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Sister States

The human link between Idaho and Jalisco

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A decade ago, governors Phil Batt and Alberto Cárdenas Jimenez established a formal "Sister State" relationship between their respective states of Idaho and Jalisco, Mexico. This sort of relationship was not new to Idaho. We had already established similar systems with the Shanxi and Taiwan provinces in the People's Republic of China and the ChunCheonBuk-Do Province in South Korea--even though Governor Cecil Andrus suspended familial relations with the Shanxi Province in 1989 in protest of China's human-rights record.

Sister-state relationships are trade relationships, usually, in Idaho's case, based on selling agricultural, lumber, mineral and chemical products to Mexican and Asian government agencies and businesses. However, on a personal but no less significant scale, one export from Jalisco to Idaho has been the focus of more debate than all the other trade commodities combined in the last decade: people.

To say that Mexican immigrants are a contentious presence in the Treasure Valley is an understatement--and I'm not just referring to when a group of workers were doused with toxic chemicals in a field outside of Caldwell last summer, with minimal public response. I mean culturally, as well. Up until just two weeks ago, the Spanish-speaking community was not represented through a local newspaper in their own language--such publications are plentiful in other metropolitan areas. When the first, the weekly La Presna Libre (The Free Press), was published by the Idaho Press-Tribune in late September, Canyon County Commissioner and anti-immigration activist Robert Vasquez promptly responded by calling (in a press release on county letterhead, as he usually does) for a boycott of the Press-Tribune.

After reading over La Presna Libre, I would say that it is, more than anything, harmless--tiny, free and full of almost disappointingly safe and nice articles and cartoons. With luck and courage, it will soon become a valuable and compelling cultural chronicle. But for now, Boise Weekly is content to use our own pages to shine a light on a couple of the Treasure Valley's visitors from Jalisco --"tapatios," as they are called in their home city of Guadalajara--in a way where we can, finally, all read along together.

--Nicholas Collias