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Central Standard

Sister Cities: Kansas City's Distant Relatives

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Most cities and towns have a sister city--another place across the globe that they’ve established a relationship with. The concept of Sister Cities, or twin towns originated after World War II to create cultural and commercial ties between communities internationally. Kansas City has 13 sister cities. Morelia, Mexico just recently renewed its agreement with KC, making it Kansas City’s third Mexican sister. Other international sisters include Seville, Spain, Kurashiki, Japan, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and more.

Forming a sister city relationship doesn't just involve placing a sign with your city's name on it in some distant land. Sister cities form business and educational relationships. Oftentimes, cities try to form relationships with other cities that have industries in common with them. But what is the effectiveness of a sister city? What purpose does the relationship have? And how does Kansas City relate to her 13 distant sisters?

Local professionals, students, and even musicians can benefit from sister city relationships. Bobby Watson, the director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City was able to join up with a jazz band in our sister city, Hanover, Germany, and subsequently tour other German cities practicing and performing jazz music. Likewise, other international musicians from sister cities have traded places with local professors and musicians to give masters classes.

Nowadays, sister city affiliations often have a focus towards commerce and forming business ties between cities. Kansas City looks for international cities of similar size, or with a similar museum or university. In addition, they try to forge relationships with cities with large industries in engineering, technology, etc like we are. 

Some of Kansas City's sister city relationships are visible by just by glancing at the cityscape. For instance, as shown in the photo above, much of our Country Club Plaza is modeled after Spanish architecture found in our sister city, Seville, Spain. Additionally, our relationship with Xi'an, China has resulted in the Dragon Boat Festival which take place near the Plaza in Brush Creek and even an upcoming marathon exchange program. 

"These exchanges can add tremendously to the cultural and business life of a city," says Mike Wood, former president of the Sister City Association of Kansas City. "I'd like to impress on people the international nature of Kansas City. People don't often realize, but sister cities and other organizations contribute to making this a livable city."


  • Mike Wood, member of Sister Cities Board of Directors, former president Sister City Association of Kansas City
Central Standard international relations
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.