Chapel Hill is continuing its history of branching out internationally, and town officials hope to see a budding partnership with a town in the Galapagos grow.
In May, Chapel Hill agreed to a “sister city” relationship with Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galapagos province in Ecuador. This partnership grew from relations between UNC and Universidad San Francisco de Quito and was proposed by Puerto Baquerizo Moreno’s mayor, said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.
“He came and proposed that since the universities had a close relationship, the towns should look to create a relationship as well,” Kleinschmidt said.
This spring, Kleinschmidt accompanied Chancellor Holden Thorp to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno for the commencement of the Galapagos Science Center, now used by both schools.
Kleinschmidt finalized the communities’ relationship on the trip. And while the towns haven’t begun concrete projects, they hope to move things forward.
“We’ve been communicating directly, largely through the universities,” Kleinschmidt said.
He said the towns are looking into creating a cultural exchange between grade level schools.
“We have a lot to learn from them around appreciating the natural environment and protecting species,” he said. “It’d be great to extend the educational connection.”
Steve Walsh, director of UNC’s Center for Galapagos Studies and co-director of the center, said environmental research done in Ecuador will benefit both towns.
“What we are doing has applicability to the rest of the planet and North Carolina,” he said.
But the Galapagos isn’t the only place Chapel Hill has connections to internationally. The town has also had relationships with the Guro District of Seoul, South Korea and Saratov, Russia.
“The mayor of Guro was … interested in how the research triangle had capitalized on its university systems,” said former Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy, who was in office when the relationship was formed in 2006.
He said the city sent a delegation to Chapel Hill to see how the town and University relationship worked. In turn, Foy went to Guro in 2007.
And in 1992, Chapel Hill formed an official sister city relationship with a town in Russia.
The Chapel Hill museum has since housed an exhibit on Saratov that displays traditional crafts and glassware from the city.
Officials say town global relations will enrich both partners.
“Both communities can benefit from an exchange of information,” said Diego Quiroga, vice president for research at Universidad San Francisco de Quito.
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