Mexican delegation leaves impressed

DOWNEY - In an unmitigated show of support for the work of the Downey Sister Cities Association (DSCA), the city of Downey Monday welcomed an official delegation from Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Mexico, which is expected as early as next week to become Downey's fifth sister city, joining Guadalajara, Jalisco, Alajeula, Costa Rica and Ensenada.Accompanying the delegation were a few administrators and members of organizations based here in the Los Angeles area but which have maintained close ties with their native city and state. The delegation and a much larger number representing the Zacatecas Southern California Diaspora totaling about 150 (from such places as La Puente, Culver City, Oxnard, and Santa Clarita), were the day before guests at a picnic at Furman Park hosted by chief organizers Councilman Luis Marquez (who, it turns out, is a Fresnillo native) and Downey Fire's Armando Juarez, who also boasts familial ties with Zacatecas. The Fresnillo delegation was here officially to personally thank the Downey Fire Department which, as a goodwill gesture and on its own initiative, conducted a well-received five-day firemen and civil protection training program in Fresnillo in May. But it was clear there was another reason for the visit. Downey and Fresnillo have been engaged in negotiations for some time now for the latter to join DSCA. The Downey visit would be a first-hand look at the city. Fresnillo, alike in Downey in population (about 115,000), is the largest city in Zacatecas state in north central Mexico and sits atop one of the world's richest silver mines, known as the Mina Proano or Fresnillo Mine. Fresnillo's mayor himself, president (yes, they call their mayor president) David Monreal Avila, was slated to be at the head of the delegation but he was turned back at the last minute at the border because of a family member's missing document. Substituting for him was Robert Jason Barker Mestas, Fresnillo's director of economic development. The other delegates: Gustavo Sanchez Bonilla, regidor (councilman) de Fresnillo; Omar Luevano Torres, director of security for Fresnillo; and Antonio Monreal Moreno, coordinator for the municipality of Fresnillo. Accompanying them on this trip were heads of various Fresnillo economic and community groups, including Marie G. Adebache, Club Real de Minas de Fresnillo; Miguel Gonzalez Valdez, president, Union Ganadera Zacatecas; and Moises Miranda, Club Familia Unidas Santa Rosa. The local Los Angeles-based Zacatecans that accompanied the delegation included: Alfredo Mireles, president, Burbank-based Club La Noria; and Angel Luna, Ricardo Bernal, and Victor M. Torres (of North Hollywood), all representing Club El Dominguejo. The visitors Monday were initially given a ground tour of City Hall and the police department, then lunch at the Rio Hondo Event Center, followed by a bus tour with lengthy instructive stops at Downey Studios and Downey Fire Station No. 1 (where Mestas scaled the 100-ft. fire truck ladder which was extended for the visitors' benefit), concluding with a drive through selected Downey streets and avenues as the crowded schedule allowed, including the north Downey area and downtown Downey Avenue. The group was officially welcomed in the early morning by Mayor Mario Guerra who rejoined the group for the mid-day lunch at Rio Hondo, during which time he gave a briefing on Downey, in Spanish. Guide duties on the bus tour, sans Guerra, then fell on Marquez who has extensive dealings with the Fresnillo/Zacatecas Diaspora in Southern California. No doubt the Fire Department's Fresnillo training program in May had a role in the sister affiliation process. Instructors included Raul Ochoa, Carlos Mata, Sergio Zavala, Ryan Schleiger, Jose Garcia, Steve Lund, Juan Antonio Tovar, Armando Juarez, Moises Miranda, Scott Wilcox, and Capt. Jay Ibey. The training benefited some 150 firemen and civil protection staffs representing Fresnillo, Zacatecas counties Ojo Caliente, Trancoso, Guadalupe, Tepetongo, Jerez, Rio Grande, and Valparaiso, as well as those from the neighboring states of Jalisco and Aguascalientes. According to Juarez, the program was structured around the main themes of safety, rescue, and supply considerations and covered the following topics: ICS (incident command system) and defensive driving (fire truck operation and maintenance), CPR and first aid, auto extraction and victim removal, and fire behavior. At the same time, said Juarez, the instructional staff tried to tailor their presentations to the unique needs of the area, namely, frequent incidences of street accidents and fire truck operation (the city has acquired a fire truck from Seattle; it sits at Downey Fire Station No.1 awaiting shipment to Fresnillo). With the delegation gone, the last stage in the DCSA affiliation process is an official letter from the mayor of Fresnillo formally requesting membership. DCSA officials that co-hosted Monday's tour included Leonard Zuniga, newly elected DCSA president; Maria Guerrero; and Paula Mejia, treasurer, who has been designated liaison officer for Zacatecas. For information about individual membership in the Downey Sister Cities Association, call Paula Mejia at (562) 884-9657.

********** Published: July 17, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 13