Omaha’s connection to Carlentini, Italy, created by two Italian brothers and forged over a century of heritage, reached an official level Wednesday.
By virtual connection, the two cities signed a Sister City Friendship Agreement — pledging to build on their long-standing connection with new cultural, civic and business exchanges.
From the Durham Museum on Omaha’s end of the ceremony, Mayor Jean Stothert said a great distance separates the cities but a great friendship connects them.
“You can bring Carlentini to Omaha, and we can bring the city of Omaha to you,” she said.
In the early 1900s, brothers Giuseppe and Sebastiano Salerno came to Omaha from their homeland in Carlentini, Sicily. Upon settling here, they recruited Carlentini residents to a new home in Omaha.
The new Italian immigrants established Omaha’s Little Italy neighborhood just south of the former rail station that’s now the Durham, and created an Italian link that continues in Omaha to this day.
Today, Italians are credited as Omaha’s fourth-largest ethnic group, and two-thirds of that population are said to be descendants of Carlentini immigrants.
In the late afternoon from Carlentini, dignitaries met at the town council chambers and connected with Omaha virtually via Zoom.
Eleonora Formica, president of the Carlentini Omaha Association, said people from both cities have been cooperating incessantly night and day — “especially night” — to formalize the agreement.
Mayor Giuseppe Stefio, sitting in front of Italian and American flags and a “Citta Di Carlentini” sign, cited “our true and unconditional friendship.” He said he looked forward to coming together with Omahans to celebrate in person.