About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Colonia Industrial Mexicana Nueva Jerusalen

In 1901 a dying Margarito Bautista received some gringo Mormon missionaries in his home in Atlautla, Mexico. After what Bautista described as a miraculous laying on of hands, he was cured of his illness and soon became a Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

What followed his conversion is a rollicking ride of religion and politics. Bautista was pushed of his land in Atlautla by a local cacique, spent time in the Mormon colonies in Chihuahua (this is WAY before the LeBaron people had their colony), fled the Revolution and moved to Arizona, and then settled in Utah. There he helped found a Spanish language congregation before heading back to Mexico. In Mexico, however, Bautista was the convert. He quickly became enamoured of Obregon and Calles - mostly for their anti-clerical positions, and upon his return to Utah, Bautista became a hard core partisan of the Revolution, or at least the Callista approach.

When Bautista wrote a book about native Mexicans being the chosen children of God and gringos being in deep condemnation with same said deity he had a falling out with the LDS church and headed off to Mexico. There, he joined a schism of Mexican Mormons, tried to found a New Tenochtitlan, got excommunicated from the schism he had caused, and retreated to Ozumba, Mexico (at the base of Popo), to found a utopian community: The Colonia Industrial Mexicana Nueva Jerusalen. Like most utopian experiments, it was a train wreck. His resurrection of plural marriage and laws of shared property caused infinite amounts of strife, including disgruntled members that burned down the communal food warehouse and a young wife that simultaneously blackmailed him and cuckolded him.

Nevertheless, Ozumba still plays host to the colonia of just over 1,000 people on the north edge of town who still live plural marriage and trie to share community resources. If you visit Ozumba you will know when you have strayed into Colonia Industrial: the streets are wide, the sidwalks are in great shape, the houses have white picket fences with green grass and fruit orchards around them, there is a milk cow in sheds by the house, and there is a big white temple in the middle of town. Not sure if I have described Colonia Industrial or Colonia Juarez, but both are interesting paths taken by Mormonism in Mexico - one estilo gringo, el otro estilo indigena.

For more, see:

Thomas Murphy, “From Racist Stereotype to Ethnic Identity: Instrumental Uses of Mormon Racial Doctrine,” Ethnohistory ( Summer, 1999)

Thomas Murphy, “’Stronger than Ever’ Remnants of the Third Convention” in The Journal of Latter-day Saint History, Volume 10, 1998

Jason Dormady "Not just a Better Mexico" : Intentional Religious Community and the Mexican State, 1940-1964 (Ph.D. Dissertation, UC Santa Barbara, 2007)

F. Lamond Tullis, The Mormons in Mexico: The Dynamics of Faith and Culture (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1987)

Fernando Gómez, From Darkness in to Light (Mexico City: MHMM, 2005)

Margarito Bautista, La Evolución de México, Sus Verdaderos Progenitores y su Origen: El Destino de América y Europa, 1935

Stuart Parker, Mexico’s Millennial Kingdom of the Lamanites: Margarito Bautista’s Mormon Raza Cósmica (2009 Presentation at the Rocky Mountain Conference on Latin American Studies)

Pictures, Top to bottom: 1) A view of Popo blowing its top in 2004, 2) The Colonia in the late 40s, 3) Bautista and his wife (the teenager), his mother in law (the older woman), and his borther and sister in law (the little kids).

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