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Over 10 years ago, Jesper Frant, a high school student from Boulder, Colorado, went as an exchange student to sister city Mante, Mexico for a year. Today, Jesper recounts how life changing the experience was.

It’s impossible to overstate how pivotal my year in Mexico was in shaping my worldview and setting my goals for the future. Prior to my year abroad, I had traveled quite a bit with my parents and attended bilingual school. I knew Spanish and was comfortable traveling in foreign countries, but looking back, nothing could have prepared me for the experience of being fully immersed in another language, another family and another culture.

Not only did my experience studying abroad help shape my worldview, it has guided many of my most important life choices: to stay involved with the Boulder-Mante Sister Cities Committee, to study international affairs at the University of Colorado, to write my honors thesis on the plight and potential Mexican migrants living in the U.S., and to pursue a graduate degree in international development. But the most fundamental personal change I experienced as a result of my year abroad was developing a sense of empathy for those who – simply because of where they are born – cannot afford basic healthcare, a quality education, or even nutritious food and clean water.

Boulder and Mante share many things in common, but at no time were the differences more apparent than during the Boulder Community Hospital’s annual medical campaign. Volunteering as a translator during my year abroad, I saw thousands of people from hundreds of miles around Mante turn out for the opportunity to meet with the “gringo” doctors.

One day, an elderly blind man walked into the make-shift eye clinic to which I’d been assigned. The American doctors immediately diagnosed him with advanced cataracts, which had clouded his vision for over a decade. His condition had gone untreated due to a combination of insufficient access to properly trained medical professionals and limited availability of modern medical technology.

Guided by his granddaughter, the man was immediately moved to the front of the line, and within fifteen minutes his cataracts were removed and his vision was restored. I will never forget the look on his face, tears streaming from behind protective glasses, as he walked out of the operating room without the assistance of his granddaughter. “What a miracle. God bless you,” he repeated in a trembling voice as he hugged each American nurse and doctor.

Had this man been born in the U.S. his condition would have been treated years earlier. Unfortunately, the world is filled with this kind of basic inequality, but I believe that with a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work – as economist Jeffrey Sachs pointedly put it – “extreme poverty can be ended, not in the time of our grandchildren, but our time.”

Jesper was later elected to be a youth board member of the Boulder Mante Sister City Committee and has remained a board member ever since.

This article was published on Sister Cities International’s new website: http://www.sister-cities.org/news/pivotal-student-exchange-experience


In early April, 2012, the Mante Sister City committee presented the painting “Gratitud” by artist, Professor Silvia Maldanado Gonzalez to Boulder Community Hospital in appreciation of the twenty annual medical campaigns to serve the needs of the poor in Mante, Mexico. The painting will be placed in a special alcove of one of the new Boulder Community Hospital buildings under construction on Arapahoe Avenue.

“Gratitud” by Professor Silvia Maldanado Gonzalez

Plaque for "Gratitud" by Professor Silvia Maldanado Gonzalez
Plaque for “Gratitud” by Professor Silvia Maldanado Gonzalez


In July, Mexico will elect a new president to replace Felipe Calderón. Whoever wins will need to address the foremost challenge confronting the country today: the battle against the drug cartels. And despite all the negative headlines, the next president will find that the government under Calderón has made huge gains toward defeating them.

When Calderón took office five years ago, there were roughly half a dozen cartels, each a large criminal organization in its own right. These illegal enterprises — the Gulf, the Juárez, La Familia Michoacana, the Sinaloa and the Tijuana cartels — dominated large swaths of Mexican territory and operated abroad as well.

Once he assumed the presidency, Calderón realized that he could not rely on the federal police, the Agencia Federal de Investigación, to restore order or track down the cartel leaders. The A.F.I. was riddled with corruption. Over the years, the cartels had bribed not only regional comandantes but also top-level officials at the agency’s Mexico City headquarters. The state police were even more unreliable. Often on the payroll of the cartels in their respective regions, they not only failed to cooperate with the federal police but also regularly protected the cartels and their leaders.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/opinion/16iht-edbonner16.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Calderón&st=Search

A delegation from Mante will visit Boulder in early April, 2012, hopefully led Dr. David Rodriguez, a founder of the medical mission. Additionally, up to 10 teachers who have been part of the teacher exchange between our two communities will also visit. Highlights of events for the group follow:

  • Dairy Center for the Arts: It has been 11 years since the Mural painted by Florian Lopez was completed on the north face of the Dairy Center Building at Walnut and 26th Street. Today, many people are unaware that the purpose of the gift by the City of Mante to Boulder was to honor the medical teams that had visited Mante over a 20 year period. A committee made up of members from the Dairy Center and the Sister City committee are developing a plaque or signage which will tell visitors to the Dairy Center about the origins of the Mural. It is planned that a ceremony will occur on April 1 to mark this new addition to the north wall of the Dairy Center.
  • First Presbyterian Church: Dr. David Rodriguez has been invited to give a “temple talk” at the 9:30 a.m. service on at Boulder First Presbyterian church on April 1. He will present a plaque to express thanks for the close relationship between the church and citizens of Mante over the years.
  • Boulder Community Hospital: The delegation will bring a piece of art to donate to Boulder Community Hospital in appreciation for the medical campaign led by BCH over the years. At the time of the dedication on April 2, the Boulder Mante Sister City committee will present a plaque to Erick Diaz of Mante. Erick has been a faithful servant to coordinate all 20 medical campaigns and an indispensable liaison to foster Sister City relationships for the past twelve years.
  • City Council Proclamation: The Mante delegation will visit City Council at the beginning of its meeting on April 3. A Proclamation will be read declaring April 1-7, 2012 Boulder Mante Sister City week.
  • Additional visits: Specific meetings are being arranged for the delegation to meet with Boulder dentists who wish to continue dental missions in the Mante region, with Boulder Rescue Service which has emergency response items to donate to the Red Cross (Cruz Roja) in Mante and with teachers in various bi-lingual programs in Boulder Valley Schools.

By Erica Meltzer Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 03/17/2012 12:01:25 PM MDT
Updated: 03/17/2012 12:02:41 PM MDT

Drug violence continues to make Mante too dangerous for Boulder volunteers to resume their annual medical mission to the small Mexican city, but later this month, a delegation from Mante will visit Boulder to reaffirm the 20-year relationship between the two communities.

The 15-member group, led by Dr. David Rodriguez, a founder of the medical mission, will be in Boulder from March 31 to April 5 and will meet with a variety of community groups, including Boulder Community Hospital officials.

Read more: http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_20197160/delegation-from-mexican-sister-city-coming-boulder

By Erica Meltzer Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 11/30/2010 09:22:06 PM MST

The drug violence that has wracked Mexico in recent years has caused Boulder Community Hospital to cancel its annual medical mission to Mante.

This February will be the first time since 1990 that a team of volunteers, organized through Boulder Community Hospital, won’t visit the small Mexican city to provide medical care ranging from the repair of cleft palates to the distribution of eyeglasses.

Read More: http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_16746569