Daily Light staff writer

In 1956, 12 years after the end of World War II, President Dwight Eisenhower, who also served as the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, initiated a two-day conference at the White House to discuss citizen democracy.

Out of the two-day conference, participants formed 42 “People-to-People” committees, from which Sister Cities International and U.S.-Mexico Sister Cities International Association were launched.

Now, 51 years later, Waxahachie is preparing to take part in the program that works to “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation - one individual, one community at a time.”

A delegation from Waxahachie attended a three-day conference last month in Laredo, hosted by U.S.-Mexico Sister Cities International Association, to meet representatives from cities in Mexico to find a possible sister city match.

The city of Waxahachie is a member of both the U.S.-Mexico Sister Cities International Association and Sister Cities International.

The Waxahachie delegation included Mayor Joe Jenkins, Waxahachie director of economic development Doug Barnes, Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce president Debra Wakeland, Waxahachie Convention and Visitors Bureau director Laurie McPike Mosley, Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce chairman of the board Teresa McNiel and Waxahachie Sister Cities co-chairman Jennifer Howell.

Jenkins joins Howell as co-chairman.

“The purpose of the Waxahachie Sister Cities Partnership is to establish close relations with international communities,” Barnes told the city council at its winter retreat. “It will allow Waxahachie to creatively learn, work and solve problems through cultural, educational, municipal, business, professional and technical exchanges and projects.”

While attending the conference, the Waxahachie delegation was introduced to a representative from Sabinas, Coahuila, which is located about 70 miles south of Eagle Pass, Texas.

Coahuila is the third largest state in Mexico and is divided into 38 municipalities, including Sabinas.

“The city is still doing due diligence and negotiating with the city’s representatives to discuss joining as sister cities,” Barnes said. “Mexico was chosen because of its proximity to the state and we thought we could get our feet wet with a sister city in Mexico.”

With the council members’ consent at their retreat, the Waxahachie Sister City Committee held a conference call with Sabinas Mayor Carolina Morales Iribarren on Tuesday, making plans to move forward and make Sabinas one of Waxahachie’s first sister cities.

“A commitment was made to pursue the relationship for the next few months with their representative, Jeronimo Santos,” Mosely said. “(This will) ultimately lead to the signing of an agreement between the mayors at the sister cities conference in August in El Paso.”

Wakeland said the conference call with Iribarren was both informative and fun.

“The call went just as planned,” Wakeland said. “They are so professional and nice. They tell it like it is, which is so refreshing. I’m beginning to love Mexico even more than I did. They’ll say the nicest things. They told us, ‘We just don’t feel like we deserve you all.’ Even if people feel that way, most people won’t say it.”

Wakeland said that with the partnership, several businesses have already contacted the chamber about interest in expanding their product lines to Sabinas.

“We have some industries and businesses that are looking to expand their product lines,” Wakeland said. “Their population is a bit larger but there are so many similarities between the two cities. They have a museum, a wonderful church with the original clock tower like our courthouse and mining is very key there. Like cotton is to us, mining is to them. The name of their state is also an Indian word, meaning ‘flying snake.’ ”

Wakeland said the chamber and city plan to move forward with agreements between the two cities.

“We will move forward and there will be a former signing with our mayor and theirs,” Wakeland said. “They will sign a contract through the U.S.-Mexico Sister Cities International Association in August.”

In addition to Sabinas, Wakeland said the city would also be interested in sister cities from other countries as well.

“We can still have sister cities in other countries as well,” Wakeland said. “We thought this would be a great beginning. They’re right next-door and so many people in our community already speak Spanish as a first language.”

Jenkins said he is looking forward to the future partnership between the two cities.

“It’s just the beginning,” Jenkins said. “Jennifer brought it up to me and we attended the conference in Laredo. The chamber has taken the lead on this and we see this as a great economic and development thing.”

Jenkins joked that along with visiting and learning about the culture in Sabinas, he looked forward to enjoying its Mexican cuisine.

”I’d love to get some great Mexican food out of this for sure,” Jenkins said. “I hear that all Mexican food is great, just some is better than others.”

Howell said she looks forward to the future possibilities.

“Through Waxahachie’s participation in the sister city program, we’ll be promoting peace, while enjoying the endless possibilities of benefits to our community that come with membership of Sister Cities International,” Howell said.

Sister Cities International represents more than 2,500 communities in 126 countries around the world.

E-mail Jonathan at j.blundell@thedailylight.com