Aurora, CO

Mexican sister city discussion in Aurora turns ‘racist’

David Heitz
Photo byCharles Elizondo/Unsplash

Aurora City Councilmember Juan Marcano accused some of his colleagues of racism Monday during a discussion about forging a relationship with Chihuahua, Mexico.

Aurora Sister Cities International and Marcano want to create a sister-city partnership with Chihuahua because of the large number of Mexican immigrants living here. Most are from Chihuahua, according to the sister cities group. In Denver, 22.3 percent of consulate documents relate to Chihuahua.

But emotions boiled over when Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky mentioned the city’s crime rate. She quoted websites that reported traveling to Chihuahua is unsafe. “Don’t lie to yourself, this city is dangerous,” read one headline.

Councilmember Juan Marcano said several countries have travel advisories against the United States. “Glass houses, y’all.”

Marcano noted that the sister cities’ group’s Mexico committee organized quickly and reached out to Chihuahua.

Aurora, Chihuahua have crime in common

Jurinsky said the cartels have a powerful influence over the city. She said a cook at one of her restaurants is from Chihuahua. She said he is incredibly grateful to be here and has no desire whatsoever to ever return to Chihuahua. She said she suspects that sums up the beliefs of many Mexican immigrants. “We need to stay focused on our own crime rate,” Jurinsky said. “Thank God we don’t currently live under cartel rule.”

Councilmember Francoise Bergan bristled at suggestions that Aurora and Chihuahua have crime in common. “Chihuahua and Aurora are night and day,” she said. “There are no kidnappings and beheadings by cartels in Aurora.”

But Councilmember Alison Coombs shot back. “Yes, we have kidnappings, we have black girls who have been missing for years and years.”

Traveling safely to Chihuahua questioned

Bergan asked how Mayor Mike Coffman’s safety could be guaranteed during a trip to Chihuahua. A representative of the sister cities office told her he likely will provide his own security.

Marcano told Jurinsky and Bergan they had been “exceptionally racist,” adding, “Y’all need to do some reflection.”

Bergan and Jurinsky said there is nothing racist about quoting very real crime statistics about Chihuahua.

Little economic benefit

Bergan said she did not see any economic advantage to partnering with Chihuahua. She said the city’s other sister city relationships have not resulted in economic development. Councilmember Angela Lawson agreed.

But a representative of the sister cities group said that’s not exactly true. She pointed to BBQ, a major Korean restaurant chain, choosing to make its Americas debut in Aurora. She also referenced Vons Chicken Aurora.

“I think we’re leaving a lot of opportunities on the table,” Marcano said of sister city development efforts. He said economic development personnel should attend city trips to sister cities.

Mayor Mike Coffman advised the council to only count on the sister cities program as a “cultural exchange.” A straw vote on whether to move the Chihuahua sister city proposal forward to a formal City Council vote passed with only Bergan and Jurinsky objecting. The council likely will vote on the matter next week.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

Denver, CO

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