Alekk M. Saanders
Monday, 27 November 2023, 16:35
Town-twinning is probably the simplest form of cooperation between regions and countries, as it brings two populations closer together, sharing visits, gifts and cultural events.
Numerous towns and cities in Andalucía have national and international twins, and some relationships are better known than others. The celebration of ties between Torremolinos and the English town of Stockport near Manchester appears to be a little one-sided.
The modern concept of twinning has its roots in the second world war. It was inspired by the bombing of Coventry in November 1940, known as the Coventry Blitz, when much of the city centre was destroyed in a large air raid.
Later Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in the former USSR went through similar devastating events.
So, in 1942, the then mayor of Coventry, Alfred Robert Grindlay, sent a telegram to the people of Stalingrad expressing an idea that emerged as a way of establishing links of solidarity between cities in allied countries.
The comradeship between the two cities continued, when again in response to the Battle of Stalingrad, 830 women in Coventry had their names embroidered on a tablecloth along with the words 'Little help is better than big sympathy' and sent it, along with money, to the people of Stalingrad.
In addition to the European idea, in 1956, US president Dwight D. Eisenhower contributed to the partnership between cities by creating the Sister Cities International movement.
The term 'sister cities' is generally used for agreements with towns and cities in the Americas, while the word 'twin' is more common in the UK and EU countries. Spain defines them as 'ciudades hermanadas', which literally means 'sister cities'.
By definition, a sister city relationship is a form of legal or social agreement between two geographically and politically distinct localities for the purpose of promoting cultural and commercial ties.
The United States is a leader in establishing relationships between towns and cities, followed by Great Britain, France, China and Germany. Spain is twinned with about three hundreds municipalities around the world. The most connected Spanish cities are Madrid and Barcelona, among the 20 places in the world with the most twinning partnerships.
There are towns that establish 'sistership' because of proximity. For example, Ayamonte in Huelva province and Vila Real de Santo António in Portugal are joined by a bridge; or Cadiz and Tangiers, located on opposite coasts. Malaga is twinned with Melilla, which is situated on the African coast and until 1995 was just another municipality of Malaga province. As for Granada, it is twinned with its small neighbour - a town of Santa Fe. The links are obvious with places that share a name; it is quite unsurprising then that Cordoba is twinned with its namesakes in Mexico and Argentina, or Valencia has ties with another Valencia in Venezuela.
It is interesting that Spain has especially good links with Japan. Stories behind a twinning can be unusual. For example, Palos de la Frontera in Huelva province was linked with the Japanese town of Ōfunato in 1992; it is reported that this is thanks to a Japanese teacher who was particularly interested in this small Andalusian town.
The Japanese town of Kure is twinned with Marbella due to geographical and climate similarities. Shared economic activity is sometimes a good reason for twinning. Luxury tourism is what has made Marbella a sister town to Miami Beach in the USA, Punta del Este in Uruguay, Doha in Qatar and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
One of the most famous twinnings in Malaga province is the one between Macharaviaya and the US city of Pensacola, thanks to Macharaviaya-born Bernardo de Gálvez, who became a hero of the American War of Independence.
Teba is tied with the Scottish town of Melrose because of James Douglas, who died in the reconquest of the castle in 1330.
Great Britain has a long relationship with the Costa del Sol thanks to a little-known twinning between Stockport and Torremolinos.
On 20 September 1991, the mayor of Stockport, Thomas Jackson, and a committee from the Greater Manchester town were present at the opening of a roundabout with the famous X monument created by Malaga sculptor Paco Jurado, as SUR reported the following day.
Three decades later the monument was moved to the gardens near El Pinillo, due to the reconstruction of the railway station in Torremolinos.
On 5 May 2021, a new inauguration took place on the occasion of the relocation of the monument and the unveiling of plaques commemorating the 30th anniversary of the relationship. "A gathering of the peoples of Spain and Great Britain for the union of the municipalities of Stockport and Torremolinos. 1991," read the inscriptions in Spanish and English.
That day the importance of the link that exists between Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol and the United Kingdom as well as a "great relationship" with the British people was stressed by the then mayor José Ortiz.
It was reported that the relationship goes back to as early as the 1920s and 1930s, because there are references to Torremolinos having received British visitors. The sculptor, who attended the event, was given a special recognition for "the hard work and enthusiasm" he put into it.
However, Stockport has no monument to commemorate this link. Neither does Torremolinos appear on the roadsign at the entrance to the town which states that it is twinned with Béziers in France, Heilbronn in Germany and Dodge City in the US.
These three places are mentioned in the English version of Wikipedia as Stockport's "twins" and were also the only places named when SUR in English called Stockport town hall. The Spanish version of Wikipedia for Stockport, meanwhile, lists Torremolinos as "ciudad hermana" and excludes Dodge City, with which Stockport was twinned in 2002.
Of course twinned towns do not always stay connected. Political situations often cause links to be severed. In 2012, the Chinese city of Nanjing suspended its sister relationship with the Japanese city of Nagoya after Nanjing massacre denialist statements by Nagoya's mayor.
In 2013, the Italian cities of Milan, Venice, and Turin, formerly twinned with Saint Petersburg, suspended their links due to Russia passing anti-gay legislation. In 2020, the council of Nieuwegein in Holland voted to end its friendship with Puławy in Poland, citing 'gay free zones' as the reason.
After last year's invasion of Ukraine many cities have suspended their relationships with Russian cities. On 22 March 2022, twinning pioneer Coventry voted to pause the city's links with Volgograd and explore the possibility of creating a link with Mariupol, one of the cities most affected by the Russian invasion at the beginning of the war.
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