(Published by the Chester County Press on the third of May of 2016. The note was written by Steven Hoffman.)
Officials from Kennett Square Borough and Moroleón, Mexico may have formalized their relationship with the signing of a sister cities agreement on April 29, but in actuality the bond between this town in Pennsylvania and the city in Mexico stretches back decades.
Jorge Ortiz Ortega, the municipal president of Moroleón, explained that in the years after World War II, more than five million people from Mexico journeyed to the United States in search of work that would help provide them with a better life. Some of those people left Moroleón and they found their way to Kennett Square, gaining employment in the mushroom industry.
Through the years and across the miles, Moroleón and Kennett Square have remained connected by all those people who left their families and homes in Mexico to live and work in the Kennett Square area.
Initially, Kennett Square mayor Matthew Fetick explained, the workers from Mexico likely only stayed here a short time because mushrooms were only grown and shipped during certain times of the year. But as the industry’s technology evolved, mushrooms could be grown, packaged, and shipped year-round, and workers were needed throughout the year as a result.
“Workers made Kennett Square their home,” Fetick explained. “That led to a new generation of residents. We are thankful for all the contributions that those workers have made, not only in the mushroom industry, but in the community as well.”
About a dozen Kennett Square officials warmly greeted an equal number of government officials from Moroleón on April 29, hosting a celebration of the relationship at the historic Kennett Square Inn on State Street.
“I would like to welcome you to our table,” borough council president Dan Maffei said to the guests.
Officials from Kennett Square and Moroleón quickly bonded and shared stories about their respective communities with each other.
Kennett Square is known locally as a cool town filled with art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, and it known more widely as the Mushroom Capital of the World.
Moroleón is a city of approximately 46,000 people located in the state of Guanajuato, which is close to the border with the state of Michoacán, in Mexico. Moroleón has been an important part of the textile industry in its country, and had more than 40 fabric factories in operation in the early 1900s. It is also an important clothes shopping destination in Guanajuato, with clothing stores lining the streets for miles.
Kennett Square Borough employee Denise Rodriguez, who is bilingual, explained how the sister city agreement process started. She said that Rosendo Lopez, an engineer with the City of Moroleón reached out to Kennett Square officials last October, asking if they would like to formalize the relationship.
Rodriguez talked to Maffei, Fetick, and borough manager Joseph Scalise about the possibility.
“They thought it was a great idea,” Rodriguez said.
After some considerable planning on both sides, the visit was slated for April. Rodriguez said that Karen Scherer, the assistant to the borough manager for Kennett Square, and Lenda Carrillo of Casa Guanajuato, helped plan some of the activities for the guests while they were in town. The officials from Moroleón took a tour of places of interest like La Comunidad Hispana, as well as a local mushroom farm operation. The visiting guests were only in town for a few days so it was unclear how much time they would get to spend enjoying the area’s top attractions.
Everyone involved certainly enjoyed the merging of the two cultures at the signing event. Officials from Kennett Square and Moroleón took turns reading the chronological history of the sister city.
Fetick said that Kennett Square has always been proud of its cultural diversity, and he told the guests that local residents have long been supporters of freedom and civil rights.
“You can tell from our history that we’ve always been on the forefront of building bridges,” Fetick said.
Scherer said that she found the proceedings to be very emotional.
“We have these connections,” she explained. “Our histories have these similarities.”
The last formal act of the gathering before they enjoyed lunch was the official singing of the Act of Twinning. Once the paperwork was signed, the Moroleón officials presented their friends from Kennett Square with some gifts that are representative of their home city, including a banner, garments that were produced in Moroleón, and some coins that were produced specifically for an anniversary celebration.
Ortega extended an invitation for borough officials to visit the sister city at some point in the future, promising to return the hospitality.
Fetick presented the honored guests with a key to the town.
“You’ll always know that you have friends here,” Fetick said.