A delegation of 38 local dignitaries and business leaders departs Saturday for a week-long international relations mission to Spain as part of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC)’s annual Trade and Cultural Mission.

Since 2009, the Hispanic Chamber has taken delegations of civic and business leaders on excursions to Spain and Mexico to bolster San Antonio’s presence in international commerce. Other Trade and Cultural Mission trips have gone to Cuba and Israel, but the Spain trip is meant to strengthen economic development and foster cultural ties with Madrid and San Antonio’s sister cities, Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands through a series of meetings and exchanges throughout the seven-day excursion.

Anyone can view the trip agenda online here since a quorum of the City Council – including Mayor Ivy Taylor,  Council members Roberto Treviño (D1), Alan Warrick (D2), Rebecca Viagran (D3), and Shirley Gonzales (D5) – will embark on the international journey.

Mayor Taylor, who is leading the delegation, will be the first mayor to visit the Spanish sister cities since Mayor Emerita Lila Cockrell officially signed the relationship into agreement in 1975. Taylor looks forward to delving deeper into the historical connections between San Antonio and Spain.

“Spain and the Canary Islands are part of our history and culture, and we want to foster these relationships leading up to our city’s 300th anniversary in 2018,” Taylor stated in a news release.

Sixteen families of Canary Islanders are credited as the first settlers of San Antonio nearly 300 years ago. Gaining a better understanding of the intersection of San Antonian and Spanish heritage is expected to help City officials and community leaders craft more thoughtful Tricentennial celebrations that portray the lasting impact of Spanish history and culture.

During the trip, Taylor will meet with the Spanish Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ignacio Ybáñez Rubio and the Mayor of Madrid, the Honorable Manuela Carmena Castrillo. She also will deliver a lecture at the Cervantes Institute in Madrid, which has a satellite campus at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

Taylor hopes the trip will result in a variety of opportunities for both San Antonio and Spain, including cultural exchanges for youth and valuable business partnerships with the local and statewide community and business leaders in the delegation.

San Antonio’s international profile continues to grow, said Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Ramiro Cavazos, who also serves as Honorary Consul of Spain in San Antonio.

Members of the 2015 Trade and Cultural Mission delegation in Spain. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Members of the 2015 Trade and Cultural Mission delegation in Spain. Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

We do (the Trade and Cultural Mission trip) as a part of our work to expand trade opportunities for San Antonio,” Cavazos said, adding that delegates will have the chance to meet face-to-face with potential business partners that could ultimately lead to new investments in San Antonio and Texas. The group will focus on building relationships in the areas of renewable energy, water technology and development, and educational exchanges.

As the city’s urban core continues to attract new residents, San Antonio can look to cities like Madrid for guidance on effective ways to balance cultural preservation and growth. Madrid, more than 450 years old, has preserved much of its historic architecture.

“Inner city revitalization and transportation have also been issues that (Spain has) dealt with” along with gentrification and sensitive development, Cavazos said. “So they know how to … mix innovation and technology while at the same preserving culture and architecture.”

Spain is home to 44 UNESCO World Heritage sites including El Teide Volcano and the historical center of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, both of which are on the agenda as points of visitation. Viagran’s district includes the four Spanish-colonial missions which, along with the Alamo, were granted UNESCO World Heritage status last July. She has worked closely with City staff on guidelines for site preservation and sensitive development in the district to accommodate the influx of visitors the special designation will bring.

In 2000, Viagran lived in Granada, Spain while working with Universidad de Granada and a Christian organization. She regularly goes back to visit friends and said she’s looking forward to visiting in an official capacity.

The surfeit of connections to San Antonio’s past, present and future makes this “the right time for all of us to be going to the Canary Islands,” Viagran said.

She is especially interested in seeing how the Spanish World Heritage sites engage visitors and locals alike.

“I want to get a feel for what the government’s (role is) and how they fund maintenance,” she said.

2016 Spain Trade Mission Delegation:

  • Mayor Ivy Taylor
  • Morgan Taylor, daughter of Mayor Taylor
  • Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1)
  • Councilman Alan E. Warrick II (D2)
  • Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3)
  • Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5)
  • Kevin Barton, spouse of Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales
  • Councilman Ray Lopez (D6)
  • Evelyn Lopez, spouse of Councilman Ray Lopez
  • Rebecca Q. Cedillo, SAHCC Board chairman
  • Maria Elena Torralva Alonso, Mary Kay Cosmetics
  • Judge Alfonso Enrique Alonso, Jr., president of Therapeutic Justice Foundation
  • Dr. Joel A. Reyes, owner of STAAMP, PLLC & STAAMP Research, LLC
  • Dr. Erika Gonzalez-Reyes, owner of STAAMP, PLLC & STAAMP Research, LLC
  • Louis Escareño, UETA Duty Free America general counsel member
  • Iñigo ArzacBrooks City Base board member
  • Manuel Pelaez, PKC Group general counsel member
  • Shahrzad Dowlatshahi, City of San Antonio chief of protocol and head of International Relations
  • Robert Earl Thrailkill, Tricentennial Executive Committee co-chair
  • Edward Benavides, Tricentennial Commission CEO
  • Jacob Valenzuela, owner of Deco Pizzeria
  • Dr. Alfonso Chiscano, Tricentennial Executive Committee co-chair
  • Asia Ciaravino, Tricentennial Commission COO
  • Dr. Cynthia Teniente Matson, Texas A&M University-San Antonio president
  • Katherine Crawford Luber, Tricentennial Executive Committee co-chair
  • Dr. William HenrichUT Health Science Center-San Antonio president
  • Mary Henrich, spouse of Dr. Henrich
  • Patricia JassoSan Antonio Water System trustee
  • Ursula Cecilia PariKSAT-12 anchor/reporter
  • Ryan Loyd, KSAT-12 digital reporter
  • Martha Ellen Henry, City of San Antonio Sr. International Relations officer
  • Virginia Gregory Van Cleave, community leader
  • Marisol Patricia Deluna, owner of Deluna by Design, Inc.
  • Carol P. FimmenAlamo Colleges district director of International Programs
  • Ramiro Cavazos, SAHCC president and CEO, Honorary Consul of Spain
  • Luis Rodriguez, SAHCC COO and vice president of Economic Development
  • Yvonne Rodriguez, Rackspace manager of US Sales: Cloud Office
  • C. LeRoy Cavazos, SAHCC vice president of Government Affairs

Top image: Madrid, Spain. Public domain image.

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Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is camillenicgarcia@gmail.com