Sister Cities: Palm Beach Should Twin with the Hamptons

USA, Florida, West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach
Walter Bibikow

This past spring, the Town of Palm Beach decided to consider becoming a sister city to Antigua Guatemala, a very beautiful and historic place that in recent years has become a chic resort in spite of the fact that it sits beneath three volcanoes, Pacaya, Fuego and Santiaguito, all of which have sputtered and puffed about ten times in the last century.

I’ve looked into whether Palm Beach has ever twinned with a town before. A great number of communities in Florida have done so – West Palm is twinned with TzHaar City in Israel, for example – but it doesn’t seem that Palm Beach has ever done anything like this.

Becoming a sister city has its upside. School kids write back and forth to their contemporaries in the other town. Sometimes a mayor in one town might visit the other. Keys to the City are exchanged, giant things too large to unlock anything of normal size. And sometimes when you travel, you might go to a sister city and engage with someone there who’s familiar with this exchange. You could exchange gifts, share a meal, pat each other on the back. It could lead to world peace.

In recent years, I’ve thought that Palm Beach ought to twin with one of the Hamptons. Both communities are world-class resorts. People fly down to Palm Beach in the winter and back up to the Hamptons in the summer. In between the seasons, they’ve been known to spend time in New York. It’s a well-worn path from one to the other.

But it’s also true that the Hamptons only recently has risen to the level occupied by Palm Beach since Henry M. Flagler founded it in 1894. Palm Beach was then, as it is now, a destination for only the very wealthy. The Hamptons only recently has gotten to this point. For a long time, it seemed to be competitive with middle-class resorts such as Cape Cod.

Meadow Lane, Southampton
Meadow Lane, SouthamptonBespoke Real Estate

I visited Antigua Guatemala a very long time ago. Dan’s Papers, this was in 1973, was published only in the summertime, so my wife and I would head out to enjoy the world abroad during the winter. We did this for many of those early years.

Hardly anyone lived in Antigua Guatemala back then. And certainly there were no tourists. The day we were there, the Fuego volcano was smoking and sputtering. Layers of dust covered everything, including the beautiful town square. We didn’t stay long.

There was also a very active civil war going on when we were in Guatemala. Rebels had just taken over the Naval Academy on the edge of Guatemala City. And a curfew was in effect. But all that’s another story.

Perhaps the current choice of Antigua Guatemala as a possible sister city was because both Antigua and Palm Beach sit amidst danger. Volcanos and hurricanes can hit at any time. It’s something you live with.

Daytona Beach is a sister city to Bayonne, Aquitaine, in France. Miami has partnered with Nice on the French Riviera, Miami Beach has partnered with Basel, Switzerland and Orlando has partnered with Valladolid, Castilla y Leon in Spain.

As far as the Hamptons goes, so far anyway, no village or town has become a sister city with any other community either domestically or internationally, ever.

But there have been other partnerships. When Joyce Robinson founded the Hamptons International Film Festival, she partnered that organization with the Deauville American Film Festival. And the mayor of Deauville, France, came to visit the Hamptons while the film festival was going on.

On the other hand, there have been attempts to make partnerships with the Hamptons by various other resorts around the world. Recently I saw an article in Travel + Leisure about a string of small beach towns near Punta del Este, Uruguay.

They were promoting themselves as the “Hamptons of South America,” and I suppose there was something that must have sparked that, though I don’t know what. People in the Hamptons just shrugged.

And then I noticed that in 1959, a community in central Florida, far from the ocean, had been created by developers who named the village Royal Palm Beach. What is up with that?

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