Meet Mitt Romney’s Mexican Relatives

NPR's John Burnett traveled to Colonia Juarez, Mexico, to explore a side of Romney’s biography that he doesn't stump about. 
Tue January 24, 2012 1:40 am
Flickr | Matthew Reichbach

Mitt Romney can claim being the son of a Mexican immigrant, but he gives this piece of biography wide berth when he's on the trail. NPR's John Burnett traveled to Colonia Juarez, Mexico to meet Mitt's Mexican cousins and explore the side of the candidate's biography that the he doesn't stump about.

Mitt's great grandfather, Miles Park Romney, was among the Mormons the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "quietly sent" to Mexico in the 1880s to practice polygamy out of the reach of U.S. Marshals. (The Mormon church banned plural marriage in 1890 so Utah could become a state.)

In 1912, five-year-old George Romney and his family fled Mexico during the revolution. George, Mitt's father, later went on to become the governor of Michigan, but Mitt still has about forty second cousins living south of the border in a town of one thousand in the Chihuahuan Desert.

"Romney's Mexican relatives live in large, suburban American-style homes; they speak perfect English and hold dual citizenship; they shop in El Paso; and their children attend college in the states," Burnett wrote. (The Mexican Romneys no longer practice polygamy.)

While Mitt has never traveled to Colonia Juarez to meet his cousins, that hasn't dampered their support of him. "I think that if Mitt wins this president of the United States it's because God wants him there," Mitt's cousin, Miles Romney, told Burnett.

Burnett is not the first reporter to make the trek to Colonia Juarez this election cycle. Last July, the Washington Post 's Nick Miroff visited the town, finding this underexplored aspect of Mitt's past to be quite compelling:

The story of Mitt Romney’s family in Mexico is not well known or frequently mentioned by the candidate . . . But the extraordinary lives of Romney’s ancestors, and the current struggles of his relatives against Mexico’s brutal criminal gangs, present a significantly more complex family portrait than the all-American image of Mitt with his wife, Ann, and their five clean-cut sons.

Viewed from the outside, life for Mitt's square-jawed relatives in Colonia Juarez resembles life in suburban Phoenix. (See a slideshow).  But the drug war has upset the family's peaceful lives. A few years ago, Meredith Romney endured a three-day kidnapping ordeal after being snatched from his cattle ranch.

But while Mitt remains mum on his history, enter @MexicanMitt, a parody Twitter account that intends to both highlight and poke fun at Mitt's roots. Since bursting onto Twitter 12 days ago, the "clever, anonymous, devil" behind the account has let forth almost 2,000 satirical tweets. Washington Post columnist Esther Cepeda was amused, dubbing the account hilarious.

MexicanMitt, decked out in mariachi attire -- and what he verified to me through Twitter are authentic, ultra-pointy cowboy boots -- is hilarious. Cursing in broken Spanglish, bidding a ribald "adios" to Jon "Juanito" Huntsman, proudly declaring himself one of the rich "Juan percent," and generally exploiting every Mexican convention you can think of, MexicanMitt has injected some fun into Republican poll speculating.

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