FREDERICK -- Frederick has added another member to its family. The city adopted the Brazilian city of Aquiraz as its third sister city Thursday.
"It's an opportunity for Frederick County residents to be citizen diplomats to another community," said Char Musser, president of Frederick Sister Cities Association, the volunteer group that manages the sister city relationships.
The association will celebrate its 25th year of partnership with the German city of Schifferstadt next year. Frederick was founded 250 years ago by German immigrants from the area near Schifferstadt, Ms. Musser said. Frederick also has partnered with another German sister city -- Morzheim.
Frederick Sister Cities Association belongs to an international nonprofit network known as Sister Cities International. The program provides residents of different countries a venue to meet and interact with one another, helping dispel stereotypes and foster cultural understanding, Ms. Musser said.
Alan Imhoff, an alderman and the liaison to the sister cities program, said earlier this year that adding Aquiraz as a sister city will introduce Frederick residents to a country that is emerging as a global economic force.
The city's population is growing more diverse, and local technology companies are attracting international workers, he said. Gaining some knowledge about the home countries of Frederick's newest residents will help the city.
"We need to be able to understand the cultures they are coming from," Mr. Imhoff said.
Aquiraz sits along Brazil's northern coastline. It is home to about 65,000 residents, compared to Frederick's population of about 60,000.
The bond between the Brazilian city and Frederick was initiated by Dirci Borelli Marquart, a local businesswoman who was raised in Brazil.
Ms. Marquart owns and operates a Frederick kitchen countertop business that buys granite in Aquiraz. After visiting the city, she wanted to help improve life for the artisans and tradespeople in the city that has benefitted her business, she said.
In 2000, she began organizing service trips and cultural exchanges through Mission Serv International, an organization she founded that is seeking nonprofit status. Earlier this year, she approached Ms. Musser to propose adding Aquiraz as a sister city.
Mayor Jeff Holtzinger signed an official agreement with the mayor of Aquiraz, Ritelza Cabral, during a public ceremony Thursday at City Hall.
Ms. Cabral and two of her council members spent the day touring local businesses, Carroll Creek Park and downtown Frederick. Talks are under way for Frederick officials to visit Aquiraz, Ms. Musser said.