YORKTOWN — History between Yorktown and the French goes way back. Harkening back to the days of General Rochambeau and Marquis de Lafayette, our country owes a debt of gratitude to the French for the decisive victory at Yorktown in 1781. That familial relationship with the French has continued in the unique bond between Yorktown and its sister city, Port-Vendres, a small French Mediterranean fishing village.
How did this come to be?
Yorktown’s relationship with Port-Vendres was made official in 1990, but two cities’ historic ties began during the American Revolution thanks to Rochambeau and Lafayette.
In the 1770s, Port-Vendres built a royal square dedicated to Louis XVI. In it was placed an obelisk with a bronze plaque reading, “Independence of America.” Made with pink and white marble, the obelisk stands 100 feet tall.
The statue honors America and was later classified as a historic monument in 1920.
After determining that the two waterside villages would be international “sisters,” ceremonies were planned to honor this continued friendship.
The first half of the sister city ceremony took place in Williamsburg on April 7, 1990, with trustees, supervisors, the Honorary Consul of France and other notable figures in attendance.
The second half of the ceremony took place in Port-Vendres on July 13, 1990, where Mayor of Port-Vendres Jean-Jacques Vila presented a replica of the Obelisk to Jack Smoot, who was the president of Yorktown’s Board of Trustees.
The replica was made of the same pink and white marble material as the original obelisk.
In turn, Smoot presented a frame of U.S. mementos to Mayor Vila, which included a Yorktown as well as a Statue of Liberty plate.
Yorktown and Port-Vendres actually have many similarities.
Port-Vendres is a small fishing village that markets around 4,000 tons of fish per year and is the most active port in the Roussillon region.
Virginia is the leading East Coast seafood producer, and the third largest in the nation.
A large amount of Virginia’s seafood industry is brought in by York County day boats.
Yorktown and Port-Vendres are also both known for their waterfronts and markets.
In fact, Yorktown Market Days holds an annual Sister Cities French Market to celebrate the spirit of the Saturday market in Port-Vendres.
Student and Citizen Exchanges
Sister Cities Yorktown holds educational and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and France in order to promote global understanding between the two countries.
Students from Port-Vendres and Ceret, France have visited Yorktown for Yorktown Day, which is held on October 19 each year to commemorate the surrender of the British Army to General George Washington. York County high school students have traveled to Port-Vendres and Ceret to attend a French school and to learn foreign language skills.
Citizen exchanges also occur as part of anniversary events between the two countries, forging cultural understandings, friendships and business partnerships.