At its Jan. 10 meeting, the Winters City Council approved a proclamation recognizing the Spanish city of Almogía as a sister city to Winters. Former Mayor Woody Fridae and his wife Rebecca were in Spain when the proclamation was passed. Woody and Rebecca personally presented the proclamation to Almogía’s City Council and met with its mayor
Fridae shared their experience with the Express and the history behind the relationship with Almogía which began in the 90s.
The proclamation was the culmination of decades of work and cross-continental connections, and reads “sister city relationships are intended to create global relationships based on cultural, educational, and information exchanges to increase awareness, appreciation and recognition of our common bonds across national boundaries,” and that with the proclamation Winters “celebrates and honors its Spanish heritage and the town of Almogía, sending warm regards to its residents and our family members.”
Fridae recalled being on the Winters City Council in 1991 when resident Miguel Ruiz first presented the proposal for a sister cityhood with Almogía in honor of the town his father came from.
“His parents were born in Almogía. They came to the Winters area and he grew up in Winters,” Fridae said. Ruiz traveled and lived between the cities his whole life. In 1991, Ruiz approached the city with the idea, and City Council “gave him the green light” Friday said. Ruiz then communicated with Almogía’s City Council, called the Ayuntamiento, and established a relationship with the town. Fridae said he recalled it was in 1993 when the sister cityhood was finally agreed to.
An Express article published on May 23, 1991, noted Ruiz’s family moved to Winters in 1921. His father was a local farmer and the family, including all 13 children, would pick figs and prunes and cut fruit at the Griffen ranch. The article written by Express staff writer Anna Peerbolt said Ruiz wanted his community to know about his Spanish town and wanted his Spanish relatives to get to know Winters.
Now himself in Almogía, Fridae described his presentation of the proclamation from the Winters City Council to the Mayor Cristóbal Torreblanca and the Ayuntamiento of Almogía and was in turn gifted a written statement commemorating the 30th anniversary of the sisterhood.
“I had not realized that it was the 30th anniversary until that moment,” Fridae said.
In fact, this meeting was a reunion for Fridae and Torreblanca who previously met in the early 90s when the sister cityhood was first presented to Winters City Council.
“Cristóbal Torreblanca was on (Almogía’s) City Council in 1991 when the sisterhood idea came up — and he, with a couple of councilmembers at that time, came to Winters and they met with Miguel Ruiz, who came up with the idea,” Fridae said.
Torreblanca knew Ruiz and his story, and also remembers going to California, according to Fridae. The 1991 Express article said it was at the 1990 Youth Day when Almogian councilmembers visited Winters and marched in the parade. The Express published a photo of Ruiz raising the flag of Almogía at Winters City Hall at the 1991 Youth Day event.
Fridae said that when he and Torreblanca traded their proclamations in January, they also traded memories of meeting in Winters in 1993, including Fridae hosting Torreblanca and his Ayuntamiento compatriots for dinner in his home.
Fridae shared a number of other stories and accounts of his time in Almogía, including when he and Rebecca stumbled upon the small “Calle Winters” — an Almogían street named after our town.
In a blog post detailing the trip, Fridae wrote: “When we embarked on this journey, we were not sure if the Almogians were aware of the sister cityhood, or if anyone here was aware of our town some 10,000 kilometers away.”
“But we can clearly report that Almogía has not forgotten the Ruiz dream — from the street, they named for us, to the plaque on the town meeting chambers, to the living memories of those we met, the sisterhood with Winters is alive and well,” Fridae noted.
Local Spanish families
Part of the impetus for the recognition of this relationship was the Historical Society of Winters, of which Fridae is the President. The Historical Society is looking to continue its series of exhibits looking into the histories and stories of where Winters residents came from. Previously, the Winters Museum had an exhibit on Winters Japanese families, and Fridae said the Historical Society is looking to have an exhibit on Spanish families.
Fridae credited former Historical Society of Winters board member Gloria Lopez for providing support for the idea. Lopez’s family is from the Spanish city of Almería, and a number of other Spanish families in Winters also came from the same region of southeastern Spain. Fridae said he was already planning to go to Europe to visit some friends and see Romania where his father was born and decided to combine those with a trip to Winters’ sister city.
Residents who would like to share their family’s history can reach out to the Historical Society at https://tinyurl.com/49nm4dx6.