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August 14, 2012 > Festival celebrates sister cities

Festival celebrates sister cities

By M.J. Laird

Quick! Name your city's sister cities.

Southern Alameda County residents may be aware that sister cities exist, but the names and the purpose of sister cities often remain elusive. Yet, Sister Cities International serves as one of the largest citizen diplomacy organizations in the United States, partnering with more than 2,000 cities and counties in nearly 140 countries around the world.

Local citizens who take on the work of connecting with Sister Cities focus their efforts on creating and building global cooperation, strengthening relationships between Americans and communities around the world. By promoting cultural understanding, the Sister City organization and its members work toward creating a more harmonious and peaceful world.

The U.S. Sister City program was, launched by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, promoting people-to-people, citizen diplomacy following World War II. The idea flourished and by 1967, Sister Cities had grown to become its own not-for-profit organization - Sister Cities International - no longer under the National League of Cities. Sister Cities flourished locally.

Union City Friends of Sister Cities will hold its eighth annual Union City Sister City Festival on Sunday, August 19 to honor its five sister cities and informally twin its sixth and newest sister city, Asadabad, Afghanistan. The festival will feature an international buffet dinner starting at 5 p.m. with cuisine representing all six sister cities followed by a cultural performing arts program.

While officials from each of Union City's Sister Cities will not be present, local residents with strong ties to these cities will represent these connections. Consul Generals from the countries of each sister city have been invited to attend as well as local dignitaries. More than 300 people are expected to attend.

"Through the initiative of local people themselves, we in our program are reaching out to promote understanding - one neighbor to one neighbor, one city to one city and one country to one country at a time," explains Pat Gacoscos, Vice Mayor of Union City and its Sister City Board President. "By sharing cultures with one another, we understand each other better. We understand why people may act a certain way, eat certain kinds of food and even dress the way they dress. We develop friendships in our own communities and around the world. We are different, yet we are the same. We are all human beings with the same wish for peace and to make ourselves better to live free from fear, to have freedom to just be ourselves. When we know the cultures of others, we can live more harmoniously."

Union City's Sister City Board attracts two or three active representatives for each of its sister cities to a 15-member board, with representatives who can connect with people in the country they represent. Gacoscos began working on the Sister City program while she served as chair of Union City's Human Relations Committee.

"The board meets monthly and the members work very well together. We are a very friendly group. Sometimes we have heavy accents, but we just laugh it off," says Gacoscos. "It's a good feeling. We have these different kinds of people, representing diverse groups of people in Union City who are friendly with each other, looking at each other as equal. While we come from different backgrounds and different religions, we live in just one world where we are different, but we are really very similar."

Union City's Sister Cities include: Pasay City (Philippines), Santa Rosalia (Mexico), Chiang Rai (Thailand), Jalandhar (India), Liyang (China) as well as its newest city, Asadabad (Afghanistan).

Gacoscos hints that Union City will add a seventh city next year, although she is reluctant to name the city since the relationship is still in the planning stages.

Foods at the festival will include dishes from local restaurants including Chow King, Jaime Jaramillo's Catering, Thai Kitchen, Rajah's Sweet, Gerry's Grill, De Afghanan Kabob House and Rose's Garden, among others.

For tickets, contact: Pat Gacoscos at (510) 918-7555, Jaime Jaramillo at (510) 489-4100, Lee Guio at (408) 888-8413 or Gary Singh at (510) 489-3331.

Union City Sister City Festival
Sunday, August 19
5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Union City Sports Center
31224 Union City Boulevard, Union City
Tickets: $15
(510) 918-7555

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