Mr. Victor Ramirez, Chair, since 1996.

I first met Mr. Victor Ramirez when he addressed the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission in late 1996. The President of the Dominican Republic, who had grown up in Salcedo located in the central highlands, had visited Atlanta the weekend before. The Atlanta Mayor’s Office and Atlanta City Council honored the visit by creating a new sister city committee. The Atlanta Sister Cities Commission members, essentially un-consulted, chafed a bit when they read the report in the Monday morning paper.

Victor is a courteous man and faced the issue that no new cities test had been applied. Dr. Austin Esogbue, Chair of the Lagos Committee and New Cities Committee, had been working tirelessly in constructing a test for admitting new cities. I know personally because Dr. Esogbue applied that tough test to the establishment of the Atlanta – Ra’anana Committee which produced a high standard.

As a social studies teacher that emphasized Geography skills and map knowledge, I had no clue to where Salcedo was even located in the Dominican Republic, nor it’s population size, or the nature of the economy - I asked Victor for that basic information. Victor graciously answered; “Salcedo is mainly an agricultural community of about 100,000 people living in the central highlands.”

I mulled that out loud – “an agricultural city of 100,000…..hhmmmmm… am looking for the synchronicity…okay.” Victor smiled and said; “I understand where you are coming from Arnold and it is fair. But I promise you that I will show the Commission and City of Atlanta that twinning with Salcedo will be beneficial for both of us.”

And Victor did and Salcedo has been an extremely beneficial partnership. Victor built a broad-based membership, developed annual DR Independency Day celebrations, became an integral part of the growing Hispanic community, and led many missions down to the DR and Salcedo. From the start, Victor has been an effective and charismatic leader, displayed superior vision and organizational skills, been a warm and friendly man whom we all admire and like.

A page from the 2012 Salcedo annual report is a mirror image of the committee’s success and Victor’s role in achieving it.

I take pride and pleasure in being a member of the first mission that Victor led to Salcedo and the Dominican Republic.

Victor, who was born in another city not far from Salcedo, has worked closely with all political administrations for 17 years.

We were graciously received by a warm, humble and kind people who did everything in their power to show their guests a good and comfortable time in their city.

Victor has annually honored the memory of the Mirabal sisters who were instrumental in combating the Trujillo dictatorship.

Victor and the Salcedo Committee developed and constructed Atlanta Park which is located on the main road at the entrance in to the city proper. I was there at the park’s commencement and am amazed by its beauty and positive influence on the surrounding area.

Victor meeting with a Salcedo Councilman during the mission.

u>Conuca High School Principal and school’s social studies teacher.

u>Conuca High School

Victor put together a terrific itinerary that also included a tour of and good time in Santo Domingo. Given that this trip was my first to the DR, I appreciated the opportunity to see so much of the country and meet many leaders.

I was very much caught up in the sprit of the Salcedo mission and attended occasional meetings until I became Chair of the Ra’anana Committee and no longer had time.

North Atlanta students visited the Salcedo Fire Department.

The North Atlanta IBP exchange to Salcedo was very ambitious, perhaps too much so. We had hoped to establish joint business education programs and set up continuing Spanish language immersion exchanges for IB Diploma and IBP exam preparation. A very limited wholesale distribution network appeared during the first buying mission and blunted development of a artisanal supplier pipeline. I was imbued with a strong sense of mission to help this economically distressed city and people and wanted to install a global business education program.

Gonzaga Collegio students entertain the North Atlanta students.

Student exchanges are rarely easy, most are worth the effort. The easier an exchange goes, the more likely to repeat it. Salcedo had many assets in favor of a rich, long partnership – the hope was that the poverty level would not grind the spirit out of the participants. This exchange visit was crucial to forming joint structures needed to keep North Atlanta students returning to sweet Salcedo.

Brian and Gor’Don hang out with their new buddies.

Over the years, Salcedo has participated in four student exchanges with North Atlanta; three super – exchanges and the 1999 North Atlanta visit. Salcedo has sent delegations to all ASCC Economic Development Conferences and the recent Super – Exchange VI. The city has been an anchor for scheduling economic development conferences and student exchanges. I have always been amazed at how the city manages to scrape together the resources needed for such loyal and strong support for ASCC collective joint projects.

Unfortunately, the poverty underside did “grind the spirit of return” out of chaperon Donna Jimenez who was needed to set up the language immersion programs. The other two female students also experienced a little too much hardship to overlook it.

North Atlanta students soften their assessment.

Salcedo delegation relaxing during Super-Exchange II classroom break. So few people in Montego Bay spoke Spanish that several of my students, particularly Amy Patel, had to serve as translators.

Salcedo students relax on Montego Bay High lawn with Estonian students.

The 2011 Salcedo Annual Report illustrates Salcedo’s involvement in Super-Exchange VI.

For more information about Salcedo involvement in student exchanges, see Super – Exchange V, Part 1 and 2.