A delegation from the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn. recently returned from a visit to San Jose del Cabo with glowing reports about Laguna's newest sister city.
Members of the delegation reported on their trip at the Dec. 4 City Council meeting.
"Five years ago, we approached the council to request a sister cities relationship with Menton, France, which was granted," association President Karyn Philippsen said. "It has been a very, very successful relationship and earlier this year we came back to you and said, 'We'd like to try to do it again.'"
With the participation of council members Jane Egly and Kelly Boyd, the association selection committee chose San Jose del Cabo — which is nothing like Cabo San Lucas, said Nancy Beverage, one of the six delegates who made the trip at their own expense. San Jose del Cabo is on the Baja Peninsula's coast east and north of Cabo San Lucas.
"You are in for a delightful surprise," Beverage said. "San Jose del Cabo is a mix of the best of the old and the new Mexico. The downtown has a traditional plaza with a mission dating from 1830, but also shops, galleries and great restaurants."
A new convention center hosted the 2012 G20 conference and daily flights from Orange County fly into a new airport.
"This is an artsy, charming, clean, beautiful and safe place to visit and we hope to show them as good a time here as we had there," Beverage said.
Sister cities are chosen based on similarities in locale, climate, population and mutual interests such as the environment, education and the arts.
Michele Mondo equated the art of the Josefinos, as residents are known, with Laguna's.
"The president of the art district and I discussed artist exchanges, art work exchanges and art education exchanges," Mondo said. "I am so excited about the possibilities and partnering with people as passionate about art as we are in Laguna."
Delegate Carol Reynolds described the art as gentle and colorful, as were the Josefinos.
"I loved it," Reynolds said. "It is the most like Laguna of any place I have seen in Mexico."
Reynolds visited schools with delegate Betsy Jenkins, a member of the Laguna Beach Unified School District board.
"Carol and I had a wonderful tour of the schools with students between 2 1/2 and 18," Jenkins reported. "Just like our Laguna students, these kids were articulate, well-behaved and welcoming."
Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda also praised the sister city.
"They have an art walk on Thursday, every Thursday, not just once a month," Kollenda said. "And they are undergrounding all their utilities."
Kollenda made a presentation at a reception hosted by San Jose del Cabo's mayor, who spoke no English.
"I did it in English that was translated and I kept asking the translator if it was correct," said Kollenda, who is not bilingual.
Then she read the Spanish version, to the enjoyment of the Josefinos, a presentation she repeated to the council, which was equally entertained.
The delegation also included Fabiola Kinder, who was credited with making most of the contacts in the new sister city.
Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn. is an all-volunteer organization founded in 2008. The goal is to establish and maintain a relationship between cities that encourages a collaborative exchange of cultural and business activities, particularly tourism.
For more information, visit lagunabeachsistercities.org.