World recession threatens Gonzales cultural exchange

Wade McIntyre
The dolphin in the Gonzales City Hall was a gift from sister city Meylan, France.

Difficult financial times may prevent the French Sister City of Gonzales from visiting Ascension Parish for the first time since former Mayor Johnny Berthelot and city residents began a cultural exchange program with Meylan in 1984.

John Hebert, president of the Gonzales Committee on Cultural Affairs said Friday he received an e-mail from the Meylan Twinning Committee informing the committee that the scheduled April 4 visit from Meylan may not take place due to the financial crisis there.

Hebert said only five people have signed up for the trip to Gonzales April 4. Even they may wind up canceling.

There is wide spread unemployment in France and people just don’t have the money to travel, Luc Cadeo, president of the Meylan Twinning Committee told Hebert.

 The two groups are still trying to work on a meaningful and beneficial exchange between the cities that would promote business, tourism, education, sports and the arts.

Hebert said he suggested the visitors tour EATEL, one of the largest companies in the city because EATEL has been successful competing against big companies.

 “We have made our proposal and are waiting on a reply,” Hebert said. “Economic conditions are better in Gonzales than in most parts of the world. In Meylan, they just don’t have enough people who can afford to make the trip, and those that have money don’t want to spend it.”

Meylan is located in the French-Alps in an area that is known as the Silicon Valley of France. The unemployment rate there is currently 6.8 percent.

If the Meylan trip is canceled, it will be the first ever break in the long-standing cultural exchange between the cities, Hebert said.

“If we had even a handful of people visit, it might be beneficial to them,” he said.