San Diego

Why Is Panama City San Diego's Newest Sister City?

A sister city is a social agreement between two regions to promote culture and commerce.

All over the world, there are areas that San Diego has a common connection with: They are called sister cities. 

San Diego signed its first Sister City Agreement in 1957 with Yokohama, Japan and now has 16 on different continents. 

A sister city is a social agreement between two regions to promote culture and commerce. The newest one since 2015 is Panama City, Panama. 

Located near Panama City is the famous Panama Canal, a true testament to the wonders of human engineering. 

The canal was made possible by U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt in the early 1900's after he helped the country declare independence from Colombia. 

"When you take a ship out of the Panama Canal through the Pacific Ocean, geographically the first port you arrive at is San Diego," said Timothy Stiven, a teacher at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley, who takes a group of students to the country every year.

The San Diego-Panama Sister City Society was created in 2015 after a two year process in coordination with the Balboa Park 100th Anniversary. That's when Panama City was added as a sister city of San Diego, with the approval of Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the Mayor of the Panama City Council. 

"It was to celebrate the centennial of the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914," said Stiven.  

Working with the House of Pacific Relations, a House of Panama will be built in Balboa Park. It will be added to the current 33 cottages in the park. 

The first museum outside the country dedicated to Panama will inside the House of Panama. Construction starts at the beginning of June and is expected to take 18 months. 

The Vice President's Office of Panama has donated $90,000 to the project. Over $450,000 will have to come from fundraising efforts to complete it. 

"When you think of Balboa Park, you have to think of Panama," said Stiven. "The two are interconnected." 

As a sister city, organizations in San Diego have gone down to Panama City to volunteer and help local schools there. 

There are about 13,000 people from Panama currently living in San Diego County. 

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