Hermosa Beach and Loreto Baja California – How it all got started By Jack Belasco, Founder of HBSCA
President Eisenhower’s Sister Cities program for peace stressed a “people-to-people” exchange through cities. By the mid 1960’s most of the cities near Hermosa Beach had programs in place; Hermosa had none. There was no great demand from Hermosans for such a program as most of our citizens worked elsewhere and, upon coming home, were content with the fresh sea breeze. At the same time, Americans were experiencing rapidly increasing air transportation; the “jet set” was becoming middle class. More Hermosans were vacationing in foreign lands. If someone had suggested a Sister City Program there might be little interest but also little opposition. Something new was happening in the United States and all of the Cities near Hermosa seemed involved; it took no great political vision to think that Hermosa could participate. However, the start of the program came unexpectedly.
In April, 1966, City Manager Walter Harris and I, Jack Belasco, acting as Mayor, met with Robert Curry, publisher of the South Bay Daily Breeze, in his offices to discuss two items: 1. The slanted reporting in the Breeze regarding the actions of the Cup of Cold Water Ministry in operating the Biltmore Hotel, and 2. A request to help Hermosa Beach in starting a Sister City Program.
On the face of it this seemed an odd agenda. We knew that the Copley Press, owners of the Daily Breeze, were strong advocates of Sister Cities. They had lent their corporate plane to assist Redondo Beach and others in setting up programs. While we were not using the Sister City as a ploy, Walter and I agreed that we needed something positive to offset the negative effects that could result from confronting a strong-willed publisher with evidence that a trusted reporter was reporting in a manner that threatened the interests of Hermosa Beach. We also had hopes that the Copley Press would offer Hermosa the same resources as were offered nearby communities. Lastly, we were searching for ways to improve Hermosa’s “image”. We felt the town often suffered from bad press which adversely affected property values, the business community, and the civility of the community. Positive activities like the Sister City Program emphasized the outgoing qualities that characterized our citizens. The Sister City Program was proposed at this meeting with Robert Curry of the Daily Breeze for the first time. Robert Curry was instantly receptive. He pledged us full coverage in his paper and he kept his word. He furnished us with essential background information including contacts with Baja Governor Diaz. I promised to bring the matter to the City Council and to seek approval to explore such a Program. Incidentally, the reporter involved in slanting the news was called into the meeting. When confronted with the facts, he admitted his bias and was reassigned to another area. After that, the Breeze reported accurately the disgraceful events that eventually led to the acquisition and razing of one of the more prominent eyesores that helped to blight the south bay beaches — The Biltmore Hotel. The agonizing events that the Council endured to clean up the mess is another story. In that story, the real hero was David Dessau, publisher of the now defunct Hermosa Review.
THE STEERING COMMITTEE
The original Sister City Committee consisted of the following Hermosans: Mr. Bob Austin, 447 Longfellow Ave. Mr. George Ames 2314 Manhattan Ave. Miss Corky Beard 1531 Monterey Blvd. Mr. Jack Belasco 1927 Valley Drive. Mr. John deGroot 2412 Park Ave. Mrs. John C. Dunn 2125 Circle Dr. Dr. Dale Glick 517-17th St. Mr. Walter Harris 588 20th St. Mrs. Mo Linder 32-21st St. Mr. Frank Sasine 2727 El Oeste Dr. Mr. Quentin Thelen 1224 Strand. Dr. Al Valdes 657 Porter Lane. Mr. Juan Valencia 139 Longfellow Ave.
Word about the new committee reached a number of other citizens and some offered to serve; others who were appointed never came to the meetings.
The records of other early participants are incomplete. I list below other people who joined in the discussions. Mrs. Mary Beckett 707 Eighth Street. Mrs. Lucille Chitwood Hermosa Library. Miss Bonnie Denn 738 33rd. Street. Miss Arlene Haymes 1436 Campana Street. Mrs. Phyllis Johannes 1820 Manhattan Ave.
In addition, several mates of members participated in the meetings. I recall that my wife, Evelyn, attended as did Betty Wise, Naoma Valdes and others. It was a congenial group of busy people who met with a clear cut assignment in mind. Several persons who served on the original committee have died. Others have left the community. Jack Wise was one of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic members. He had surfed and fished in Mexico for many years and was “muy simpatico”. The Committee met from time to time in several member’s homes. The evening meetings at the Wise and Dunn homes were focused on familiarizing the members with the structures of the Sister City movement at the state and national levels. Also, it became apparent that most of the cities we knew about had already been “taken”. Some that were available had little in common with Hermosa Beach. The Committee felt strongly that we should seek a relationship with a city that had some similarities with our community. After about ten months the Committee was able to make a recommendation to the City Council. In order to do so they had studied many communities in Mexico.
THE SISTER CITY “SHORT LIST”
Considered were- ? VERACRUZ - a large eastern port of entry. Featured many recreational activities familiar to Hermosans, but it was a big cosmopolitan City. ? MANZANILLO - a busy Pacific Port about the same population as Hermosa. Many attractions for Hermosans, but hard to get to. ? ALAMOS - in Sonora. Small. Government protects the Colonial atmosphere. Not by the tie but a favorite haunt of artists. Historically important. ? TUXPAN - in Nayarit. Located on a river not far from Mazatlan. A farming village. ? ROSARITO - just below Tijuana. Small beach community and one of the towns picked for final consideration. ? SAN BLAS - 90 miles from Mazatlan. 4500 people. Tropical. Good swimming. Jungle nearby. ? LORETO - 100 miles above La Paz. Dirt airstrip. Site of the first Mission. Increasingly famous for sport fishing–as was Mulege 20 miles to the north. English pirates left a fair number of Loretans with “Davis” and “Green” and other unusual last names. They had a Lions Club.
Jack Wise offered the most persuasive argument for Loreto and the Committee agreed with him. Loreto was difficult to get to but help seemed on its way. Mexico was determined to build a road the length of Baja California. Work was nearly completed on the road from La Paz north to Loreto. Communications were still limited to a patching of a marine type telephone, Western Union telegraph, or very uncertain mail. Jack Wise pointed out that Ed Tabor regularly flew a DC-3 to his Flying Sportsmans Lodge in Loreto. The Committee also liked the historical importance of a community that was the first Mission built in the Californias (Alta and Baja) and it was also the first seat of government for the territory. Also, as I recall, Jack had recently visited the area and loved the fishing! He had recently visited Loreto as a side trip from his main trip to La Paz as a guest of Redondo Beach and his informal “feelers” received a positive response from Loreto community leaders. In a letter dated March 17, 1967, Jack Wise reported the recommendations of the Sister City Steering Committee to the City Council.
Letter RE: SISTER CITY COMMITTEE REPORT Honorable Mayor and City Council, Last July, the City Council approved in spirit the involvement of Hermosa Beach in the People-to-People program, more specifically the Sister City Program. The City Council also set up the machinery for interested citizens to organize as a committee to investigate our city’s POSSIBLE PARTICIPATION. The committee has had several meetings in which we discussed what our citizen’s capacities and goals should be if it was decided to go into the program. The committee felt if we were to gain from this type of program that the (1) support should cover as broad a community base as possible involving service clubs, schools, churches, the Chamber of Commerce and interested citizens, and (2) that the emphasis should be on a mutual exchange of culture and ideas, as well as friendship. As far as determining a specific town or city to exchange with, the committee decided that proximity to Hermosa Beach as well as a city that was similar in size and a beach city be preferred. Following recommendations from the Redondo Beach Sister City committee and Bob Curry of the Daily Breeze, the committee decided to investigate the city of Loreto, a city of approximately 6000 people, located on the east coast of Baja California, approximately 100 miles north of La Paz. Loreto was the first capital of Lower California as well as being the site of the first mission. The chairman of the Hermosa Beach Committee personally contacted the officials of Loreto on a trip this January with the Redondo Beach Sister City representatives to La Paz. He reported that the citizens and officials were quite enthusiastic about the idea of a Sister City program with Hermosa Beach as well as describing the town as very pretty and situated on a beautiful stretch of coast. The Sister City committee respectfully requests the Hermosa Beach City Council initiate contact with the government officials of Loreto to establish a Sister City program. Sincerely, Jack Wise, Chairman, Sister City Committee
The following is an excerpt from the City Council minutes, March 21, 1967: “SISTER CITY’ PROGRAM – Letter dated March 17, 1967, from Jack Wise, Chairman, Sister City Committee. DISCUSSION – Mr. Jack Wise, 2210 Strand, presented his report to the Council and described the proposed Sister City of Loreto, located on the east coast of Baja California, adding that it was the first capital of Lower California as well as being the site of the first Mission in the Californias. He also told the Council that Mr. Bob Curry of the South Bay Daily Breeze had offered all the support and resources of the Copley Press. ACTION – to initiate contact with the government officials of Loreto to establish a Sister City Program, and to thank the Committee for all the work they have done. Motion by Councilman Thelen.”
Thursday, March 30, 1967 “Second Front Page” of The Daily Breeze gave a left hand lead story by staff writer Bernard Cole: HERMOSA SEEKING SISTER Hermosa Beach City officials are drafting letters to officials in Washington, D.C., and Mexico as the first step in starting a sister city program with Loreto in Baja California. City Clerk Mary Edgerton said letters are being sent to the National League of Cities, the governor of the territory of Baja California and to the Mayor of Loreto. “If we get approval from the League and from the Governor of Baja California and an expression of interest from officials in Loreto, we will then go ahead with the program,” Mrs. Edgerton said. “A resolution will then be drawn up for approval by the City Council extending an invitation to Loreto to become our sister city.” Jack Wise of 2210 Strand, chairman of the sister city committee, said the program would involve no cost to taxpayers. “The entire cost will be borne by individuals and organizations directly involved in the program,” he said. “This is a person-to-person program to develop contacts between the citizens of the two countries.”
THE PAPER TRAIL
A flurry of communications followed the action of the Council. During this period, City Manager Harris had accepted another position and Wesley C. McDaniel had replaced him. City Clerk Mary A. Edgerton maintained the continuity of the program by initiating written contact with Baja CA Sur Governor Diaz with the assistance of Mr. Juan Valencia, a local teacher. She also registered our intent with the Director of Town Affiliations, National League of Cities. The City of Monterey Park communicated that they had been interested in Loreto, but had decided to spend their efforts with soldiers in Viet Nam. Loreto was “open ” to be claimed as a Sister City. Later we discovered that several cities had more than one “sister” and that our search for a city that had not been “taken” was not as critical as we had assumed. Jack Wise had contacted the Mayor of Loreto, Raul Aurelio Robinson Ojeda. Ed Tabor, owner of the Flying Sportsmen’s Lodge and a member of the Loreto Lion’s Club, was contacted by City Clerk Mary Edgerton on June 20, 1967, in a letter:
“Dear Mr. Tabor: May we ask a great favor of you? We’re a City in search of a Sister, and so that you’ll understand our eagerness to hear from the Mayor of the City of Loreto we’re enclosing a copy of a letter written to him and the Governor of Baja California last April after our City Council voted to take the initial steps to bring about a Sister City Program for Loreto and the City of Hermosa Beach. This action was taken by our Council after a report received from Jack Wise, Chairman of our Sister City Steering Committee, following his visit to Loreto in March of this year. He turned in a very interesting report and recommendation that got enthusiastic response not only from our elected officials but also from all of us who felt that an across-the-border friendship between the citizens of both cities would be a wonderful and worthwhile endeavor — and among the names of those he met while he was there, yours was often mentioned. Among others Mr. Wise contacted were Leopold Pages, Monsignor Modesto Sanchez, Professor Juan Angulo, and Manuel Podillo Magana, the only citizen of Loreto, we are told, who spoke English. We were also told that Senor Magana was very enthused about the project and that he is an energetic man who would be a good Chairman to represent the Sister City Committee in Loreto. As we do not have Senor Magana’s address, and do not want Mayor Ojeda to feel that we are trying to hurry his decision, we would appreciate it very much if you would contact someone there, other than the Mayor, who could “forecast” whether or not we will receive a letter accepting our invitation so that our City Council can draw up a formal Resolution to be mailed to the Town Affiliation Association of the United States, in Washington, D.C. Once that paperwork is taken care of, the warm and friendly people-to-people aspect of this program can come into being — and we hope soon an official of the City of Hermosa Beach can give you our personal thanks right there in Loreto for any information you may be able to send us. Sincerely, Mary Edgerton, City Clerk, City of Hermosa Beach
FLYING SPORTSMEN LODGE Loreto, Baja California, Mexico July 8, 1967 Dear Miss Mary Edgerton: Thank you for your letter of June 20 and your great interest in Loreto. I turned over a copy to the Lion’s Club and they were most enthusiastic in having Hermosa Beach as a Sister City. Mr. Arturo Susarrey, the president will be handling the matter and is going to contact the Mayor at once. Incidentally I am spending a few weeks in Bellflower 19254 Palm St., Tel. 925-9873, if I can be of any assistance, please contact me. There is a new club formed that operates a Douglas DC-3 which will provide direct service to Loreto from Long Beach. We would be honored in having your Mayor or City Manager as a complementary member, and if you will have him fill out the enclosed application we will send him a membership. Yours truly, Ed Tabor cc: Arturo Susarrey and Enrique Ortega “El Safari Club” Pres.
I don’t remember what the flying club membership entailed, but I think it was intended to reduce insurance risk if an accident should occur.
On August 8, 1967, Jack Wise, who had been authorized to make official contacts, received the following Western Union Telegram: “Hemos quedado enterados por comunicación de nuestro compañero León Eduardo Tabor de los Deseos que tienen de iniciar relacione de pueblo hermanos entre ciudad Hermosa Beach y Loreto tenemo muchos gusto y entusiasmo en trabajar por Hermosa Beach y Loreto y gustosamente junto con nuestro delegado de Gobierno los esperamos el dia 25 con lo brazos abiertos para tener nuestra asamblea y dar principio a los trabajos nosotros servimos club de Leones. Arturo Susarrey a Presidente Humberto Larinaga Secretario”
We had received our first message in Spanish and our international adventure seemed underway. Particularly since the message plainly indicated that they were looking forward to meeting our delegation on August 25th.
THE FIRST VISIT TO LORETO
August 25, 1967, at 10 am we awaited departure at the Long Beach Airport. We were myself and my wife, Evelyn, Jack and Betty Wise, Al and Naoma Valdes, Don and Sheila Miller, Pat Anderson and Del Andrews. It was a hot, smoggy morning. We looked at the DC-3 being fueled in front of us, silently wondering if the thing would fly. As we had all paid our own way we had to go! After all, we got twenty-five dollars a month to serve as Councilmen; it would only take two years on the Council to pay for the flight! I was particularly concerned because I felt obliged to go and so I literally dragged my wife back from one of our few really delightful vacations — the World’s Fair in Montreal — for this new venture. I believe she looked at the tired plane and excused herself to buy more trip insurance. At 11 am, as we taxied down the runway, I had not only strained my marital bliss, I had depleted my slender summer teacher’s budget! Tabor had to land in Mexicali for customs inspection and a supply of Jose Cuervo Gold Reserve. Three hours later the plane nosed down towards a strip of dirt midst a jungle. We skidded to a halt six feet short of scrub jungle. Our inflight cold chicken box lunch almost deserted us but we had survived. We climbed out into an oven, a hot wet oven. Some forty Loretanos greeted us with wet handshakes and a welcoming gift of straw hats. Very Broken Spanish and English was exchanged as the sweating mass steered us to some retired red and white (formerly) Ensenada Taxis. They rattled us to the Flying Sportsmen Lodge. There, the modern swimming pool and overly convenient poolside bar became the Hermosa HQ. Overhead coconut and date palms filtered the blinding white sun; the patio thatched roof whispered “breeze” now and then. We swam and fortified ourselves as Hermosans have been known to do until it was time to dress and prepare for a poolside dinner set for some fifty people. The long banquet table was set on the deck next to the pool under the stars and the soft light of votive candles revealed a really lovely setting. The glow of the candles painted a golden tracery on the underside of the palm fronds overhead. A real golden canopy. It remained shirt sleeve warm; a lovely tropic night. We barely noticed the ten minute “rest” the Loreto generating plant took as the nightly overload occurred. The stars were brilliant and the softly spoken Spanish added music to the glow of goodwill, cerveza, tequila and good food. Even an occasional mosquito dropped by for a late snack! Fortunately Enrique Ortega accompanied us and as he spoke excellent English he made several short speeches understandable. This was a major effort for the Lion’s Club and they made us feel most welcome. Dr. Al Valdes, Mayor Pro tem, spoke some Spanish, but the first speech in Spanish given on behalf of Hermosa was given by Evelyn Belasco. She spoke it beautifully and quickly became our youth ambassador and made our first contact with the young professor, Mario. Later Evie started the first cultural interchange as her fifth grade class prepared stories about our city for the school children in Loreto.
LORETO: FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Early in the morning we walked the town. We were impressed by the safe drinking water system and even more impressed by the litter-free, neat dirt and black top streets. Oil drums on the corners were used for trash. Imported trees–olive and date palms softened the dry desert atmosphere. The homes were simple; made for living in a tropic clime. They managed on a three inch annual rainfall; plants had to be watered or they died. Grass was scarce. Long after the founding of the first of the California Missions in Loreto, English pirates had used the town as a hideaway. They commingled leaving an unusual proportion of blondes and hazel eyes among Loretanos. Some names also stand out. Two families who dominated the Loretano life were named Davis and Ramirez. We later met Ildefonso Green Garayzar who became President of the Loreto Sister City Committee: we soon knew him as Al Green. Al was a warm and outgoing man. He is no longer with us and we miss him. Most of the Loretanos were proud, dignified, and reserved. They worked hard for little pay; they had little money for frills and less time for fools. They lived in a sea oasis surrounded by a desert that could be quite harsh; that kind of living developed a self reliance plus an unusually high degree of community cooperation. They had survived devastating storms, floods, and droughts; at one time the town had almost vanished. There was daily evidence of grit, determination, and “sweat equity”. Modern medical treatment was scarce. At the time, they nicknamed the local Doctor “Dr. Penicillin” because he seemed to prescribe it for everything. They had no working dental facilities. Our Dr. Valdes made note of this and for many years worked to upgrade the dental care in Loreto. Loretanos worked on distant farms or, at that time, on the road from La Paz. What money was available, they put into their school. It was quite modern with one story classrooms surrounding a long patio. The school also became a dormitory at night for the children of distant workers. I know it was the children that won Evelyn’s heart and she went on to pioneer the best of the children-to-children cultural exchange programs. Much later, after Evelyn died and I had married Patricia Woolley, we visited Loreto again and Patricia also fell in love with the children of Loreto and she volunteered art lessons in the school. They are very easy to love!
Monsignor Sanchez won a lottery and he gave it to the restoration of the mission. He was a legendary “town conscience”. When some bikinis appeared on the beach he protested. Getting no immediate “cover up” he got on his mule and went up to a retreat in the mountains. The story goes on that he would not come down until the girls reverted to the more modest one piece bathing suits! He met us in the side yard by the Mission. Father Sanchez was short, heavy, and elderly. He had on a white shirt, black pants and thick sandals. His eyes penetrated, “steel-hard” — like the steel in his eye glass frames. When he shook your hand you had the feeling that you were being judged — and found wanting! He excused himself to don a white surplice. While waiting, we stood on stones so worn they must have been placed there under the direction of Father Juan Salvatierra, the founding Father of the Loreto Mission. The Priest showed us the church interior — about 150 feet long and 40 wide. The ceiling seemed at least sixty feet high. The ceiling plaster was decorated to resemble wood paneling. Wires hung down from the ceiling holding bare light bulbs. Side wall decorations had deteriorated with age and the climate. Wall niches were filled with carved religious figures. The altar was blue and gold leaf, carved. In the center, about fifteen feet up, was the glass cased Virgin of Loreto. It came from Florentine craftsmen. She wore an ancient, richly brocaded gown. Part way through our church tour, on a day that was becoming hotter by the minute, we heard voices chanting with bell-like clarity. The practicing choir immediately lifted me back to the hymnal sounds I heard in my own church when I was young. Then the church bells tolled, ending with twelve rather businesslike notes signifying the noon hour! Before I leave the church I must note that we saw, in a side shed, a number of huge oil paintings stored and in sad disrepair. They were from Italy and it was impossible to tell the quality, but they were at least as large as those in the Uffizi Palace. We drowsed through the afternoons either asleep or in the pool. All of Loreto wisely chose to siesta. One afternoon, Pat Anderson and I waded barefoot around the large outcroppings at the nearby beach. Even the water seemed close to eighty degrees. Soon we were back in the pool! The air was beautiful just before sunrise when the fishermen went out. An hour after sunrise they were back loaded with fish and the sun had commenced to broil us. I remember waking very early one morning; as I pulled the drapes to look outside, a huge tarantula dropped, brushing my hand. For a moment we were both motionless in surprise; then we both scuttled off. He went into a hole, I went outside. That was when I caught sight of the fishermen and their catch. The fish were varied and beautiful. Medregal, Dorado, Garoupa, Marlin, Roosterfish, Sailfish, Swordfish, Wahoo and Jurel abounded. They had to be iced immediately or they would rot by the time the boats were beached.
On Saturday, August 26, 1967 at 11:00 a.m. we were invited to meet in the Mayor’s office, a small corner room on the plaza. Jack Wise, Mayor Ojeda, an aide, and Enrique Ortega sat behind three small gray metal desks at one end of the office; the rest of us stood. Ojeda and Wise made short opening statements with Ortega translating and providing some background information. At that point the Mayor appointed a Loreto Sister City Committee. A Professor was appointed to chair the group and a teacher, Mario, was appointed secretary. After about eight minutes of discussion we were ready to join hands, transfer documents. We immediately invited the Committee members to be our guests at the appropriate time. Later I learned that the office where we met was also used as a town jail for the occasional tipsy stranger (few in the community could afford more than a beer). It was nice to be in a town where they had no use for a jail. If that was ever the case in Hermosa, it was long before my time!
Late that afternoon we were invited to Enrique’s getaway place. A small cement building set in the center of a fenced in acre. It was one of severed properties he owned; he planned to retire there. Several tables were scattered underneath the trees. No chairs. Four or five cases of beer appeared and we were offered beer from the bottle. No Mexican women were there and our ladies had the men to themselves although it seemed to be a rather clubby male setting. I got to thinking about the maleness of the culture and how “Sister City” had had only one female participant–my wife! All the signing and all the committee members were male. I put those thoughts aside after the Mexican wives appeared with some heavy cooking jugs. The specialty had arrived. Later Enrique confided that there had been a small problem. They had trouble finding a sea tortoise willing to be served as our soup. At the last minute they had found one and were now prepared to feast on the Loretano equivalent of caviar. So we stood among the trees with a beer in one hand and a dripping folded tortilla in the other. Mario, the teacher, became distressed at my dripping so he showed me how to eat properly. You spoon the juicy meat and herbs into a tortilla roll, fold it and squeeze the juice into a tablespoon held below. When dry, consume as a sandwich. Of course you must set your beer down while you do this. The taste was like salted chicken, but flavorful. At the time we had no idea that later on these creatures would be on the endangered list. Besides we were trying very hard to be polite Hermosans all the while yearning for our fresh cool breeze! Loreto is a wonderful place to visit, but not in August! The meal was ladled out of the Tortoise shell. Naoma Valdes rescued the shell, brought it back to Hermosa, and I believe she still has the shell in her home. Our last night in Loreto, we were treated to a crashing spectacle of thunder and lightning. You could sniff ozone in the air. The co-pilot said that if it threatened rain we would have to leave in a hurry. Once the field became muddy the plane could not lift off. He said he loved the people of Loreto. He spoke Spanish; he enjoyed their conservative culture. If they find you simpatico they may invite you to dinner. They don’t like loud, boisterous drunks. They don’t complain about the hand they are dealt–Heat, cold, sickness or poverty–they tend to like people who will try to make the best of things. They treat time a little differently but everything will get done. They always take extra precautions to make sure the food they serve you is “safe”. Apparently his view was shared by others because several Norte Americanos have retired in Loreto. The next day Tabor did hurry us off because huge storm clouds were building above the mainland just across the Sea of Cortez. We left some tokens of our appreciation but our good-byes were abbreviated. Only a dozen persons could wave us off as Ed rushed us into the plane. Three hours later we had left the heat of Loreto to land in the lesser heat of Long Beach. In extending a hand of friendship to another culture, I found that I had gained new insights into my own culture. People really live their values and it was refreshing to see how lives in the different cultures unfold and what common interests draw them together. I wrote a rough draft of this visit when it was fresh in my mind and I drew heavily on that draft as I wrote this as well as on some old file notes. I filed the rough draft with the City and there it now resides.
Formalities had to be dealt with. City Councils, official bodies, don’t just say “OK’, they order (ordinance) resolve (resolution) and seek public press to report their actions. From the second page of the, Daily Breeze, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 1967: LORETO, MEXICO, NAMED HERMOSA’S SISTER CITY The Hermosa Beach City Council Tuesday night adopted a resolution welcoming the City of Loreto, Mexico, as a sister city. The action was taken after a visit by members of the sister city committee and city council to Loreto, at which time a sister city committee of citizens of that city was established. Councilman Jack Belasco, a councilman who made the trip, said a formal ceremony was held in the office of the mayor of Loreto, Aurelio Robinson Ojeda, where everyone agreed to the sister city affiliation. “The meeting opened with statements from the Mayor and Jack Wise, chairman of the sister city committee,” said Belasco. “Enrique Ortega, Loreto school teacher, translated and gave some background material on the sister city program. The result was the establishment of the opposite number committee in Loreto.” Belasco said that members included Ortega as chairman and a Loreto English teacher as secretary. “The Hermosa committee invited the Loreto Committee to visit Hermosa Beach as guests in their homes,” Belasco said. “I would like to thank the council for its support,” Wise said, ” I am sure the people-to-people program will be a success and something the community can be proud of. We hope to start a joint interchange with Redondo Beach, La Paz, Mexico, Loreto and Hermosa Beach in athletics and cultural interchange”. Loreto is a city of about 6000 persons, located on the east coast of Baja California about 100 miles north of La Paz and 500 mile south of San Diego. It was the first capital of lower California and site of the first mission and the beginning of the mission trail in the Californias. In recent years the city has been almost wiped out twice, once by floods and again by hurricanes. Its main income is derived from hunting , skin-diving, and sports fishing.
A letter from City Clerk To Publisher Robert Curry November 9, 1967:
Dear Mr. Curry, As you are aware, the City Council of the City of Hermosa Beach unanimously approved and adopted a resolution welcoming the City of Loreto, Baja California, Mexico as the Sister City of this community at their meeting held on November 7, 1967. We’re enclosing a copy of this long-awaited document, and are, of course, sending formal copies to Mayor Ojeda, Governor Diaz Of Baja California, and the National League of Cities. I also thought you would like to know that Evie Belasco, the wife of Councilman Jack Belasco, who teaches the fifth grade at Valley Vista School here, has had her children create an art series representing our city which is to be sent to the children of Loreto. A youngster in her class who is from Argentina has written a letter to accompany these pictures, and Jack Wise, Chairman of our Sister City Committee, told the Council that a member of his group would go to Mrs. Belasco’s class to accept the work formally on behalf of the Committee and to thank the children for working on the first Sister City project in Hermosa Beach. Very truly yours Mary A. Edgerton, City Clerk, City of Hermosa Beach.
Naturally the Daily Breeze sent a reporter/photographer to capture Evie’s first Sister City Project. Evelyn again made the second front page with the story by Bernard Cole: HERMOSA BEACH CHILDREN MAKING FRIENDSHIP BID Fifth graders at Valley Vista School in Hermosa have some new friends–fifth graders at a school in Loreto, Mexico, the city’s new sister city. After they heard about a trip their teacher, Mrs. Jack T. Belasco, made recently to Loreto with the sister city committee, they decided to send their new friends a letter. “The children talked about what they wanted to say and one of them, Lorna Grant, from Argentina, translated it for us into Spanish,” Mrs. Belasco said. This is what their letter said: “Dear Friends: Here are some pictures that will show you how our city looks. We hope that you will send us some pictures of your town so we can see how it looks. Mrs. Belasco told us you have a very pretty and very clean town. Someday perhaps it will be possible for some of us to come and visit with you and some of you can become friends and learn more about each other.” The children spent a busy two weeks deciding what to draw. “After they decided they signed up for a particular building, so we wouldn’t have 24 drawings of the same building,” said Mrs. Belasco. “I sent a picture of the police department,” said Charles Smith. Randy Landis sent a drawing of City Hall, and Celt Schira sent one of the school library. Drawings of others sent included Valley Vista, Valley Park, the beach, the railroad tracks, the fire station and the post office. Debbie Stull sent a picture of her house. Shelley Mellum’s drawing was a little more ambitious. “I sent a picture of the ocean,” she said. All of them have a general idea of where Loreto is. “Its on the coast of Mexico,” said Kathy Hazlett. “And it’s in lower Baja California,” said Tony Jucevic. “It’s down by the gulf of California,” said Joe Risk. “And it’s near the ocean,” said Becky Green. “It’s a small town,” said Kristin Busby, “And they always get excited if they get a Christmas card, because they don’t get much mail. “We have sister cities because we want to have peace in the world and be friends and love the other cities,” said Nani Coptner. “And so we can’t get in wars,” said Lisa Strotman. “Just in case one city gets in trouble we can help each other,” said Mike DuVeret. The fifth graders are all eagerly awaiting an answer to their letter. “They came in the day after we had mailed the drawings and wanted to know if an answer had come yet, said Mrs. Belasco. “I want to see the town and the people,” said Margie Balzar. “I mostly want to see what their homes look like,” said Andre Le Chambre. “I want to see the mission,” said David Penn. “So do I,” said Randy Landis, “but most of all I want to see the fishing lodge.” While they are waiting for an answer to their first letter, the students are working on Christmas cards to send to their new friends. Why? Betsy Green seemed to sum up the class feelings best. “I don’t have any friends from Mexico, but I would like to have one,” she said.
THE RESOLUTION N. S. 2744
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA, WELCOMING THE CITY OF LORETO, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO, AS A SISTER CITY AFFILIATION WITH THE CITY OF HERMOSA BEACH. WHEREAS, through the efforts of its Sister City Committee, the City of Hermosa Beach, California, has initiated a People-to-People Program with the City of Loreto, Baja California, Mexico, to develop international friendship and understanding between the people of our respective cities; and WHEREAS, the people of Loreto, Baia California, Mexico, who share similar surroundings and mutual interests with the City of Hermosa Beach, California, have expressed their interest in this program; and WHEREAS, members of the Sister City Committee and the City Council of Hermosa Beach have made an official visit to the City of Loreto, at which time a Sister City Committee made up of citizens of Loreto was established and dignitaries from both cities participated in a formal ceremony in the office of the Mayor of Loreto where all present agreed to enter into a mutual Sister City affiliation, NOW, THEREFORE, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA, DOES HEREBY RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS: SECTION 1. That this Council on behalf of the people of the City of Hermosa Reach, California, hereby extends a welcome to the people of the City of Loreto, Baja California, Mexico, who are participating with Hermosa Beach in People-to-People Program of our neighboring countries. SECTION 2. That an elected city official is to he appointed to act as official representative of the City of Hermosa Beach to help in carrying out this program. SECTION 3: That copies of this Resolution are to he sent to Mayor Raul Aurelio Robinson Ojeda of the City of Loreto, to the Honorable Raul Sanchez Diaz, Governor of Baja California, and to the Director of Town Affiliations, National League of Cities, Washington, D.C. APPROVED AND ADOPTED this 7th day of November, 1967. John P. deGroot PRESIDENT of the City Council MAYOR, City of Hermosa Beach Attest: City Clerk
My apologies to the reader for the many inclusions I found necessary to accurately portray the events preceding the start of the Sister City Program. I am sure my Loreto friends can fill in some gaps and correct some errors I have made. If I slighted anyone, I shall be glad to correct this document to reflect a more complete history. I have not dealt with the ups and downs of the program during the years. I spend a part of my time in France during my leisure years and I have returned to Loreto once. I drove my van to Loreto several years ago to visit and to deliver some needed medical supplies. There have been some remarkable changes, but the Loretanos I saw a second time were still full of that natural charm that drew me to them when we first met. Of course now they have a homepage on the Internet, an international class airport, some luxurious hotels, a golf course, and bikinis are no problem (for turistas). I recommend it highly as a vacation spot, but I should prefer another month to August! It was my honor to initiate the program for Hermosa Beach; I hope it prospers!