Taos, sister city united by German heritage

Several members of the German group pose during their visit to Taos on Sunday. The attire is unique to their hometown of Twist, a town of about 10,000 beside the Dutch border.

Several members of the German group pose during their visit to Taos on Sunday. The attire is unique to their hometown of Twist, a town of about 10,000 beside the Dutch border.

Taos on Sunday solidified a friendship with Twist, Germany that started 30 years ago when a group of Twist residents visited the small Central Missouri town where some of their ancestors immigrated to in the mid 1800s to escape famine.

With 25 visitors from Twist present, city leaders signed paperwork to make the two cities sister cities. Gifts were exchanged, including Rep. Mike Bernskoetter’s presentation of Missouri flags to the visiting families.

The group was greeted in Taos Sunday morning by a law enforcement escort, German flags and waving Taos residents. “The last time I was guided by the sheriff, I had to pay. I drive too fast,” visitor Heiner Reinert said.

Then they participated in Mass at St. Francis Xavier. Reinert said his group was humbled by the welcome and the friendliness of everyone in the U.S. and especially Taos.

In the afternoon, the visitors toured the Father Helias Museum at St. Francis and snacked on sausage, cheese, bread and wine in the church cafeteria.

The link between the two cities started in the mid 1800s, when 80 Twist families immigrated to Taos to escape famine. Taos was founded in 1838 and now has more than 1,000 residents. Groups of German visitors from Twist came to Taos in 1988 and 1997, and a group from Taos has visited Twist. Of the 25 Germans who visited on Sunday, one came with the 1997 group. No members of the group came on the 1988 trip.

This is Reinert’s second trip to the U.S. His first was a gift from his wife: a trip to see Cirque du Soleil perform The Beatles LOVE, which isn’t performed abroad. “It’s a really great show,” he said.

Both Reinert and Heinz Deters, another visitor from Twist, said they were struck by the size of the U.S. “It’s a great big country,” Deters said. “Everything’s big,” Reinert added.

Their other impressions of the U.S.: clean streets and highways, friendly people and not-so-satisfying continental breakfasts in hotels. They also marveled at the sunny skies with temperatures in the mid 80s. In Twist, it was in the 40s and cloudy on Sunday.

Twist has a population of around 10,000 and is located beside the Dutch border. “We’re a little bit like Texas,” Reinert joked. “We have oil and cows…and fine girls.”

Reinert is a retired educator who is now chairman of a history/culture organization in Twist. Deters works as a human resources manager.

Reinert said one important reason to visit the U.S. is because “Americans freed us from Hitler. They brought us democracy and care packets, and their music.”

The visitors are spending one of their 11 days in the United States in Taos. They flew into Chicago and have visited St. Louis, Memphis and Nashville among other cities. This morning, they plan tour the Capitol and other parts of Jefferson City. They’ll start their return flight to Germany early Tuesday morning.

“We’ve welcomed them and now they’ve welcomed us to visit them in Twist,” said Vicki Hagenhoff, the parish council president at St. Francis Xavier. She hopes the two cities can stay in touch and possibly work on genealogy that would link the two towns.

Reinert said he would like to see a student exchange program between the cities.

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