Mission of the Amigo Club
The objective of this nonprofit corporation shall be to actively promote the Sister City relationship between the City of Ashland, Oregon, U.S.A., and the City of Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico, by supporting, without limitation, personal, educational, cultural, civic, social, medical, dental, and other exchanges between the two cities.
The members are the governing body of the Amigo Club. Management of the Club is facilitated by a Board of Directors (BOD) that meets once/month to discuss Club business. The BOD is comprised of officers that are nominated and elected by the membership and that serve two-year terms.
Board of Directors (2018-2019):
President – Betzabé “Mina” Turner. As president, Mina and the board of directors have secured the club’s tax-exempt status, created an endowed scholarship fund for exchange students supported by the annual Guanajuato Nights fundraising dinner/auction, and initiated the monthly “Entre Amigos” newspaper column. An Oregon certified court and health care interpreter and human resources professional, Mina joined the Amigo Club in 2002 after living and working for years in Lima, Peru; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Madrid, Spain.
Vice President – Karen Grove. Karen has been active in the Amigo Club since moving to Ashland in 2015. Even before moving here, Guanajuato was her favorite Mexican city. She has traveled extensively in Mexico and is pleased to be part of a group that is working to strengthen ties with our neighbor to the south. She is the current web master.
Treasurer – Sean Van Ausdall. Sean has been treasurer of the Amigo Club since 2010; he was President of the club from 1995–2000 and Chairman of the 30th Anniversary committee. Sean has traveled extensively throughout Latin America, for business and pleasure. Sean currently works for the Center for Non-Profit Legal Services in the immigration law project.
Secretary – Lynn Lamoree. Since joining the Amigo Club four years ago, Lynn (along with her husband Tom) has had the great pleasure of hosting visitors from Guanajuato and visiting there several times herself. Membership in the Amigo Club has been the start of lifelong friendships, wonderful experiences, and hopes for better international relations.
Housing Coordinator – Marina Kendig. Marina has been active with the Amistad Program and the Amigo Club since 1991. Marina taught Spanish at SOU for 12 years; during this time she worked closely with SOU and Guanajuato students who participated in the Amistad exchange program. She continues to actively promote the sisterhood program through contributions to the Amigo Club.
Guanajuato Liaison – Sra. Chela Tapp-Kocks. Amigo Club visionary, Señora Chela Tapp-Kocks, is the driving force, aided by the club’s board of directors and general membership, that has kept Ashland-Guanajuato Sister City relations vibrant for 49 years. As Southern Oregon University professor, she led a small group that inspired both cities and their universities to formalize relations in 1969. She travels at least once a year as Amigo Club liaison director to Guanajuato. In 1994 she became the only foreigner to receive Guanajuato’s annual “El Pípila de Plata” award, normally given each year to a Guanajuato citizen for “friendship and service” to the city.
Board Members at Large—assist the BOD for specific events/activities (2018-2019):
Cynthia Trujillo, Gary “Joaquin” Powell, Amy Lepon, Brad Hildreth, Glenda Wood, Jacquie Milikien, Jay Ach, John Morrison, Kernan Turner, Libia Trask, Marian Telerski, Marty Fabian-Krause, Snow Mountain, Suzanne Haveman, Tom Lamoree, Josie Wilson.
The history of the Amigo Club is the history of the Sister city relations between Ashland and Guanajuato, Mexico
The visionary behind the ties between the two cities is known in Guanajuato and Ashland as Señora Chela, a professor emerita of foreign languages and literature at Southern Oregon College (now Southern Oregon University—SOU) who saw similarities between the two cities, including impressive mountain settings, rich cultural legacies and top-notch theater.
For three decades, Sra. Chela guided students from her Spanish classes on chartered bus tours of Mexico during the Christmas holidays. The tours always ended up at Guanajuato.
In 1968, supportive Ashlanders formed a Friendship Committee that became the nucleus for the Amigo Club. Dr. Marvin Kocks and Ken Jones were co-chairmen. (In time, Sra. Chela and Dr. Kocks would marry in Guanajuato.)
The year 1969 was the turning point. The college organized a “Day in Guanajuato” festival on the campus that attracted thousands of people from the Rogue Valley and some 35 Mexicans from Guanajuato, including city and university officials. Ashland and Guanajuato officially declared themselves “Friendship Cities,” which soon evolved into official Sister-City status.
Southern Oregon University and the University of Guanajuato formed a student exchange program known as Amistad (friendship). Since its beginning in 1969, more than 750 students, American and Mexican, have participated in the program. And hundreds of American and Mexican citizens of all ages have traveled back and forth between Ashland and Guanajuato, many on special trips led by the Amigo Club.
Since 1969, the queens of Guanajuato’s major summer festivals have ridden in the Ashland Fourth of July Parade. Each year, Ashland sends high school students as ambassadors to a June festival in Guanajuato.
The Amigo Club has organized major celebrations for each 10-year anniversary, the last one in 2009 when some 80 Mexicans came to Ashland for a week in April and about 70 Ashlanders went to Guanajuato in August. Today, plans are underway for the 50th anniversary celebration in 2019.
The Amigo Club helps sponsor gatherings and host families for visiting Guanajuatenses and entertains and coordinates activities for the Fourth of July visitors.
Mostly through an annual dinner/auction called Guanajuato Nights, the Club has raised more than $120,000 for an endowed scholarship fund for SOU and University of Guanajuato exchange students.
The City of Ashland actively supports the Sister City program and has donated fire trucks, ambulances and medical equipment to Guanajuato, in addition to offering training to the Guanajuato police and firefighters.
The Ashland-Guanajuato connection has become one of the oldest and most active in the Sister City program envisioned by President Dwight Eisenhower after World War II as a people-to-people program intended to further world peace.
City Similarities—Ashland and Guanajuato have a lot in common
- Each has an Amigo Club whose members are local citizens dedicated to strengthening Sister City ties.
- Ashland is the home of Southern Oregon University and Guanajuato has the Universidad de Guanajuato, founded 275 years ago as a Jesuit institution, but now a public university.
- The Ashland Public Library and Southern Oregon University each have a “Guanajuato Room,” and the University of Guanajuato and the city’s Casa de Cultura each have a “Sala Ashland.” Guanajuato has a “Calle Ashland” and a “Paseo Ashland,” and Ashland has a “Calle Guanajuato” beside Ashland Creek behind the historical downtown plaza.
- Funded by Barry and Kathryn Thalden, a mural of Guanajuato was designed and painted on Calle Guanajuato by Mexican artist Laura “Loreta” Rangel Villaseñor in 2017, and a mural of Ashland was designed and painted on a wall in Guanajuato by Ashland artist Denise Baxter in 2018.
- Tourists flock to each city, drawn by their beautiful natural settings, picturesque downtowns, and historical, cultural and recreational attractions. A publication of UNESCO, which added Guanajuato to the World Heritage list in 1988, gives this description: “Nestled in a narrow gorge of the Sierra Madre in the heart of Mexico, Guanajuato is one of those post-Columbian towns hewn out of rock that seem to spring straight from the mountains. … The town lies above a network of subterranean streets. Its majestic old mansions, baroque and neo-classical churches, palaces, convents and hospital have all the charm of a bygone era.”
- Both cities are cultural centers. Guanajuato’s counterpart to the Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is the International Cervantes Festival (Festival Internacional Cervantino), an annual three-week celebration that features artists from around the world. The festival is considered one of Latin America’s most important cultural events, just as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is one of the most prestigious regional theaters in the United States.
- Both cities are home to many artists and galleries. The Ashland Gallery Association says Ashland “has received national recognition by being selected as the number 2 small art town in the nation,” and ranks high in the book titled “The 100 Best Art Towns in America.” Guanajuato was the birthplace in 1886 of Diego Rivera, the muralist credited with single-handedly changing the course of his country’s art. The Diego Rivera House Museum, located in the historic center of the city, is where Rivera was born and lived for the first six years of his life. Guanajuato also has many artist galleries and is known as a center for beautifully-produced artisanal handicrafts.
- Ashland and Guanajuato each have historical significance. Ashland was a crossroads for pioneers arriving from the east over the Applegate Trail and those traveling north and south between the Willamette Valley and California. Beginning in the early 1850s, these emigrants to Oregon settled along streams known today as Ashland and Bear Creeks and replaced the Native American population. Early stagecoach and railroad lines connected Ashland with points north and south. Founded in the early 16th century, Guanajuato became the world’s leading silver-extraction center in the 18th century. It played a major role in the War of Independence led by the rebel priest Miguel Hidalgo in 1810. Former President Vicente Fox Quesada came from Guanajuato.