United Durangos of the world
Locals head to Tres Durangos summit in Mexico

Durango, Mexico, seen in these photos, is similar
to Durango, Colo., in that it is situated in a valley
at about the same elevation and is surrounded by
mountains. However,the colonial architecture and
larger size of the Mexican counterpart give the
two cities different appearances.

Durangos from all corners of the globe will be sharing the table this week for the Tres Durangos conference. Eleven local residents will represent Durango, Colo., at an international meeting with delegates from Durango, Mexico, and Durango, Spain this Saturday. The meeting takes place in Durango, Mexico.

Mayor John Gamble, who will be part of the local entourage, said it is an important opportunity to participate in the developing “global community.”

“We Americans may be a bit insular – we live in a rich country – but I hope we can practice more and more the shaking of hands and find ways to not be warlike to each other,” Gamble said.

Representatives from the three Durangos began meeting in the 1980s, but the tradition stalled in 1993 during the peso crisis in Mexico, when that Durango was scheduled to host but had to cancel. When delegates from Durango, Mexico, visited here last May, they decided to resurrect the meetings.

The other Durango representatives include Gamble’s wife, Suzanne; City Councilor Joe Colgan and his wife, Mary; Mayor Pro Tem Virginia Castro; City Councilor Aaron Tuscon; Carl Craig, director of general services for the city and his wife, Teri; Dr. Greg Stilwell; Companeros Coordinator Olivia Lopez; and Mary Hart, DACRA’s tourism director. The city is sponsoring six of the 11 attendees and one dinner during the weeklong visit. Gamble and the group will present the mayors of the other Durangos with sand paintings commissioned from the Toh-Atin Gallery that incorporate the logo of the three Durangos.

One of the goals of the trip for Gamble is to lay the groundwork for establishing student exchange programs. Gamble and his family have hosted Bosnian high school students in the past, so the concept is close to his heart.

“I’m looking forward to a great adventure, meeting wonderful people, and if things go as well as I hope, hearing that we’ve established some student exchange at the secondary and college levels,” Gamble said.

Gamble said that though some of the other Colorado representatives speak Spanish, the official translator of the group will be Lopez.

“We needed the confidence of knowing that the words translated were the words spoken,” he said. “While there’s some Spanish-language capability on the council, I, as the mayor, don’t have much.”

Lopez said she is honored to have been chosen for the responsibility, particularly as a Mexican immigrant. Lopez grew up in Cuautlamorelos, near Mexico City, before moving to the United States about 10 years ago. She earned a teaching certificate from Fort Lewis College in 1997.

“Personally, I feel really honored to be part of the committee,” Lopez said. “I’m from another country, but I still can use my (bilingual) skills to benefit my new country, the new country that I’m embracing.”

Lopez, a member of the group that advocated the resumption of the meetings, said she visited Durango, Mexico, last July after being invited by some of its residents who were here last May.

“It’s a beautiful community, very hospitable – which is nothing new to me because I’m Mexican so I knew what to expect,” she said.

Although Durango, Mexico, is similar to Durango, Colo., in altitude and its location in a valley surrounded by mountains, the colonial architecture and larger size of the Mexican counterpart give the two cities totally different appearances, Lopez said.
Lopez said in addition to its importance locally, the meeting is important on a global level.

“With the violence that we live in today, this really shows how three countries can come together and promote things in a very pacific way,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that we are a very small town – we’re still setting an important example. Instead of fighting, we’re trying to reach out.”

Virginia Castro said the trip will be special because she has ties to the Durango across the Atlantic.

“My dad has always said that we are from the Basque region of Spain, so for me personally, I’m excited to meet people from where my ancestors are from,” she said.

Officials from Durango, Spain, prefer the term Durango, Bizkaia, which is in the Basque region.

Castro said she hopes to speak primarily in Spanish, since she was one class shy of earning a Spanish degree from CU Boulder. She also looks forward to interacting with the Colorado visitors.

“I think that it will be interesting because everybody is a little bit different when they’re traveling, so I’m looking forward to seeing a different side of my colleagues.”
She said taking the trip was a decision not entered into lightly.

“We definitely discussed whether or not we should be spending money given the financial situation, but really this (meeting) is going a long way to encourage diplomacy in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it’s an ineffective use of taxpayer money.”

Dr. Stilwell, a local podiatrist, served on the Tres Durangos committee with Lopez and other interested citizens before being invited to attend the conference.

“The three Durangos have always been a love of mine,” Stilwell said. “Growing up in Durango, I always thought it’d be cool to get it going again.”

As a physician, Stilwell will have a slightly different itinerary than the rest of the group; he will lecture 70 doctors, in Spanish, and has been invited to practice surgery while in Mexico. Stilwell said he made similar visits to hospitals in South America in the 1990s.

Like the other Colorado representatives, Stilwell hopes to see educational and economic partnerships form as a result of the meeting of the “sister cities.” For example, Durango, Mexico, is home to a mountain bike factory.

Attendee Craig, who in addition to working for the city is also a Tres Durangos committee member, said that developing lifelong social relationships is important. He said learning about one another’s cultures and homes is vital.

Craig said. “There’s a lot of uniqueness, similarities and just interesting facts about these cities that deserve as much attention as we can afford to give.”







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