Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Benicia delegation to visit sister city for Mexican Independence Day party

Benicia delegation to visit sister city for Mexican Independence Day party
By LANZ CHRISTIAN BAñES/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 09/16/2008

BENICIA - For nearly 30 years, sister cities Benicia and Tula de Allende, Mexico, have enjoyed a beneficial partnership.

It was because of its Benician friends that Tula received its first garbage truck in 1980, and it is still being used today, said Leann Cawley, president of the Benicia / Tula Sister City Association.

Benicians also gave Tula two fire engines, 400 parking meters and, most recently, a medical van.

Now, the people of Tula will host 14 Benicians from Sept. 11 to Sept. 17.

"The major reason for the trip is to be there to help them celebrate their Independence Day," Cawley said.

Mexico celebrates its independence on Sept. 16.

Benicians visit Tula every other year around this time, while a delegation from Tula visits Benicia in the intervening years to celebrate the United States' Independence Day.

Last year, 21 children, all musicians, came from Tula for the July 4 festivities. The children had won a band competition in Tula, and through fundraising efforts and sponsors, the association was able to bring the children to Benicia.

Elly Harkins was so impressed by the amount of community involvement that she decided to join the association, and will be part of the delegation to Tula.

"It was just a marvelous setup. The children were so happy. All the participants were so happy," Harkins said. "I just thought it was a great cultural event."

Harkins will be just one member of her family going to Mexico this year.

"My children were involved last year. Now my grandson is coming, so three generations are going," Harkins said.

The trip will involve a variety of activities, including marching in the town's Independence Day parade. The group will also make a political side trip to Pachuca, capital of Hidalgo, the state where Tula is located. There, they will meet the governor of Hidalgo as well as members of the state Legislature.

The 14 Benicians traveling to Tula this year are all volunteers and have all paid their own way to Mexico, Cawley said. However, once there, the Benicia / Tula Sister City Association's counterpart in Tula will arrange for the group to stay with various host families who will house and feed the visitors.

"When we go there, they are just welcoming to us," Cawley said. "You've got to be careful with what you say you like because, by the end of the day, you'll own it."

The mayor of Hidalgo will entertain the group its first night there.

Cawley and her husband have been part of the association since 1979, and in 1982, they adopted a baby from Tula.

"We just wanted to be part of a community event," Cawley said. "I never thought that we would be adopting a child."

• E-mail Lanz Christian Bañes at lbanes@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6833.