City of Omaha announces Sister City Friendship Agreement with Sicilian town

(Omaha, NE) -- The City of Omaha enters into a Sister City Friendship Agreement with Carlentini, Sicily, a town that shares deep roots with Omaha.

On Friday, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced that the two cities will sign the agreement this month, recognizing the century-old connection between the two cities, which share a history of family, culture and tradition. Carlentini, a city of about 17,000, was one of the first places Italian people immigrated to Omaha from.

The city says two brothers from Carlentini, Joseph and Sebastiano Salerno, were instrumental in helping the immigrants make a home in Omaha. Sebastiano recruited Carlentini residents to come to Omaha, many to work for Union Pacific Railroad, while Joseph opened the Bank of Sicily. The Carlentini immigrants led to the development on Omaha's Little Italy. Italians are now the fourth largest ethnic group in Omaha, with more than two-thirds of the population descended from the original Carlentini immigrants.

Stothert's office says over the past year, three local Italian heritage organizations — the Italian American Heritage Society, the Santa Lucia Festival Committee and the Orders of the Sons and Daughters of Italy — joined together to help lay the groundwork for the agreement. Together, they formed the Sicula Italia Foundation, a non-profit bringing the two cities together.

In supporting the agreement, Mayor Stothert said, "Omaha is proud of our vibrant Italian-American community and the strong ties to Carlentini. I look forward to expanding and strengthening these important relationships. A Sister City will show us what a small world it really is."

The friendship agreement is an initial step, that can lead to a formal sister city agreement. The Omaha-Carlentini Friendship Agreement signing ceremony will be held at the Durham Museum on September 22nd. It will recognize the historic connection between Carlentini and the Union Pacific Railroad.

Omaha currently has six sister cities: Shizuoka, Japan; Braunschweig, Germany; Siauliai, Lithuania; Naas, Ireland; Xalapa, Mexico; and Yantai, China.

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