La Cañada partnership with Spanish sister city takes root as participants share in ‘la buena vida’

Students watch as La Cañada High School senior Veronica Muller performs a song, with Spanish exchange student Joaquin López on guitar, at a special reception Tuesday night hosted by the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn. at the home of Todd and Vanessa Greco.
(Photo by Sara Cardine)

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow — at least that’s been the case for the La Cañada Flintridge Sister Cities Assn. and its effort to find La Cañada a suitable international sister city.

After some searching, in May 2017 the city officially paired with Villañueva de la Cañada, a small inland town 22 miles northwest of Madrid. Since then two groups of exchange students have traveled to Spain, while representatives from both cities have been visiting and making plans for future partnerships.

That’s exactly what LCF Sister Cities Assn. founder and president Vicki Schwartz envisioned when she approached the La Cañada Flintridge City Council in January 2016 with the idea of initiating a search for a sister city.

On Tuesday, Schwartz brought a contingent of exchange students from La Cañada and Spain to a council meeting to thank the panel for supporting the program.

“Each of these students didn’t just make one friend in the city, they made many friends,” she told the council.

Spanish exchange student Lucia Gonzales Nieto shakes hands with La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Terry Walker during introductions at a City Council meeting Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / La Cañada Valley Sun)

The six students presented council members with gifts from Spain and treated the audience to a video slideshow of the La Cañada teens’ trip to Villañueva de la Cañada in July. Mayor Terry Walker, who visited the town in May, said she met its mayor and had a wonderful time.

“Sister Cities isn’t just about student exchange — it’s about a cultural exchange for the entire population,” Walker said. “Vicki brought this to us and has worked very hard. Thank you for bringing this to our community.”

After the meeting, Sister Cities Assn. officials hosted civic leaders in a reception held at the home of Todd and Vanessa Greco.

There, exchange students joined with local teens just back from a Sister Cities International Youth Leadership Summit in Denver.

Students who participated in the LCF Sister Cities Association’s exchange program to Villañueva de la Canada join with their host students and local teens just back from a Sister Cities International Youth Leadership Summit in Denver for a photo Tuesday at a La Cañada home.
(Photo by Sara Cardine)

La Cañada High senior Christian Chung introduced his “Spanish brother,” host student Joaquin López Barreiro. Fellow Spartan senior Veronica Muller welcomed sister Esther Naranjo Checa, while St. Francis senior Tomás Quiroz introduced host sister Lucia Gonzalez Nieto.

The local contingent traveled to Spain on July 12, living with families and visiting the town and its surroundings for two weeks. Now, students from Villanueva de la Cañada will be hosted by La Cañada families through Aug. 12.

Muller said the trip to the European country was a great way to continue her study of the Spanish language while making new friends and learning about Spain and its culture.

“When I got there and I was immediately thrown into speaking Spanish I adjusted to it, then it was good. And the family was very welcoming,” she said. “On the third day or so all six of us went to Madrid and walked around, which was a great bonding experience — it helped us all know each other better.”

Twitter: @SaraCardine