ASHLAND, Ore.– For almost 50 years, the relationship between Ashland and Guanajato, Mexico has provided a small global community between countries. Recently, the city in Mexico unveiled a mural dedicated to the city of Ashland, highlighting the relationship the two sister cities share.
“The generosity and just the outpouring of support, you could tell that this was a very special relationship,” said Denise Baxter.
Baxter, a resident of Ashland who was commissioned to paint the mural in Guanajato, gratefully accepted the opportunity. At a time when things seem divisive as well, the tale of two cities relationship highlights the humanity between cultures.
“It’s been going on back and forth and there’s this feeling of, “Yes of course.'” said Baxter. “That’s what we do for each other and that’s unique.”
Started nearly 50 years ago by founder of the Sister City Amigo Club, Señora Chela Tapp of Ashland, along with the support of Kathryn and Barry Thalden have helped guide the sister city and mural initiatives. Since, both cities have shared with each other, learned from each other and sometimes even more.
“There have been over 80 marriages between the two towns,” laughed Baxter.
But what really stands out are the dedications of each other’s city and culture through the murals. In 2016, the Thalden’s commissioned artist Laura “Loreta” Rangel Villaseñor of Guanajato to paint a mural of her city in downtown Ashland on the Calle de Guanajato. Now it was Baxter’s turn to give back.
“Maybe nine months ago, 10 months ago, asking if I would like to go down and do the mural,” said Baxter describing when the Thalden’s approached her. “And I said, ‘Yes of course!'”
During the month of April, Baxter worked with five art students from the University of Guanajato to paint a 75 foot mural along the main road of the city.
“I was a little intimidated,” she said.
However, the mural which was completed and unveiled in June to government officials and community members from both cities.
Among the features of the mural, iconic buildings such as the Ashland Springs Hotel, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Mt. Ashland can be found scattered across the mural.
“You’ll see nature as a real presence in this mural as well as some of the things that we’re proud of,” said Baxter.
What really struck with Baxter through the trip though was the ability for the people of Guanajato to see past the political divisiveness between the countries.
“It doesn’t matter what’s going on anywhere else in the world,” she said. “These two cities are sister cities and they see past all of that.”
With that connection, it’s what makes for a beautiful view of what could be.
“Celebrating what we have here to share with Guanajato and I think we get that in return when you look at the Guanajato mural here,” said Baxter. “It’s the same thing. It’s vibrant and cheerful and it’s loving.”
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.