United States History: Mormon Polygamists in Mexico Part 3

About the Mormon Church in United States history and the polygamists who fled to Mexico to retain their rights to plural marraiges.

Mormon Polygamists in Mexico

Meanwhile, the Mormon men in the colonias were not having it easy. The rebel looting-or requisitioning-was still going on, and the Mormons were not mountain men or cowboys-they were men who missed family life. This may have been a governing factor in their decision, under Junius Romney, to get out of Mexico. They made this drastic decision despite the advice of Bishop Joseph Bentley in Mexico, and that of A. W. Ivins, the church elder Salt Lake City had sent down to E1 Paso to supervise the relocation of the refugees. Ivins scattered them across Arizona and New Mexico, and some he sent back to Utah.

Once back in the U.S., the colonists did not find life easy. It is painful for men who have owned their own farms and businesses to work as hired hands. Three weeks after the male refugees had arrived in New Mexico on their way to E1 Paso, a band of 35-including both sexes and all ages-decided to return to Colonia Juarez. Others drifted after them, and by 1917 the Mormon colonias were again populated. There were still requisitioning raids, but the Mormons found they could live with them. Not a single case of rape was ever recorded, by the way.

Then, in 1916, came Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, N. Mex., in which 20 Americans were killed. Brig. Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing was ordered to enter Mexico and get Villa dead or alive. But Villa was too elusive to be caught. Pershing, because he paid in good American dollars for supplies, found the Saints so receptive to his troops that when the U.S. finally gave up and called him back across the Border, the Mormons might well have predicted Mexican reprisal. This did occur when General Salazar rode into Colonia Juarez and told the Saints that all their able-bodied men would either join his Mexican army or be shot. He added that they would not only have to fight against the Mexican Federalistas, but also against the U.S. troops in reprisal for Pershing's interference in Mexican can matters.

Bishop Bentley, who had succeeded Junius Romney as stake president, thought over General Salazar's demands and then he made a short speech. Mormons, he said, were peaceful men, who devoted their lives to working and to educating their children. They did not wage war. If Salazar wanted to shoot them for that, let him do so. Bentley was a small man, and quite possibly his spunk tickled Salazar's Mexican sense of humor. At any rate, the last great threat against the colonistas had been avoided.

There were further minor troubles-the windup of the revolution, the depression in the U.S., which deprived the Mexican Mormon polygamists of their markets, and so on-but the colonias have persisted. Today both Mormon boys and girls are usually sent back to the States for college. Brigham Young University and the University of Utah are, of course, favored. But now some of the youngsters complete their education in other States, or even in Mexico City. All are bilingual.

Several of the descendants of the hegira to Mexico have made international names for themselves in the arts and sciences. One, George Romney, was governor of Michigan, and he was considered as a possible Republican candidate for President, despite the fact that he was born in Mexico.

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