Family Reunion

Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick (5th from left) welcomes the Sister City delegation from La Antigua; to his right is Felipe Allejos Lorenzama, General Consul of Guatemala in Miami; and to his left is Edgar Francisco Ruiz Paredes, La Antigua Vice Mayor, along with other members from the delegation.

Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick (5th from left) welcomes the Sister City delegation from La Antigua; to his right is Felipe Allejos Lorenzama, General Consul of Guatemala in Miami; and to his left is Edgar Francisco Ruiz Paredes, La Antigua Vice Mayor, along with other members from the delegation.

by Rebecca Rodríguez

Coral Gables welcomes delegation from its Sister City, La Antigua for cultural exchange and opportunity to expand business relationships

In an effort to fortify their long-distance bond that dates to 1993, La Antigua Guatemala sent representatives to visit its Sister City, Coral Gables, Florida, recently. “It is a chance for cultural exchange and an opportunity to expand business relationships on a micro and macro level,” said La Antigua Vice Mayor Edgar Francisco Ruiz Paredes, who led the six-member delegation.

Coral Gables honored the group with an official reception at City Hall. Throughout the rest of its three-day visit, the group made numerous stops around the Miami suburb, including a visit to the University of Miami, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and a trolley tour of downtown Coral Gables. During those visits, delegates met with administration from the university and Doctors Hospital—all part of the exchange imperative to a Sister City relationship.

They also enjoyed some of the locals eats, like Sir Pizza and Yard House Restaurant at the Village of Merrick Park, an upscale mall named in honor of the city’s founder, George E. Merrick. Luckily, the occasional rain showers throughout the visit did not interfere with the group’s plans.

“As we visited different locations, we went learning new things about Coral Gables’ history, culture and technology,” said Antigua delegate Carmen Patricia Cuellar. “We can try to implement those things in our own city and offer a better quality of life to our citizens.”

The visit also included a personal reception at the home of Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick. “It’s a matter of pride when you get to show off your city,” he said. “We want them to know we are an outreaching, embracing community and a resource to our Sister Cities.”

The delegation was given an official farewell at Coral Gables Fire Station No. 1 by Chief Walter Reed and the Coral Gables Fire Department, which donated 15 bunker gear fire suits for volunteer firefighters in La Antigua. It was a welcome addition to the retired fire truck Coral Gables donated several years ago.

Felipe Allejos Lorenzama (left), General Consul of Guatemala in Miami, and Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick wecome the Sister Cities delegation from La Antigua Guatemala

Felipe Allejos Lorenzama (left), General Consul of Guatemala in Miami, and Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick wecome the Sister Cities delegation from La Antigua Guatemala

Though for most of the Guatemalan delegates, this was their first visit to Coral Gables, but they hope it’s not the last.

“All the knowledge that we acquired, the quality of the people there and the cordial reception we received by the mayor and all of the members of your community left quite an impression on us,” Ms. Cuellar said. “It’s something we’ll always take in our minds and in our hearts.”

Soon after the delegates’ return to La Antigua, they continued communication, ensuring these “sisters” would not be estranged. It was clear from the message Ms. Cuellar sent to Coral Gables representatives that Antigua delegates had enjoyed their stay and the sister-bonding had been a success.

“I wish to thank you with all my heart for such attention that you all had for us,” she wrote. “We really did not expect this. We have learned much and come with much enthusiasm to want to put into action all that has been learned for the good of our city,” wrote Cuellar in a note to Coral Gables representatives.

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