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Our Story

Connecting Cultures Since 1982

The San Diego/Alcalá Sister Cities Society has been at the heart of cultural connections between San Diego and Alcalá de Henares, Spain, since founded in 1982. For over 40 years, we've seen decades of fruitful collaboration among both cities, especially between the University of Alcalá and San Diego State University. Our mission is to promote cultural understanding, educational exchanges, and mutual respect, building bridges between communities and nations.

Penelope B. visiting Mayor of Alcala.
Picture of Don Quijote Painting from Diego Silva. symbolizing union with Alcala de Henares, Spain.
Picture of a window of the University of Alcala. Alcala de Henares, Spain
Picture of San Diego state university.

The Essence of Sister Cities

What exactly is a sister city? Initiated in 1956 during President Eisenhower’s tenure, a sister city relationship is a long-term partnership between two cities in different countries. As a proud member of SanDISCA (San Diego International Sister Cities Association), we contribute to fostering cultural and commercial ties. These partnerships promote global peace and understanding through personal and organizational connections. They serve as gateways to understanding diverse cultures and creating a more connected world.

Graphic of a world surrounded by many people to show a connected world through sister cities relations like San Diego and Alcala de Henares.
Collage with several images of our sister city Alcala de Henares.

Our Unique Bond with Alcalá de Henares

Alcalá de Henares, one of San Diego’s sixteen sister cities, represents a vital link in our network of global partnerships. This historic city is renowned as the birthplace of the celebrated writer Miguel de Cervantes, adding a profound literary and historical dimension to our partnership. Our relationship with Alcalá de Henares is more than just a formal connection; it is a celebration of our shared cultural heritage. This deep-rooted bond enriches both communities, allowing us to cherish and share our collective cultural treasures.

Meet Our Board Members

Our dedicated board members are the backbone of the San Diego/Alcalá Sister Cities Society. Their leadership, vision, and commitment drive our mission of fostering cultural understanding, educational exchanges, and mutual respect between San Diego and Alcalá de Henares.

Headshot of Penelope Bledsoe.

Penelope Bledsoe


Headshot of Darci Strother.

Darci L. Strother

Vice President for Program Development

Headshot of Cheryl Gillette

Cheryl Gillette 


Headshot of Milagros Hinojosa.

Milagros Hinojosa


Headshot of Oscar Romo.

Oscar Romo


We are proud of our diverse and dynamic board members who bring unique perspectives and expertise to our organization. Their collective efforts help us build bridges between San Diego and Alcalá de Henares, enriching our communities and fostering global peace and understanding.

Milestones - Proud Moments and Big Wins

Our Origin
Initial founders of San Diego Alcala Sister Cities Society at San Diego State University with other Spanish Professors.

Sparked by Professors Case and Christensen of San Diego State University and their connections at the University of Alcalá, the idea took shape. Alongside academicians and businessmen, including Reynolds Heriot, they envisioned a partnership between their institutions and cities. This collaboration gave birth to the San Diego/Alcalá Sister Cities Society.

Educational Outreach

Since 2013, we've been actively bringing the Spanish culture to life in local classrooms. Our educational outreach programs provide students with a dynamic and engaging look into Spain’s rich heritage, fostering international understanding from an early age.

The Cervantes Festival
Signs of Paella and Cervantes Festival to inform people about the event celebrating Alcala de Henares, Spain.

Our flagship event, the Cervantes Festival, has been a cultural highlight since 2014. It's a vibrant celebration of Miguel de Cervantes' legacy, bringing together literature, art, and community in a festive atmosphere. Each year, we dive into the world of "Don Quijote" and celebrate the rich tapestry of Spanish culture.

Cultural Celebrations and Partnerships
Celebration of Spanish landing at Cabrillo Monument.

We partner with the House of Spain to furnish cultural exhibits and artistic activities for events like the Cabrillo Festival and Battle of San Diego Bay. These collaborations, which began shortly after our founding, have been instrumental in bringing the vibrancy and diversity of Spanish arts to the local community, enriching San Diego's cultural landscape.

Student Exchange Programs
Students from the San Diego, CA and Alcala de Henares, Spain exchange program.

Our student exchange programs, launched in 2019, have been pivotal in shaping global citizens. We create opportunities for students from San Diego and Alcalá to experience each other's worlds, fostering long-lasting friendships and deepening cultural understanding.

Community Engagement
Artwork related to El Quijote. Symbolizing friendship with Alcala de Henares, Spain. Artwork from San Diego students.

In recent years, the San Diego/Alcalá Sister Cities Society has continuously expanded its impact. In 2022, we celebrated a significant achievement by displaying student artwork for the Cervantes Festival poster at the Mission Valley Branch Library. This exhibit highlighted the creative talents of young artists, deeply inspired by Spanish culture. Moving into 2023, we have further deepened our community engagement through a series of cultural workshops and interactive events. These initiatives emphasize our commitment to continuous cultural exchange, further strengthening the bond between San Diego and Alcalá de Henares.

Our Mission in Action

Our work goes beyond events and exchanges. We strive to create meaningful, lasting impacts in our communities, fostering a deeper appreciation for our shared history and a brighter future of mutual respect and understanding. Join us in this enriching journey of cultural discovery.

Join our mission today!

Group of images from different members and volunteers of Sister Cities San Diego Alcala de Henares.