Johnson City Sister Cities Program
The Johnson City Sister Cities Program had its beginnings in 1962 when May Ross McDowell, then mayor, visited Latin America as a delegate to the Inter-American Municipal Congress meeting that year in Uruguay. Touring various cities, she became convinced that some activity by her city to develop a town affiliation with a city in Latin America might go a little toward extending international friendships and contribute something to international peace. Working through the People-to-People program founded in 1956 to promote international understanding, a Sister Cities program was established in Johnson City, the first in the state of Tennessee. After much planning and negotiation such a “sister city” affiliation was completed in the fall of 1963 between Johnson City and Guaranda, Ecuador. The following year, the mayor of Guaranda first visited Johnson City. In 1965, McDowell returned the favor visiting Guaranda, thus beginning a long era of exchange and cooperation between the two cities.
Guaranda is located in central Ecuador and is the capital of Bolivar, a province located in the Andes mountains. A market town in a deep valley in the high Andes, Guaranda serves a vast hinterland of agricultural settlements peopled by Quechua Indians. Its climate is subtropical. Its population is mestizo, with a nucleus of Spanish people. It is generally known that the area was first colonized by Jewish Conversos fleeing from Lima's Inquisition. This nucleus has been intermarrying for now almost five centuries, forming a compact population linked by family connections. A city of some 25,000 inhabitants (2005), it is known for its week-long Carnaval and for its "Pajaro Azul" alcoholic drink.