At a private dinner in 1969 attended by city councilmen from both Scottsdale and Alamos, Sonora, Mexico, Alamos became Scottsdale’s first sister city.
Then Scottsdale Vice Mayor Ken Murray’s hope was for “sister cities [to] be a humanitarian program.”
Fifty years later, it has become just that and much more.
Alamos Mayor Victor Balderrama and his delegation recently visited Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane at Scottsdale City Hall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Scottsdale and Alamos as sister cities by signing a reaffirmation agreement of the relationship – a renewal of their vows, if you will.
“Similar to a renewal of vows, this anniversary confirms the importance of this ongoing relationship from both sides of the border,” said Lisa White, Scottsdale Sister Cities Association president. “At a time when some Arizonans are afraid of Mexico, this relationship endures, and our exchanges helps show our citizens how safe this town remains. It is a time to celebrate our connection.”
In addition to signing the agreement, the two parties discussed their history as sister cities, how the two cities mutually benefit from the program and plans for next year, including how they plan to celebrate their 50-year relationship.
“Over the 50 years, Alamos truly become our ‘sister’ city,” White said. “We had over 100 exchanges of all types over those years. We have Alamos natives living in Scottsdale and Scottsdalians living in Alamos.”
Present at the signing and meeting were both mayors; five of the six Scottsdale City Council members; Bob Rink, chair of the Scottsdale Relations Committee for Alamos; Tom Shannon, Scottsdale fire chief; Max Rumbaugh, past Scottsdale Sister Cities president; Dale Gray, Rotary International Foundation chairman; Scottsdale supporters of the relationship; the Mexican Consul General; Enrique Franco, representative of Sonora Governor Pavlovich; and members of the Alamos delegation.
The Alamos delegation included Everardo Enriquez, Alamos city council member representing the indigenous people in the Alamos region; Amelia Anaya, director of tourism for Alamos; Cecy Anaya, a member of the Alamos group coordinating activities between the two cities; and family members.
Balderrama’s visit also coincides with the 50th anniversary of Scottsdale Sister Cities.
Scottsdale now has eight total sister cities, including Interlaken, Switzerland; Cairns, Queensland, Australia; Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Haikou, Hainan, China; Marrakech, Morocco; Uasin Gishu, Kenya; and Killarney, Ireland; in addition to Alamos.
But the relationship with Alamos extends beyond a humanitarian program and now includes mutually beneficial programs.
“Like any sister relationship, it is hard to pick favorites, but because of the length of the relationship, close proximity and multiple connections including the fire and police department as well as medical connections, it will always be number one,” White said.
Currently, there are 15 activities underway between the two cities, from high school student home stay exchanges, Alamos artist exhibits in Scottsdale, and the fourth annual Alamos Jazz Festival, to elementary school pen pal exchanges, English classes in Scottsdale for Alamos residents, family water filters, and fire department exchanges.
During the visit, Shannon discussed how his department learned a new wildfire-fighting technique, the “Hold and Run” process, from the Alamos fire department personnel.
Scottsdale applied this technique to a wildfire in northern Scottsdale, in turn, saving homes in the fire’s path.
Scottsdale and Alamos fire department personnel then exchanged visits for joint training.
Lane also mentioned during the meeting, through a recent arts and crafts exhibit by artists and artisans of Alamos, Scottsdale residents were able to get a better understanding of Alamos residents’ music and art.
Every June, Scottsdale invites students and adults who wish to improve their English to visit Scottsdale for 10 days.
The visit includes living in an English-speaking home, attending free ESL classes offers by Scottsdale libraries and participating in cultural activities.
Every year, Alamos students are also invited to stay in Scottsdale for one week.
According to Anaya, the parent of an Alamos high school student, the students gain “increased maturity, more self-confidence, and the building of goodwill as a result of living in the homes of hosting siblings during the exchanges,” according to a press release.
“We get much from Alamos when we create opportunities for sharing art, culture and best business and medical practices on both sides,” White said.
Recently, Rotary International and Rotary Club of Scottsdale helped provide clean water to 1,200 residents of Alamos via family water filters.
At the meeting, Enriquez expressed appreciation to the Rotary Club for the filters.
He said the water filters have become very popular and have improved residents’ health by eliminating harmful bacteria and viruses in the water they consume.
In partnership with Project C.U.R.E., the Club also helped deliver more than $150,000 in medical supplies to and complete surgeries at six hospitals in Sonora.
Doctors from Mayo Clinic and Honor Health volunteer to conduct medical training sessions in the Alamos area.
Next year, it’s hoped five ambulances from Yuma will be donated to Alamos.
Other future plans also include a tourism student exchange between Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Cajeme (ITESCA)-Alamos and Scottsdale Community College, further scheduling medical supplies and equipment to Alamos and the possibility of a Spanish immersion experience in Alamos for Scottsdale and Arizona citizens.
A 50th-anniversary celebration is slated to take place in Scottsdale in March, but the date and location are not set in stone yet.
The 4th Annual Jazz Festival organized by Doc Jones will take place in Alamos from March 6 to 8.
The Alamos artists and artisan exhibit returns next year in Scottsdale with possible plans for multiple exhibit locations.
On January 30, Alamos will send one of their FAOT performers to Scottsdale’s Kerr Center for a performance.
FAOT is an international music festival held each January in Alamos drawing in more than 100,000 visitors, making it one of the top music festivals in the world.
Over the next 50 years, those in attendance at the anniversary meeting said they hope the Scottsdale-Alamos sister city program will include even more residents.