It’s been nearly five days since a delegation of 38 San Antonio civic and business leaders, led by Mayor Ivy Taylor, embarked on the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce‘s annual Trade and Cultural Mission to Spain, and the group has taken part in a full schedule of cultural outings and meetings with Spanish dignitaries and business leaders.
The week-long trip is meant to strengthen cultural and economic ties with Spain, home to two San Antonio sister cities – Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands – and the birthplace of the 16 families of Canary Islanders who first settled the city nearly 300 years ago. Taylor will be the first mayor to visit the sister cities since Mayor Emerita Lila Cockrell officially signed the relationship into agreement in 1975.
Also part of the delegation are City Council members Roberto Treviño (D1), Alan Warrick (D2), Rebecca Viagran (D3), Shirley Gonzales (D5), and Ray Lopez (D6).
One of the main goals of the trip is to identify opportunities for collaboration in preparation of the city’s Tricentennial celebration in May 2018, and the first day’s programming kicked off with that in mind. Taylor met with Council members to discuss plans for the city’s 300th birthday after an early morning briefing at the U.S. Embassy with the U.S. Ambassador to Spain James Costos, who shared insight on how to effectively leverage the Tricentennial celebrations to promote San Antonio in Spain.
Since San Antonio and Spain share deep historical connections, the delegation hopes to find inspiration on the trip to accurately portray the lasting impact of Spanish history and culture in San Antonio.
Later in the day, Taylor delivered an address on the role of urban planning and economic development in the past, present, and future at the Cervantes Institute in Madrid, which has a satellite campus at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She also met with the Mayor of Madrid, the Honorable Manuela Carmena Castrillo, to discuss effective civic engagement strategies.
An afternoon meeting with the Madrid Chamber of Commerce and an evening dinner hosted by Aldonza Gourmet provided the entire delegation the opportunity to discuss economic development and potential trade partnerships. Aldonza Gourmet is considering San Antonio as a location for its U.S. manufacturing base, and sees the presence of Toyota in the city as well as the city’s proximity to Mexico as alluring for this venture.
“We do (the Trade and Cultural Mission trip) as a part of our work to expand trade opportunities for San Antonio,” Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Ramiro Cavazos, who also serves as Honorary Consul of Spain in San Antonio, previously told the Rivard Report. Renewable energy, water technology and development, and educational exchanges, he added, are some other key areas of focus on the trip.
The second day, the group met with 18 representatives from Spanish infrastructure companies, including Iberdrola, Acciona and Ferrovial, at a breakfast hosted by The Spain USA Foundation, before heading off to the Canary Islands to meet with the President of the Autonomous Government of the Canary Islands Fernando Clavijo, and attend a roundtable discussion and networking reception hosted by Universidad de las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
In the coming days, the delegation will meet the Mayors of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and San Cristobal de La Laguna, and the President of Cabildo Insular de Santa Cruz de Tenerife Antonio Morales Méndez.
Though fostering economic relationships is a key aspect of the international trip, the group has also had the opportunity to visit some key cultural institutions and sites such as Puerta del Sol, a historic city square and one of the busiest places in Madrid, and Museo Nacional Del Prado, the main Spanish national art museum.
They will also tour El Teide Volcano and the historical center of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, two of Spain’s 44 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Viagran, whose district includes the four Spanish-colonial Missions which are UNESCO World Heritage sites, is looking for ways the Spanish World Heritage sites engage visitors and locals as potential inspiration for the San Antonio missions.
The delegation is set to return on Saturday, May 28.
Top image: Members of the 2016 Hispanic Chamber Trade and Cultural Mission to Spain delegation participate in a roundtable discussion and reception hosted by Universidad de las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain. Photo courtesy of Luis Rodriguez, Hispanic Chamber COO and VP of economic development.