts Center where guests were treated to a personal greeting from Mayor Ron Nirenberg, special SCI award presentations, music by outstanding musicians including Henry Brun & the Latin Playerz, Volcan, and Mariachi Campanas de America that was presented in an inspired magical Tobin Center atmosphere.

All Americas Summit daily agendas included the SCI Leadership Academy, a unique program designed to highlight SCI’s history, current goals and provide tools for success with tips on strengthening existing partnerships and establishing new ones. The SCI Academy is a powerful showcase of best practices for emerging, new and current sister cities, locally and globally, with panels of presenters speaking on SCI history, economic development trends, and tools for SCI member success. A panel luncheon following this session featured discussion on Diplomacy Across the Americas.

Daily moderated panels included valuable information on International trade and investment in the Americas, best programs fostered for collaboration, cultural exchange, and community empowerment, challenges and solutions regarding water across the  Americas, diplomacy and strengthening hemispheric bonds, sports diplomacy across the Americas, Sister City relationships for business development, evolving landscape of smart city development, supply chains and transportation in the Americas, Transformative and impact Arts in the Americas, Travel and Tourism in the Americas, creative cities collaborating across the Americas and more.

City of Santa Barbara attendee Bonnie Carroll enjoying Sister Cities welcome session in Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center (Photo: Bonnie Carroll)

“Getting to Know You” should be the theme song for SCI because everywhere I went there were new people to meet and share information with including Peter Ives from Santa Fe, New Mexico and members of the Pasadena, California Committee, who began their membership in 1948. Chatting over breakfast in the Grand Club at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio Hotel with speakers from Richmond, Virginia, who provided valuable information on the 500 in 5 initiative, a mission to connect 500 cities in Africa with cities in the United States that is now in process and hoping to foster long-lasting diplomatic and cultural relationships, promote peace, respect and mutual understanding across borders.

The heart of this first SCI All Americas Summit was an opportunity for attendees to experience the wonder of the City of San Antonio through coordinated professional tours of major points of interest that included a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Arts & Culture, UT Health Education and Clinical Sites, Hemisfair District, Historic Downtown Walk, UTSA School of Data Science, SAWS Tour of Water Recycling Center & Desalination facility, Morgan’s Wonderland, lunch & Art at the Pearl, Mural Ride Biking, Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours, City of San Antonio “Economic Development Department, Ruby City, and Visit San Antonio.

Viewing the historic Alamo has been on my list for ages and this exceptional tour featured the Alamo and two of the five San Antonio State Missions featuring Mission Valero (the Alamo), Conception Mission and San Jose Mission; four of the five are active parishes and part of the San Antonio Archdiocese. They are considered to be the most complete group of Spanish Colonial mission complexes in the world.  All mission tours were extremely informative, and the hospitality of the State of Texas guides, and gift store staff at each location was impressive.

The five missions are pristine and are part of the San Antonio National Historic Parks. They offer visitor centers that include opportunities to shop, eat, view slide presentations and there is an actual air conditioned movie theater in the San Jose Mission Center to enjoy a film history of its creation. Our group all appreciated our professional SCI tour guide Theresa, who was both helpful and informative.

The All Americas Summit closing event was located at the Mexican Cultural Institute, the permanent cultural representation of the Mexican Government in San Antonio, created in 1968 where art exhibitions, performances and public events are featured. The event began with a refreshing toast of locally made aqua frescas, and included remarks from Consul Luis Fernando Alva, representative of the Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio, Texas.

City of Santa Barbara Sister Cities Banner, Brochures & Visit Santa Barbara Magazines on display at SCI All Americas Summit
2024 (Photo: Bonnie Carroll)

The Sister Cities Program in the U.S. was the brainchild of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to establish a “People-to-People Program.” His wish was to involve people and organized groups in personal diplomacy, hoping relationships fostered would contribute to building world peace. Santa Barbara currently has six active Sister Cities including Kotor, Montenegro since 2009, Miraflores, Peru since 2023, Patras, Greece since 2010, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico since 1973, Toba, Japan since 1966, and Weihai, China since 1993.

Many thanks to the army of SCI staff and members who created this educational, exhilarating, and delicious event, and Santa Barbara/Puerto Vallarta board attendee Alicia Sorkin for assistance. Major kudos to Kathy Janega-Dykes, President & CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, who provided beautiful Santa Barbara magazines for distribution to SCI attendees. It was an honor to represent the City of Santa Barbara Sister Cities Board and experience this first ever SCI Regional Summit, which was also the first introduction of our newly designed City of Santa Barbara Sister Cities Committee brochure and banner and first visit to the renowned San Antonio Alamo.

Santa Barbara Sister Cities Committee membership information can be found on City of Santa Barbara website http://www.santabarbara.gov.

Bonnie Carroll

Written by Bonnie Carroll

Writer, publisher, editor over 30 years, Bonnie Carroll is the present Publisher, Editor-in-Chief of Bonnie Carroll's Life Bites News founded 2005. She is also a contributor to a bevy of magazine and newspapers California and international since 1983.

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