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Published: Wednesday, 9/27/2006

2 Toledos reaffirm bonds of friendship

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ju Leigh Serpa of Notre Dame Academy raises Spain's flag  to mark the 75th year of the Sister City relationship. Ju Leigh Serpa of Notre Dame Academy raises Spain's flag to mark the 75th year of the Sister City relationship.
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Amid camera flashes and rapt onlookers, the leaders of two cities on either side of the Atlantic Ocean sat side by side at a hardwood table yesterday and penned their signatures to papers immediately hailed as historic documents.

The decorous occasion in Government Center was the formal reaffirmation of a 75-year-old Sister Cities relationship between two Toledos: centuries old Toledo, Spain, and the younger sibling that shares its name, Toledo, Ohio.

The two men who signed the papers were the cities' mayors, Carty Finkbeiner and Jos Manuel Molina Garcia.

During a 10-minute speech delivered first in Spanish, Mayor Garcia extolled the decision made years ago to establish relations between the cities and shared his optimism for continued kinship.

Jose Manuel Molina Garcia, the mayor of Toledo, Spain, at left, watches the flag-raising ceremony yesterday in International Park. Spanish offi cials began a five-day visit Saturday. Jose Manuel Molina Garcia, the mayor of Toledo, Spain, at left, watches the flag-raising ceremony yesterday in International Park. Spanish offi cials began a five-day visit Saturday.
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"We shall [sign] it encouraged by the noble feelings of brotherhood, which was sown by a group of enlightened people 75 years ago," Mayor Garcia said, continuing, "Physically separated ... but so close to each other in spirit as if they were the sons of the same mother, which in this case bears the beautiful name of friendship."

The Sister Cities relationship began in 1931 and coincides with the founding of what is now known as the Association of the Two Toledos by University of Toledo President Henry Doermann and Russell G.C. Brown, a Spanish teacher at Waite and DeVilbiss high schools.

The committee has since been joined by a separate organization, Toledo Sister Cities International, whose work has political and economic aspects and promotes relations between Toledo, Ohio, and other cities besides its namesake.

Mr. Brown's son, Russell, 63, was among the speakers at the ceremony.

Sister Cities relationships are important, Mr. Brown said later, because they demonstrate how friendships between individual citizens in different countries can transcend the political squabbles that often arise between nations.

"It says that things that happen between nations do not necessarily have to happen at the international level," said Mr. Brown, who is a Spanish teacher at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio.

The Spanish mayor and a half-dozen delegates flew into town Saturday for a five-day visit to commemorate the anniversary.

In May, a local 20-member delegation led by city council President Rob Ludeman made a trip to Toledo, Spain, to mark the relationship's anniversary over there.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner declined Mayor Garcia's invitation for that trip, saying in a letter of apology that he couldn't justify the expense given Toledo's economic conditions.

As the ink dried yesterday, the crowd of dignitaries journeyed to International Park for a flag-raising ceremony led by the Toledo Police Department's Honor Guard and 10 students belonging to Notre Dame Academy's Spanish Language and Culture Club.

Under the bright blue sky on the warm fall afternoon, Chelsea Wymer, 16, and Ju Leigh Serpa, 15, yanked a rope that pulled the red and yellow bars of the Spanish flag to the heavens, joining a nearby U.S. flag.

As it ascended, the girls' classmates softly recited a Spanish poem by the nation's renowned poet Federico Garca Lorca that deals with love and achieving one's possibilities.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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