Not to be selfish, but we think our sister should actually do something for us.
Likewise, the citizens of the Mexican community of Isla Mujeres should expect Helenans to do something for them after a sister city relationship between the two communities is formalized Feb. 22.
Along with Mayor Jim Smith of Helena and Mayor Agapito Magana Sanchez of Isla Mujeres, we aren’t exactly sure how this arrangement should play out.
Like any relationship, however, this one will take work. And we hope local officials both here and there can come up with a plan to make it mutually beneficial.
The concept of sister cities is not new, and several Montana communities are already taking advantage of this kind of educational and cultural partnership with cities around the world.
Among the existing pairings are Bozeman and Turrialba, Costa Rica; Butte and Altensteig, Germany; Great Falls and Sharya, Russia; and Missoula and Palmerston North, New Zealand. The state of Montana has even formalized sister state relationships with the Kumamoto prefecture in Japan, Taiwan Province in Taiwan, and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region of China.
As the Montana Department of Commerce rightly notes, partnerships like these can enrich our cultural diversity and global understanding and help develop valuable long-term relationships.
And our relationship with Mexico is clearly an important one.
While Helena’s partnership with Isla Mujeres may be the result of our mayor’s choice of a vacation destination, our ties to Mexico involve much more than sandy beaches and turquoise water.
Mexico is Montana’s seventh largest trade partner, according to Montana officials, and wheat and cereal products are our No. 1 export to the country. Local government and education officials have spoken with the Mexico consul based in Boise, Idaho, about cultural exchange opportunities, particularly university exchanges involving high-tech industries and technologies.
Celebrating each other’s traditions, art, music, education, business and sports is not only a great way for both parties to gain more knowledge about the world, but it could also teach them new and better ways of doing some things back home.
However, partnerships like these mean nothing if the citizens of the sister cities don’t get involved. That’s why it’s so important for Helena and Isla Mujeres to map out clear goals for their relationship and how to accomplish them.
Let’s not let our sister city become an estranged sibling.