Note: English language version of AZMEX POLICY Depending on what
happens later this year, might be significant info.
La familia Romney: GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's relatives
hope to meet him someday
by Aileen B. Flores \ El Paso Times
Posted: 01/29/2012 12:00:00 AM MST
CASAS GRANDES, CHIHUAHUA -- About 200 miles southwest of El Paso lies
a piece of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's
It's found in his bloodline and his relatives who settled in the
small and quiet Mormon community of Colonia Juárez.
The Romneys in this farming town of 1,000 are humble and friendly.
And even though they have never met the candidate, they show
admiration for their distant relative.
Lynn Romney, Mitt Romney's second cousin, said they may appreciate
him more than he does them. "We know who he is because of TV," Lynn
Romney said. "But we have never shaken hands with him."
Though he does not consider himself Hispanic, Mitt Romney has briefly
talked about his family roots in Mexico during political speeches and
"In my case, my dad was born in Mexico and I'm proud of my heritage,
but he was born of U.S. citizens who were living in Mexico at the
time. He was not Hispanic. He never spoke Spanish nor his parents, so
I can't claim that honor," Mitt Romney told journalist Jorge Ramos at
a forum sponsored by Univision TV-Network last week in Florida.
Mitt Romney's father, George W. Romney, was born in 1907 in Colonia
Dublán, in Nuevo Casas Grandes, about 16 miles north of Colonia
Juárez. George W. Romney was only 5 years old when he and his family
moved back to the United States.
"But, hey, his family is here," said Casas Grandes City Manager Cesar
Domínguez. "He has roots in Colonia Juárez."
The Romneys in Colonia Juárez are prominent farmers and ranchers.
They are one of the main peach and apple producers of the region and
provide lots of jobs to the community.
"They are greatly appreciated by others here," Domínguez said. "We
have a high respect for them."
If Mitt Romney wins the U.S. presidency, maybe he will remember where
he comes from and be interested in visiting the area, Domínguez said.
The area was settled by Mormons who escaped U.S. laws against
polygamy in the late 1800s. About eight Mormon colonies were built
along the valleys of Mexico's northern states of Chihuahua and Sonora.
Among them were Colonia Juárez and Colonia Dublán.
The Mormons here no longer practice polygamy. A church manifesto was
written in the early 1900s banning plural marriages.
Mitt Romney's grandparents, Gaskell Romney and Anna Amelia Pratt,
lived in Colonia Dublán until the Mexican Revolution. In 1912,
revolutionary bandits stole their property and forced them to leave
After the exodus of Mormons from Mexico, some of the Romneys decided
not to go back, while others returned to rebuild their homes, Lynn
"The Romneys from Dublán never came back," said Lynn Romney. "My
grandfather, if he ever left, it was just for a couple of months. My
father (Rulon Romney) was born here in 1915," he said.
Lynn Romney's grandfather was Miles A. Romney, brother of Mitt's
Romney's grandfather, Gaskell Romney.
Gaskell Romney moved to the Eastern U.S., and the families lost
contact, Lynn Romney said.
He said Mitt Romney's father never felt the necessity to claim his
Mexican roots because he was too little when he left. George W.
Romney, who was governor of Michigan, unsuccessfully ran for
president and was a member of President Richard M. Nixon's Cabinet.
He died in 1995.
While George W. Romney never claimed his Mexican nationality, Lynn
Romney, who was born in the U.S., renounced his U.S. citizenship to
become a Mexican national.
He was 3 years old when he arrived at Colonia Juárez.
Lynn Romney, 60, said that at the time he did not have the option of
getting dual nationality.
"I'm 100 percent Mexican," Lynn Romney said.
Like many other Mexican citizens, Lynn Romney lines up with his
family at the U.S. Consulate every 10 years to renew his tourist visa
so they can visit their relatives in the U.S.
He is not interested in moving to the United States, he said.
While Mitt Romney keeps being criticized by political opponents for
his tough stance on illegal immigration, his relative did not want to
speak much about it, afraid that what they say may be used in the
rough and tumble politics of the Republican primary.
Lynn Romney believes the U.S. should give temporary work permits to
undocumented immigrants to do the work that U.S. citizens do not want
to do. However, he does not agree with the proposed Dream Act, which
provides a path to citizenship through education or military service
for some undocumented immigrants who entered the country at a young age.
He said he thinks undocumented students already have many benefits to
study in the United States.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney's immigration plan for self-deportation and
the fact that he has roots in Mexico have put the Romneys in Colonia
Juárez in the spotlight.
Casas Grandes was mostly known for Paquimé, an archaeological site
that dates back to A.D. 700.
But since Mitt Romney announced his candidacy last year, journalists
from all over Mexico and the United States have visited the town
every week looking for the Romneys, Domínguez said.
The attention surrounding the Romneys in Colonia Juárez is to some
extent "natural," Domínguez said.
"It's beneficial in the sense that many people now know where Colonia
Juárez is," he said. "They now can tell Colonia Juárez is in the
state of Chihuahua and is part of the municipality of Casas Grandes."
Domínguez said the Romneys have told city officials the family is not
comfortable talking about their relationship with Mitt Romney.
They do not want to hurt his candidacy with their comments, and they
do not like to be the point of attention at times when violence in
Mexico is continually a matter of concern, Domínguez said.
Meredith Romney, another of Mitt Romney's second cousins and former
president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple
in Colonia Juárez, was kidnapped in 2009. He was released unharmed.
Many Mormons of American descent have fled the town since the drug
violence began about four years ago, Domínguez said. Now Colonia
Juárez has about 50 Anglo Mormon households, he said.
For their part, local government officials expect more people to
visit the area if Mitt Romney is elected president. So far, the
influx of tourism has not been affected, Domínguez said.
Besides the archeological site and its museum, the Mormon Temple in
Colonia Juárez attracts people to the area, he said.
The Colonia Juárez Temple was built in 1999.
The white marble building sits at the top of a hill that over looks
"It's a beautiful temple that attracts a lot of people. And if Mitt
Romney wins, I'm sure we will have more visitors," Domínguez said.
Another feature of the town is the Academia Juárez, or Juárez Stake
Academy, which was founded in 1897.
Assistant Principal Alan Aragon said the academy is unique in Mexico
because of its dual-language program. Teachers and students there
speak fluent English and Spanish. There are 480 high-school students
enrolled in school.
The institution is also unique in that students are able to take the
ACT college entrance exam and compete in sports against schools in
Arizona, Texas and other parts of the United States.
Many students attend American universities after they graduate from
Aragon, who attended the academy during the mid-1860s, said it is
because of Academia Juárez that other people have learned about
Colonia Juárez people and culture.
Aileen B. Flores may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org;546-6362.