Japanese garden

Caitlin Arakawa and Roy Cencirulo of Redlands Sister Cities Association standing in the Japanese garden next to the peace pole, one of the projects commemorating Hino, Redlands sister city in Japan.

In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed a people-to-people, citizen diplomacy initiative resulting in Sister Cities International. Redlands was part of the first wave of cities joining the organization in 1962.

“Two deeply held convictions unite us in common purpose,” Eisenhower said at the White House Conference on Citizen Diplomacy in 1956. “First, is our belief in effective and responsive local government as a principal bulwark of freedom. Second, is our faith in the great promise of people-to-people and sister city affiliations in helping build the solid structure of world peace.”

Today, there are 500 member communities with over 2,000 partnerships in more than 140 countries.

“We started because the city of San Bernardino had a sister city of Tachikawa [in Japan],” said Roy Cencirulo, president of the Redlands Sister Cities chapter. “There was an American Air Force Base in San Bernardino and there was a corresponding one in Tachikawa. The American planes during the Vietnam and Korean war were flying back and forward there. Hino is the city right next to Tachikawa.

“A group from Redlands, the mayor of the time [Charles C. Parker] went to Japan and met the mayor of Hino and established the sister relationship.”

Thus, the first sister city to Redlands became Hino in Japan. In 1963, exchanges and visitations began between the two cities resulting in an art exhibit between Hino and Redlands students in 1966.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, was added as a sister city in 1967 when a board member went there frequently through an art connection, Cencirulo said. Linli, China, was added in 2004 when a professor from Cal State San Bernardino who was from the city of Linli established the connection.

“Those personal connections are what started it,” said Cencirulo.

Most activities have prevailed between Hino and Redlands resulting in Redlands Terrier High School Band performing there in 1985. Redlands soccer teams have competed in Hino, Redlands firefighters were part of a professional exchange in 1996 and 2000, so too Redlands farmers in 1999. The student exchange program was established in 1986 between Hino and Redlands with eight visits in the last 22 years.

In 1968, a Japanese garden dedicated to Hino including a peace pole was established in Smiley Park near City Hall, a rededication took place in 2013.

Recent projects of the Redlands Sister Cities have included murals on the Orange Blossom Trail in 2016 and a clock sculpture in Ed Hales Park in 2019 featuring the time of the three sister cities.

These recent beautification projects resulted in an acknowledgement from the Sister Cities International, where the Redlands Chapter received the Innovation in Arts and Culture Award of 2020.

San Miguel de Allende and Redlands have had a pen pal program and in 2005 three teachers went to Linli, China, to teach English for a year.

A delegation from Redlands Sister Cities is planning to go to San Miguel de Allende next year to foster an art program between the two cities.

Mayor Pro Tem Eddie Tejeda went to the International Sister Cities convention in San Diego in October.

“The goal was to increase the communication and partnerships between American cities and cities in Mexico,” said Cencirulo.

The Redlands Sister City Chapter has just over 30 members. At one time there were 60 members.