The settlers’ descendants, numbering several hundred in all, keep alive a culture that’s always been caught between Mexico and the United States, between the past and the present, between stability and crisis....And disqualified from serving as President of the United States.
The Mexican Revolution played a critical role in the history of the Mormon colonies. Were it not for that 1910 uprising and the years of war that followed, Mitt Romney might have been born in Mexico, and might be living there today raising apples and peaches, as many of his cousins do....
When the first settlers arrived here in the 1870s and ’80s, some were fleeing a U.S. crackdown on polygamy. (The practice ended after a 1904 LDS edict that polygamists would be excommunicated.) They dug canals to channel the flow of the Piedras Verdes River to their crops, though the river’s waters dropped precipitously low afterward. But lore has it that the Lord quickly provided: An earthquake triggered the return of an abundant flow....I wonder if the Romney campaign has a plan to roll out this American-Mexican dimension of the candidate. How should that be done? And are Americans ready at this point to absorb the story of how the government of the United States persecuted the Mormons?
Biographers of the Romney family have pointed to the “indomitable will” of the forebears. But this characteristic, it seems to me, is common to many of the Mormons of the colonies. Their shared determination is one of the things that has allowed a relatively small number of English-speaking people to keep their language and way of life essentially unchanged for more than a century, despite being surrounded by an often hostile Spanish-speaking culture.
Leighton Romney, Mitt Romney’s second cousin, told me he hasn’t met the former governor of Massachusetts. (They have the same great-grandfather, Miles P. Romney, one of the 1885 pioneers.) I met Leighton the next day, on a visit to the fruit cooperative, packing house and export business he runs.
A 53-year-old dual citizen, Leighton has lived in Mexico all his life. Four of his uncles and one aunt served with the U.S. military in World War II. He knows the words to both country’s national anthems. Like people of Latin American descent living in the States, he hasn’t lost his sense of “kinship” to the country of his roots. “We’ve got a lot of similarities to Mexican-Americans,” he said. “We’re American-Mexicans.”