Wenatchee, a city with a Latino population of 30 percent, has five sister cities in four countries, none of which are in Latin America. City officials are hoping a trip to central Mexico can change that.
Councilwoman Ruth Esparza is leading the eight-day visit to Guadalajara, Jalisco and Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes. She’ll be joined by:
Frank Kuntz, mayor of Wenatchee
Mike Poirier, city councilman
Steve King, community and economic development director
Alan Walker, United Way of Chelan and Douglas Counties executive director
Linda Haglund, Wenatchee Downtown Association director
Rufus Woods, Wenatchee World publisher
The first stop is the city of Guadalajara, population 1.5 million, where they’ll spend five days meeting with government officials. Then they’ll travel about 140 miles northeast to Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes, population 1.3 million, where they’ll spend three days doing more of the same.
The idea, Esparza said, is to help Wenatchee community leaders understand how Latino communities operate.
“To me, the purpose is to kinda get a real feel for what the Latino economy is like and what drives it,” Esparza said, in particular small business.
Kuntz added, “It’s kind of a cultural exchange to learn more about the culture and how they celebrate and conduct business.”
Kuntz and Esparza stressed that the trip is paid for by the individual travelers, not taxpayers.
Esparza, a Mexican immigrant with family in Guadalajara, said she’s had many coffee dates with people wanting to learn about Latino culture.
“I see so many people who want to learn how to be more inviting, who want to build bridges, who want to merge the two communities,” Esparza said. Adding, “I thought I go there so often I might as well bring a group down.”
She noted that she doesn’t expect to spend much time with family members because she’ll be preoccupied with the group.
Esparza and company depart Jan. 27 and return Feb. 4.