Mosta and Millbrae: A Human Connection

Mosta grove, Millbrae. Credit:

Before 1996, the Maltese people were fairly unfamiliar with the idea of sister cities. It took a highly successful first connection between the city of Millbrae, California and Mosta on the Island of Malta to get the ball rolling.

Millbrae already had a sister city but on 28 April 1996 an agreement was signed between delegations from both cities in the Town Hall of Mosta. This signing was the beginning of a flourishing and positive relationship between the two cities and set the standard across the Maltese Islands for what a city twinning would be like.

There can be no doubt that this pairing has been a success; the question is rather what do the two municipalities have in common that drives the keen mutual interest shown by citizens and counsellors on both sides of the pond?
Geographically speaking, 8,109 miles separates the two. Millbrae being a part of the San Francisco area is perhaps more familiar on the map than is Mosta, though the most populous town on the Maltese Islands, an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea located approximately 60 miles south of Sicily. The distance between the two communities is bridged by the close human bonds of their inhabitants.

Millbrae is host to the largest population of emigrant Mostins, as the natives of Mosta are known in Maltese. At the request of this expatriate community, together with the efforts of the Millbrae City Council and under the auspices of the Sister Cities Initiative, various social and cultural exchanges have occurred over the years.

These exchanges began with visits by official representations of both city Councils to their sister cities but soon grew to include pen-pal programs wherein children in both cities are encouraged to discover the similarities and differences between their homes, as well as initiatives linking teachers, students, scouts, and even members of their respective philharmonic societies. As a testament to these links, every year student exchanges, or performances by cultural troupes or bands take place in their counterpart cities.

The respect between the two cities manifested itself over the years in a number of measures. Some of these signs of comradery include an original stone from the Mosta Rotunda belfry, which was a gift from the people of Mosta to those of Millbrae; the stone now lies in front of the Millbrae Town Hall, and a main street in central Mosta is named Millbrae Avenue. Furthermore, both localities now have respectively named groves with the city names of their counterparts. Trees are planted each time an official visit is made by Counsellors to their respective sister cities. It is here that the fruits of the relationship are enjoyed by members of the community seeking shade from their equally sunny climates.

The example of Mosta’s sister city success set off a process of twinning across the Islands. At present, cities in 25 countries across the globe are now twinned with Maltese towns. We must appreciate how there is nothing quite like a good idea whose time has come — but moreover we as Maltese will remember where it all began!

This story is part of the #SisterCitySunday series on Medium. Each Sunday from October 2, 2016 to May 7, 2017, new stories from the 28 European Union Member States will be published. Stories will also be shared on social media using #SisterCitySunday.

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