Out of a competitive field that included more than 60 other programs nationwide, San Antonio was named the winner of the Sister Cities International 2019 Award for Best Overall Program for a city with a population greater than 300,000.
The City of San Antonio’s Sister Cities program, administered by the Economic Development Department’s International Relations Office, leveraged the City’s Tricentennial celebration to reach out to its global relationships, while positively impacting 11 sister cities and two friendship cities from around the world through strategic initiatives.
The City hosted 241 sister city delegates in 2018, culminating with Commemorative Week in May. During this time, a total of 115 official visitors came to San Antonio from its diverse sister cities and other global relationships, including five mayors. Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain made a historic visit to San Antonio in June, which was covered by media outlets from more than 15 countries. In addition, over 700 community events and related activities took place throughout the year.
“Our Tricentennial year offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for San Antonio to shine a spotlight on our international partnerships, vibrant history, and cultural diversity,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who is also the chairman of Sister Cities International. “By engaging our official relationships and our citizens in these community events, we improved the visibility of our Sister Cities program and generated further interest both internationally and locally in our efforts to increase our global fluency.”
While San Antonio’s Sister Cities program has consistently maintained strong ties with its local community partners, the Tricentennial also presented a unique opportunity to cast a wider net and engage city residents at large. Musical Bridges Around the World organized the Sister Cities Jazz Ensemble, the signature Tricentennial cultural event of the San Antonio Sister Cities program. This event brought together a total of 14 jazz musicians from San Antonio’s sister and friendship cities for a free concert. The annual Diwali event, organized entirely by a volunteer-led organization, Anuja SA (San Antonio-Chennai Alliance), celebrated its 10th anniversary with over 30,000 attendees. Volunteers from organizations such as the Canary Islands Descendants Association, the Japan-America Society of San Antonio, and the Korean-American Association welcomed and engaged in activities with visiting delegations. On the business side, three local chambers of commerce – the Alamo-Asian Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – co-hosted a special Sister City luncheon for the delegates during Commemorative Week.
“It has long been a priority of our Sister Cities program to engage in active and meaningful interactions with our global partners,” said City Manager Erik Walsh. “Our Sister Cities programming in 2018 attracted new tourists and global business leaders to San Antonio and helped strengthen these cultural and business relationships.”
“Our Tricentennial year offered an excellent opportunity to highlight our longstanding sister and friendship cities and include them in our celebration,” said Shahrzad Dowlatshahi, Chief Diplomacy and Protocol Officer for the City of San Antonio who heads the San Antonio Sister City program. Last year was also a milestone for two of San Antonio’s most important Sister City relationships as the City celebrated the 30th anniversary of its relationships with the Japanese Sister City of Kumamoto and the Indian Sister City of Chennai.
Founded as a Presidential Initiative by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International serves as the national membership organization for 500 member communities with over 2,000 partnerships in more than 140 countries on six continents. The Sister City awards competition recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding individuals and community sister city programs that promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation.
San Antonio: America’s 21st Century City
San Antonio is a global city with a dynamic economy and workforce, a deep cultural heritage and diverse communities that are resilient and welcoming. It is one of the strongest fiscally managed cities in the country, nurturing entrepreneurship, encouraging investment and funding infrastructure. America’s seventh-largest city offers a vibrant business climate and growth opportunities in bioscience, financial services, aerospace, cybersecurity, energy, transportation, manufacturing and healthcare. In 2015, UNESCO designated San Antonio’s 18th century Spanish colonial missions as a World Heritage Site – the first in Texas. Proudly called Military City, USA®, San Antonio is home to one of the largest populations of active duty military, veterans and crucial military commands. For more information, visit www.sanantonio.gov.