Story of Our Relationship

In 1950, President Dwight Eisenhower launched the initiative to twin the cities in the United States internationally to achieve bonds further than those of conventional treaties and diplomatic channels. Arequipa was one of the first cities to join in, beginning a Sister Cities relationship with Charlotte in 1962. Through its mayor, Eduardo Ponce Mendoza, Arequipa was assigned to Charlotte for a Sister City agreement.


According to Alvaro Talavera, during the mayoralty of José Luis Velarde Soto, the connection with Charlotte was strengthened by Eduardo Bedoya and his wife Gachy in 1982. Soon after, a group of people linked to the municipality of Arequipa were interested in inviting representatives of Charlotte to come to Arequipa, offering them accommodations in different private houses. Thus, the president of the Sister Cities committee in the United States, a man named Martin, arrived with a group of 25 people at the beginning of the cultural exchange program between the two cities.


One of the first cooperation activities was started by Dr. Carlos Galdo, who was doctor of the General Hospital of the Ministry of Health in Arequipa. Doctors from Charlotte came to help with the treatment of tuberculosis for people with limited resources in the hospital.


People from various social and economic backgrounds hosted the first three Charlottean groups that, between 1982 and 1986, succeeded each other in Arequipa. In addition to the tourist visits that Arequipa offered, these groups were taken to visit depressed areas known as young towns, where you could appreciate the conditions that were prevalent in their schools and health centers. Jerald Melberg, an American citizen who came with the first group, was very interested in this reality and promised to raise funds to improve a school in the northern part of the city called the City of God. The committees, since their foundation, have stated that their purpose is neither to obtain donations nor funds for the development of the brotherhood. Jerald Melberg committed to obtaining financial support outside the social and cultural programs that would develop in parallel.


Helmer Gallo, a civil engineer by profession and a member of the Rotary Club in Arequipa, filed a close friendship with Jerald Melberg. As a Rotarian, he was in charge of bringing one of the groups to the north cone. After seeing that the school children studied on ashlars with calamine roofs and dirt floors on the slopes of the hills, he persuaded Melberg in such a way that Melberg went on to ask Helmer to estimate how much it would take to build good classrooms to house these children and their teachers. Helmer indicated that the labor would be done by parents of the area, and the plans and supervision of the construction would be done by him. With the use of materials such as bricks, cement, and iron, it would take $30,000 dollars to build 4 classrooms. Melberg was surprised, saying that with that amount in Charlotte, a home garage could be built. He offered to return to Charlotte and start a campaign to collect that money and send it to start construction. Through his Art Gallery, Melberg held various events to raise this money. Jerald Melberg also created countless delegations of Charlottean citizens citizens that were interested in helping this magnificent cause.


Thanks to the funds that Melberg generated and the hard work that Helmer Gallo carried out, the two managed to build a school that today is an infrastructure model with a value well above the planned $30,000. At the same time, from the 1980s to present day, numerous delegations and people from Arequipa traveled to Charlotte for various academic, social, and cultural programs that have strengthened the spirit of interrelation between both cities and thus have achieved President Eisenhower's dream. According to Evelyn Roberts, Jerald Medlberg’s fund raising programs have generated almost $90,000 in total for Arequipa.

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Declaration of the Charlotte - Arequipa Partnership

Jerald Melberg's Art Gallery in Charlotte

40th Anniversary Celebration

In 2002, Charlotte Sister Cities celebrated its 40-year anniversary and Sister Cities partnership with Arequipa, Peru.  In June, Charlotte Sister Cities hosted a celebration and ceremony in uptown Charlotte in front of the main library.  Former Executive Director Peggy Wesp welcomed the group that attended, and former Charlotte Sister Cities Board of Director Chair Bruce Darden introduced former Mayor Pat McCrory who spoke about the importance of the longstanding partnership between the two cities.  Mayor Pat shared that he looked forward to celebrating that partnership in person with Charlotte’s friends in Arequipa later that August.  Karen Hite-Jacob, founder of Carolina Pro Musica directed a choir of Charlotte Sister Cities youth volunteers who sang songs celebrating Arequipa.  A signature anniversary cake was made and displayed during the ceremony showcasing (40) candles and (40) member donations to commemorate the occasion, each star listing the name of its Charlotte Sister Cities supporter.  A booth was set up with information about Charlotte Sister Cities, along with photos displayed from previous events and delegations to expose more people in the community to the Charlotte Sister Cities organization and their partnerships around the world.


In August of 2002, a Charlotte Sister Cities delegation, which included former Mayor Pat McCrory, traveled to Arequipa, Lima, and Machu Picchu to celebrate its official 40th anniversary and partnership together.  They attended several 40th anniversary celebrations, including a welcome dinner and luncheon with the Mayor of Arequipa.  The delegation also visited the Charlotte School in Arequipa and participated in an anniversary celebration onsite with an impressive performance by all their students.  Later, the group stopped by an orphanage in Arequipa where the children welcomed everyone with traditional song and dance.  The delegation also visited Charlotte Park, a local park located in Arequipa, where they enjoyed a special dedication ceremony with local city officials from Arequipa. This was Mayor Pat McCrory’s first trip to one of Charlotte’s Sister Cities while he was in office in Charlotte from 1995-2009.

Salvation Army's Festival of Tables Event

In August of 2002, Charlotte Sister Cities was invited to participate in the Salvation Army’s Annual Festival of Tables fundraiser.  Each year Charlotte Sister Cities decorated a table in a different Sister Cities theme. This year the theme chosen highlighted Arequipa in honor of Charlotte’s 40th anniversary celebration with Arequipa.  Angelo Ponce (former Arequipa Sister Cities Committee Chair) displayed authentic Peruvian musical instruments on top of traditional Peruvian tablecloths.  Angelo and Paquita (former Charlotte Sister Cities international intern from Arequipa) hosted the table and answered any questions attendees had about Arequipa, Peru, its people, customs, and culture. They introduced many new members to Charlotte Sister Cities through their love of Arequipa and Peru.

Provided by Tracey Trimble, Charlotte Sister Cities


Learn More About Our Partnership

Rotary and Charlotte Country Day Arequipa Solar Panel Project

Charlotte Country Day Perspectives - Arequipa Solar Panel Project (Pages 24-27)


Arequipa - Charlotte Blog by Pedro Salazar

Interview with Pedro Salazar - From Arequipa to Charlotte


40th Anniversary Event in Charlotte


Delegation Trip to Peru

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Arequipa Salvation Army Table