Hurting Sister City in Argentina

Eben Harrell
Special to The Aspen Times

Officials from Aspen’s Sister City organization gathered at Aspen Valley Hospital yesterday to send medical supplies to the town’s newest sister city, Bariloche, Argentina.

The supplies are being sent to Hospital Conal Ramon Castillo, Bariloche’s public hospital, which has felt the full strain of Argentina’s recent economic crisis. Since the devaluation of the Argentine peso in late 2001, the hospital has run a monthly deficit of nearly $60,000. Officials from Aspen’s Sister Cities say as a result the hospital has been “forced to cut back on basic medical supplies.”

In response, the local organization worked with Aspen Valley Hospital and the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation to arrange shipments of basic disposable supples, including syringes, needles, examination gloves and maternity supplies. Federal Express has agreed to take care of shipping costs.

Six towns around the world now count Aspen as a Sister City after Bariloche and Aspen agreed to become Sister Cities last April.

Bariloche is a mountain resort that carries many similarities to Aspen. It offers a ski resort with a strong outdoor summer program, including world-class fly-fishing and mountain biking. It also runs a summer music festival.

Sister Cities International was established by President Eisenhower in 1956 in an effort to lessen the chance of world conflict by fostering international partnerships at the municipal level. Far from its Cold War origins, SCI now works mostly to promote cultural, educational and economic exchanges. Already, Bariloche and Aspen have arranged three exchange trips for middle school students.

Pat Fallin, vice president of Aspen’s Sister Cities, sees the shipment of medical supplies as the realization of the program’s spirit.

“Throughout the U.S., SCI works differently in cooperation with its Sister Cities. At its most basic, we are concerned with humanitarian development in our Sister Cities, and these supplies can help foster that,” she said.

Acknowledging that one shipment will not solve the economic problems of Bariloche’s public health-care system, Aspen Sister Cities is establishing a fund, administered by the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, to ensure supplies continue to reach Bariloche.

Tax deductible donations for Bariloche may be submitted to the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, P.O. Box 1639, Aspen, 81612.