Borough building bridge, not wall with Mexico

Kennett Square’s bilingual receptionist got a phone call some months ago that qualified as well beyond unusual: A government official from Mexico wanted to discuss a partnership with the borough.

Representatives from local governments in Kennett Square and Moroleon, Mexico, convene to sign a 'twinning' agreement to foster communication and cultural exchange.

Representatives from local governments in Kennett Square and Moroleon, Mexico, convene to sign a 'twinning' agreement to foster communication and cultural exchange.

Denise Rodriguez said she did some quick research to determine that the caller was legitimate before sharing the message with Borough Manager Joseph Scalise and Mayor Matt Fetick. With assistance from Rodriguez, they initiated a series of contacts that culminated in an enthusiastic document-signing on Friday, April 29.

At a time when presidential candidates have advocated a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Borough Council held a special meeting at the historic Kennett Inn to welcome a dozen residents from Moroleon, a region in Guanajuato, and to sign a “twinning” resolution between the municipalities.

Fetick first broached the subject to council during a meeting on Feb. 16 after discussions with officials in Moroleon. He explained that because a number of residents travel back and forth between the two places, officials there were seeking a cultural, collaborative exchange. Council unanimously voted to extend an invitation for the group to visit, setting up the April 29 gathering.

Kennett Square employees Denise Rodriguez (left) and Karen Scherer enjoy the results of their planning for Friday's presentation.

Kennett Square employees Denise Rodriguez (left) and Karen Scherer enjoy the results of their planning for Friday's presentation.

Jorge Ortiz Ortega, Moroleon’s municipal president, said that the link between the two towns began in the middle of the 19th century when Mexicans began traveling to Kennett Square to work in the mushroom industry. “We’ve had the intention of establishing ties of friendship” for a long time, Ortega said.

Through a translator, Ortega read a history of Kennett Square, noting that Bayard Taylor, an acclaimed travel writer and Kennett Square resident, wrote fondly of his visits to Mexico. Ortega repeatedly expressed gratitude to the borough for the jobs and congeniality it afforded its Mexican visitors. Borough Council President Danilo P. Maffei responded with a recitation of Moroleon’s past.

In the process, both revealed common denominators the locales shared, such as a reverence for preserving one’s heritage and maintaining a strong work ethic.

Azucena Tinoco (from left), the first female solicitor for Moroleon, Municipal President Jorge Ortiz Ortega, Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick, and Borough Council President Danilo P. Maffei display the twinning resolutions.

Azucena Tinoco (from left), the first female solicitor for Moroleon, Municipal President Jorge Ortiz Ortega, Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick, and Borough Council President Danilo P. Maffei display the twinning resolutions.

Maffei said the presentation reminded him that his grandfather emigrated from a town in Italy that he’s never visited. “I always wondered what life was like in that town,” he said, praising the new twinning relationship. “We’re honored to have you here in our town and to welcome you at our table.”

For their part, the guests were delighted. “I feel so emotional,” Araceli Guzman Zamudio, a member of the Moroleon town hall, said after learning about the background of both municipalities. “This was special.”

Her husband, Miguel Angelo Lopez, said he felt privileged to spend time in a place where so many people from his hometown had established roots. “I think it’s important to share experiences,” he said, commenting that Kennett Square is much smaller than Moroleon, which has a population of 50,000.

Representatives from Casa Guanajuato, a Kennett Square-based advocacy organization that organizes the borough's annual Cinco de Mayo festival, also attended the meeting.

Lenda Carrillo from Casa Guanajuato said the nonprofit was helping the Mexican visitors schedule tours of area attractions, such as Longwood Gardens and some mushroom operations, during their brief stay.

One of the Moroleon guests demonstrates the proper way to wear a shawl as Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick watches.

One of the Moroleon guests demonstrates the proper way to wear a shawl as Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick watches.

Among the gifts the guests presented to their hosts were a commemorative banner, hand-crafted shawls indicative of Moroleon’s textile industry, and some special coins. Ortega, who received an honorary key to the borough and an assortment of ‘mushroom capital’ memorabilia, explained that his father had a limited number of the coins minted in 1999 in observance of Moroleon’s 142nd anniversary, and he wanted to give some to his hosts.

Ortega said he hoped Borough Council members would travel to Moroleon at some point so his government could repay their hospitality. “We have some really good parties in January,” he added with a smile.

As he watched the animated conversations taking place around him, Borough Councilman Wayne Braffman said he couldn’t help but contrast the outpouring of conviviality with “the venom being spewed” on the national political scene.

“This is so positive,” Braffman said. “I hope we can become an example for the rest of the nation.”

Fetick agreed. “As we look to the future, we are grateful that we have friends south of the border.”

 

 

 

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