The City of Tyler’s partnership with Jelenia Góra in southwestern Poland is among the most active of its six current international sister city relationships.
As one of the oldest cities in Poland, Jelenia Góra’s 900-year history includes nearly three decades of collaborations with East Texas.
Jelenia Góra, Poland
‘Twinning’ ceremonies to formalize the sister city relationships were held in Jelenia Góra in 1993 and Tyler in 1994. A group of 20 Tylerites traveled to Poland in 1996 to learn about government, culture, education, and judicial operations as the country was emerging from decades of Communist control. In 2008, then-mayor of Tyler Barbara Bass was named an honorary citizen of Jelenia Góra. Over the years, Karkonosze College and Tyler Junior College have also exchanged visiting professors and lecturers. Most recently, a professor of humanities from Karkonosze lectured at TJC in early September.
While the two towns will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their twinning next year, this is not the oldest of Tyler’s sister city connections.
Tyler’s first ‘twinning’ was with Metz, France. It was made official in 1982 after a tour of French universities by then-president George Hamm of the University of Texas at Tyler.
Then-Police Chief Larry Robinson traveled to Metz to learn more about how the French utilize computerized suspect descriptions. In March 1984, Tyler hosted a Sister City economic trade fair to showcase Metz furniture, ceramics, painting and embroidery industries. “(It) proved to be less than profitable, however, because of the oil industry slump,” according to the Sister Cities website. A month later, a delegation from Metz arrived in East Texas to French flags displayed at Tyler businesses and were treated to a sampling of Texas culture and entertainment, including local cuisine, country western bands, and square dancing. Students from Metz spent time in Tyler in 1985 and 1986, even participating in an internship program through UT Tyler and Trane. Tyler residents raised $3,000 in scholarships to bring more Metz students to East Texas.
Despite efforts to strengthen ties between the two cities, a disparity in population growth emerged as a barrier to common interests. “(Metz) accepted ties with larger communities matching its own city population and development.” The partnership was suspended by the end of 1986.
As ties with France were put on hold, Tyler leaders were discussing “twinning” over possible Japan. In May 1991, delegates from Yachio City visited Tyler City Hall to propose hiring school instructors from Tyler to teach English for one-year terms. Later that year, the first two teachers from Tyler went to Yachio, working in a junior high school as part of a pilot program. This collaboration led to a formal sister city agreement in 1992. Both cities are home to well-known rose gardens, which serve as a symbolic starting point for cultural and business ties.
Over the decades, the cities have maintained a biennial visit rotation, in addition to hosting groups from the Yachiyo Boys and Girls Choir and the Tyler Junior College dance team. To date, the two cities have sponsored 28 official trips, with more than 775 participants. The Tyler-Yachiyo Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) Program has put more nearly 50 East Texas educators in Japanese classrooms, serving as English language role models for students.
Lo Barnechea, Chile
In 2001, Tyler paired with Lo Barnechea, Chile for its newest sister city relationship. A delegation from Tyler visited the mountainous metropolitan area of 105,000 residents in 2004. Tyler Sister Cities says the organization is currently working to re-engage their counterparts in Lo Barnechea.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
City leaders laid the groundwork for developing a sister city relationship in Mexico in the late 1980s, when a $10,000 grant from Sister Cities International allowed six orphans from Mexico to enroll at Tyler Junior College. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that Tyler found an official partnership in San Miguel de Allende, located in the central part of the country, about 170 miles northwest of Mexico City.
In 2019, Tyler Sister Cities made an effort to strengthen ties there, sending a delegation that also included representatives from TJC, UT Tyler, Tyler Economic Development Council, Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Hispanic Professionals Association of Tyler. The group met with local economic development, education, and tourism leaders.
“Tourism, technology, business exchanges, culinary arts, and wine are some of the ways to interact that Tyler and San Miguel are exploring.”
Liberia, Costa Rica
Tyler’s sister city partnership with Liberia, Costa Rica became official in 2013. Since then, the relationship has centered on shared interests in the areas of education and service. The involvement of Tyler Junior College and UT Tyler has been central to strengthening ties. The institutions have sponsored numerous service learning travel study trips since 2009. According to Tyler Sister Cities, past service projects have included painting school buildings, constructing classrooms and restroom facilities, planting trees to support reforestation, building a soccer field and playground, teaching English as a second language to school kids, and providing health seminars. Students from Liberia have also completed studies at TJC and UT Tyler through academic scholarships sponsored by the institutions.
In early 2018, the Tyler City Council approved “twinning” with Qujing, China, a metropolitan area of more than 6 million residents in southwestern China. The relationship between the two cities first developed in 2001. Groups of business leaders and college students visited Qujing the following year. “There are possible opportunities for our local manufacturers to move product to other countries and likewise from other countries to our area,” said Tyler Sister Cities board president Russ Jackson in 2018.
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