Settlements in Mexico
New settlements were common under the direction of early Church leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Immigrating to the Salt Lake Valley provided a place of refuge from religious persecution the Saints experienced in the Midwest. The pioneer colonies in Mexico came as a result of persecution from the United States for the practice of polygamy. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also saw colonization as a window for teaching the gospel in Latin America.
In 1875, Brigham Young sent Daniel W. Jones and others to look for possible locations to settle in Mexico. The Mexican government welcomed colonization of the areas of northern Chihuahua and Sonora, roughly 200 miles from El Paso, Texas. But Church leaders were concerned about the danger of Apache raiders in the area. It wasn’t until 1882 when the Edmunds Act was passed that members of the Church who practiced plural marriage faced imprisonment, and prepared to take their families across the border. Brigham Young had died in 1880 and John Taylor was now president of the Church.
In 1885, Taylor purchased 100,000 acres of land in Mexico and over the following years over 350 Latter-day Saint families began to settle into seven colonies near the Casas Grandes River and its tributaries: Colonia Juarez, Colonia Dublan, Colonia Diaz, Cave Valley, Pacheco, Garcia, and Chuichupa. Colonia Oaxaca and Colonia Morelos in northern Sonora were also established. In addition to planting orchards, settlers built canals, dams, man-made lakes, and irrigated their crops. They also cared for cattle, sheep, and horses.
- Thriving villages had wide streets lined with maple trees and lilacs and red-brick homes reminiscent of villages where many of the settlers had had their roots. There were stores, mills, and factories. Each community built schools to ensure the acquisition of cultural, literary, and technical skills. Through hard work, the colonists achieved a high degree of self-sufficiency.
Because of the political unrest leading up to the Mexican Revolution of 1912, members abandoned the colonies for safety in the United States. Approximately only one-fourth of the approximately 4,000 people returned.
Many of the colonies survived after the Revolution. Economic pressures slowly diminished the populations of the mountain colonies and by the 1960s, most Mormon colonists lived in Colonia Juarez or Colonia Dublan. Latter-day growth of the Church has also come to the colonies.
In 1999, the Colonia Juarez Chihuahua Mexico Temple was dedicated. It was one of the first smaller temples constructed by the Church and remains the smallest operating temple. The Academia Juarez, which was built in 1897, still exists and is owned by the Church.