Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sausalito and Viña del Mar - Dos Ciudades Hermanas

Our family has lived in Sausalito for over 30 years, but I am sorry to say that it was only recently that I looked into our sister city relationship with the Chilean city of Viña del Mar ("Vineyard of the Sea"), just north of the port of Valparíaso on the Pacific Coast and about one and a half hours by car from Santiago.

The sister city relationship was established in 1960, but apart from being remembered by our Viña del Mar Plaza in downtown Sausalito next to the ferry pier, it does not seem that it has been active in the recent past. I recently had a chance to meet Chile’s new Consul General in San Francisco, Alex Geiger-Soffia, who hopes to organize an event to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the relationship. That sounds like a wonderful idea, especially given the long-term, special relationship that exists between California and Chile as reflected by our Chile-California Partnership (see the links here and here).

Although I have never been to Chile, I have become very interested in the country and would like to learn more about the background of the sister city relationship. There are some obvious similarities between the cities - for example, both are seaside tourist destinations close to important ports and both, as the following photo collages reflect, are blessed by considerable natural beauty.

Both cities are also close to important wine production areas, including, in the case of Viña del Mar, Casablanca Valley (through which one passes on the drive to the coast from Santiago) which is itself a sister city of Napa, California, less than an hour north of Sausalito. Viña del Mar is considerably larger than Sausalito - its population of around 300,000 (compared to around 8,000 for Sausalito) makes it the fourth largest city in Chile. It also hosts two important annual festivals – a music festival, now in its 50th year, each February (“Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar”), and a film festival, now in its 21st year, each November ("Festival Internacional de Cine de Viña del Mar”).

Viña del Mar also has a top division soccer team named CD Everton (nicknamed the "Ruleteros" (“the roulette players”), a reference to the city’s status as a gambling resort). The team plays at a 18,000 seat stadium named Estadio Sausalito.

The stadium was named after the small lake – Laguna Sausalito – next to which it is located.

I am not sure if the Lagoon was named in honor of the sister city relationship or if that may just be a coincidence due to the possible presence of the same willow trees after which Sausalito (“"small willow grove” in Spanish) was originally named.

Returning to California, as can be seen by this video, the Viña del Mar Plaza has always been a peaceful oasis in downtown Sausalito.

The elephant statues, which flank the entrance to the park, and the fountain in the middle of the park, are the key decorative elements.

The statues have plaques – one in English and one in Spanish - affixed to their bases which reflect the sister city relationship.

The elephant sculptures and fountain were originally designed for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco by Sausalito architect William Faville.

After the Exposition, Faville acquired the elephants and the fountain and in 1916 they were placed in their current location in Sausalito, then known as Depot Park, where residents dubbed them Jumbo and Pee Wee. The original statues eroded over time, so castings were made of Pee Wee so that concrete replacements could be placed in to the Park. In 1960 the name of the Park was changed to commemorate the new sister city relationship with Viña del Mar.


"I have been a lucky man. To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses – that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things."

Pablo Neruda, Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet who maintained a home, “La Sebastiana,” in Valparíaso, near Viña del Mar.

No comments: