BANGOR, Maine — Community members and Bangor officials gathered Friday in Cascade Park in celebration of the continued relationship between Bangor and its sister city Carasque, El Salvador.
The ceremony commemorated a crab apple tree planted in the park in 1995 as a symbolic gesture of solidarity and hope for the two communities.
City Council Chairman Ben Sprague gave remarks in English and Spanish. Sprague thanked the people of Bangor who “formed, cultivated and nurtured” this relationship.
The ceremony also included remarks from volunteers from the Bangor-Carasque Sister City Project: Zulma Tobar, El Salvador Sister Cities co-coordinator; Bernado Belloso, president of the Association for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES); and first Bangor-Carasque delegate Donna Gilbert.
“This tree represents that sistering relationship that crosses borders and barriers,” said Tobar, who is from Chicago’s sister city Cinquera, El Salvador. “It’s so important seeing how big the tree is. It’s the symbol of love.”
Tobar and Belloso then helped mount plaques on the tree, in English and Spanish, reading:
Este arbol sembrado para celebrar La relación de hermandad entre Bangor, Maine y Carasque, El Salvador. Establecido en 1991 en Solidaridad. Como Hermanos y Hermanas.
This tree planted to celebrate the Sister City connection between Bangor and Carasque, El Salvador. Established in 1991 in Solidarity. As Brothers and Sisters.
Despite the rain beforehand, supporters paired up to water the tree, symbolizing the care and growth of the sister relationship.
The sistering between the cities began in 1991 in response to a call for North American communities to provide support to Salvadoran communities. The people of El Salvador had endured human rights abuses from their military during an armed conflict that lasted for a decade. Bangor is one of 17 El Salvador Sister Cities including Madison, Wisconsin, and Chicago.
The Bangor-based organization Power in Community Alliances, called Peace in Central America during the El Salvador war, has since maintained and facilitated the relationship through the Bangor-Carasque Sister City Project.
Dennis Chinoy, volunteer for the Bangor-Carasque Sister City Project, felt like the timing of the ceremony served as a counterpoint to the current political climate.
“They’re communities across borders that share values and aspire for the same things. They have mutual respect,” he said. “It’s such a refreshing attitude that we’d thought we’d celebrate here.”
Through the sistering, Bangor has sent more than 25 delegations to El Salvador and members of both communities participate in monthly phone calls to one another, totaling more than 300. The communities discuss and share their common struggles, such as water privatization, and how they can face and embrace them.
However, for many, the most important aspects of sistering are the familial relationships and lessons that have formed between two cities that are more than 3,800 miles apart.
“It’s changed my life,” PICA volunteer Katherine Kates said. “I carry these sisters and brothers in my heart.”
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