By Jay Levine

MEXICO CITY (CBS) — Rahm Emanuel is making his first international visit as mayor to Mexico City.

The two-day mission inaugurates a sister city partnership, building on the strength of the ethnic and regional similarities both towns share.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that Mexico City is a metropolitan area much like Chicago’s, with a relatively new mayor, confronted by similar issues and perhaps a natural for this new sister city relationship.

With 8 million people in the city and more than 20 million in the metropolitan area, it’s the largest in North America; notorious for its gridlocked traffic, areas of extreme poverty, and violent crime involving drug cartels.

But it’s also a city of great beauty, with grand boulevards and majestic parks. Add in Chicago’s half million Mexican Americans and establishing the most substantive of sister city ties yet, seems to make sense.

“It’s something that is going to be novel, that other cities around the world will actually look to and we will then learn a tremendous amount about how to upgrade and make most of other 28 sister cities into more economic and cultural opportunities for the City of Chicago and for trade,” said Emanuel.

The Mayor will begin his day long mission with a visit to Mexico’s national shrine, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

That will be followed by a meeting with Mexico City mayor Miguel Mancera and then the formal signing of the new sister cities pact, part of the Brookings institution global cities initiative chaired by former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who will be on hand for the event.

Other meetings are being planned but the day ends with a so-called Chicago night dinner hosted by World Business Chicago.

The Mayor will be spending less than 36 hours here before heading back to Chicago where he’ll host a major Chinese delegation early next week as he steps up his effort to sell what he calls the most American of American cities.

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