While on a walk through Bayfront Park, I noticed a plaque recognizing Sarasota’s sister cities with a Ceremonial Tree Walk on March 17, 2003. Sarasota has 8 sister cities! The placard whose mission and objective reads “To Foster Peace and Understanding and to Develop Respect and Cooperation through Citizen Diplomacy” piqued my curiosity.
The Sister City program was developed by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. His vision was to promote citizen diplomacy after having seen the severe hatred and after-effects of World War II. Sarasota got involved early on in 1963 by pairing up with its first sister city, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This was part and parcel due to the local Hispanic heritage. Visits began and to commemorate the exchange to this day there is an Avenida Sarasota in Santo Domingo and the Plaza de Santo Domingo is located next Sarasota’s Municipal Auditorium. A relationship was maintained through the 1980s when Santo Domingo decided to partner with Miami and New York City instead. Sarasota declared them to have emeritus status and moved on over the years to its current 8 sisters.
The Sarasota Sister City organization has an active member base. They have meet and greets, luncheons and events to foster the relationships between cities and get local businesses involved in the exchange. The whole concept really appeals to the traveler in me!
Sarasota Sister Cities
1990 – Hamilton, Canada
Hamilton is located halfway between Toronto and Buffalo. They have a somewhat moderate climate compare to the rest of Canada and are the largest Canadian producer of steel. It is no wonder Sarasota wanted to pair up with a Canadian city as so many snowbirds and visitors are Canadian. They are a natural fit!
1994 – Perpignan, France
Keeping with the theme of similar interests, Perpignan is also a cultural city like Sarasota. It is near the Catalonian border, so the language and food is heavily influenced by the Catalans. It is the capital of the Pyrenees-Orientales and its rich soil provides its market with some of the best produce in France. There is a French contingent who have settled in Sarasota, most notably opening wonderful restaurants.
1994 – Vladimir, Russia
A Russian city does not seem like a great match for Sarasota, but variety is what opens our cultural horizons. Vladimir has a well education population and although an ancient city dating back to the 1100s, it’s current focus is on arts and education.
1999 – Tel Mond, Israel
Much like Sarasota, Tel Mond hosts a retirement population and is surrounded by orange trees. The connection between the two cities is strong. A Sarasota citizen and a Tel Mond citizen even wrote a song together called “Sarasota and Tel Mond” which was recorded by singing school children from both cities.
2002 – Dunfermline, Scotland
Sarasota has deep ties to Scotland. Scots first arrived in 1885 and surveyed land in 1903 when John Gillespie arrived to check on his business interests. As with all good Scots, one of his first endeavors was to build a golf course. Currently, the most significant connection with Dunerfermline is the historic Asolo Theater. The stage and interior décor of the Dunfermline, Scotland Opera House was transported and now sits in the Asolo.
2006 – Xiamen, China
Xiamen is located in the Fujian Province of China and has probably the most similarities to Sarasota. They are both smaller cities with similar climates. They are tourist centers with a wealth of cultural attractions. They also both have several institutions of higher learning and stress the importance of education including marine biology.
2007 – Treviso, Italy
Treviso is located in the Veneto just a quick train ride from Venice. It produces wonderful wine and of course, food is very important. It is easy to say Treviso is cultural like Sarasota, but so is all of Italy. There is still a lot of skilled craftsmanship glasswork, embroidery and fabric. Treviso makes a great home base for visiting all the treasure of the Veneto.
2010 – Merida, Mexico
Merida is the capital of the state of Yucatan. It is a modern city with the most prestigious medical facility in Mexico. Similar to Sarasota, Merida is a cultural capital of the Yucatan state. It is along with art galleries, museums and restaurants, home to the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra.
Some other notable Sister Cities:
Chicago, IL has a whopping 28 Sister Cities including Accra, Casablanca, Paris, Bogota, Moscow, and Toronto.
Los Angeles has 25 Sister Cities including Beirut, Jakarta, Vancouver, and San Salvador.
Where is your hometown’s sister city? Use the link below to find out and let us know in the comments!
sistercities.org (if interactive map is not working, try Googling your city + Sister Cities)