There are three exciting events happening in El Paso, Texas this summer, July 28, 2012. A little over a year ago I found myself thinking about the impending 100th anniversary of what has become known as the Mormon Exodus in 1912 which saw several thousand Euro-American Mormons from northern Mexico colonies leave their homes and take a train first to El Paso (where some remained) and then on to other areas of the country in response to their concern for their personal safety during the Mexican Revolution. Though some returned shortly after (and two of these colonies remain to the present), for the families of many such as George Romney (Mitt’s father), this migration represented the end of a decades-old sojourn in Mexico.
Through a series of circumstances, I found out that BYU Professor of Religion Fred Woods had been thinking along the same lines. He formed a plan and with the support of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and other groups and individuals, Fred has organized what is sure to be an excellent evening event to mark the occasion. In addition, Fred has taken the lead in filming for a 30 minute documentary about the Exodus which will premier during the evening commemoration. President Henry B. Eyring, a descendant of Mormon colonists, is among the many descendants and scholars interviewed for the documentary. Finally, through the kind cooperation of the El Paso Museum of History, a small exhibit on the Colonies and the Exodus has been planned and the ribbon cutting will occur the morning of the 28th.
Not wanting to let the opportunity pass, I organized an academic conference on the same day which will draw scholars from around the country to discuss Mormonism in Latin America and the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. I’m pleased with how the program is taking shape and I hope it will serve to bring attention to an area of Mormon history (just one of many) that deserves greater focus. So, here is the tentative schedule and description of everything going on July 28, 2012 in El Paso:
1) Ribbon Cutting for the museum exhibit entitled: Finding Refuge in El Paso
El Paso Museum of History
510 N. Santa Fe Street El Paso, TX
2) Conference on Mormonism in Latin America and the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
El Paso Public Library Auditorium (Just next door to the El Paso Museum of History)
501 N. Oregon El Paso, TX
12:00-1:30 Break for Lunch
Presenters and Working Paper Titles/Topics:
Fred Woods- Finding Refuge in El Paso: the 1912 Mormon Exodus from Mexico
Mike Mullen- The History of Mormons in El Paso after the Exodus
Mike Landon- Fruits of the Mormon Exodus: The History of the El Paso Douglas Street Chapel
Daniel Herman- The Mormon Legacy of Arizona’s Rim County War
John Glasier- Accommodating the Voice, Struggle, and Identity of US Latinos within Latter Day Saintism’s Larger Narrative: Exploring the Community of Christ’s Experience
Barbara Morgan- Academia Juarez and Bilingual Education in Mexico
Ed Jeter- The Central States Mission: A Transnational, Mormon Space, 1885-1915
Barbara Jones Brown- ‘A Very Pitiable Sight’: Mexican Revolution, Mormon Exodus, and the Break-up of Polygamous Families
Cathy Ellis- A Miner’s Wife: Roberta Flake Clayton in Mexico and El Paso
Mark Grover- Zion, Lamanites, Outposts, and Converts: The Image of Latin America in the Church
Leticia Alvarado- Brown Mormonisms: Empowered Ambivalent Belonging
3) Finding Refuge in El Paso: A Centennial Commemoration of the 1912 Mormon Exodus from Mexico
In 1912, in response to events of the Mexican Revolution, approximately 4,500 Mormons left their homes in several colonies in northern Chihuahua and Sonora, initially seeking refuge in El Paso. This commemorative event will focus on their journey and the role El Pasonans played in offering them assistance. El Paso mayor John Cook, Fort Bliss commander Major General Dana Pitard, and other city dignitaries will participate in the program, which will also include remarks from Richard E. Turley Jr., a descendant of Mormon colonists and the assistant historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The program will also feature the premier of a 30 minute historical documentary about the exodus, remarks by BYU professor Fred E. Woods about the making of the film, entertainment by the Fort Bliss Band and a Latter-day Saint combined choir as well as light refreshments. The event is free and open to the public.
Finally, for hotel accommodations, I recommend the Double Tree by Hilton which is across the street from both the Library and the Museum and just a few blocks from the Union Depot. This location also features a free airport shuttle. You can arrange for an airport pick up upon arrival and it runs from the hotel to the airport every hour on the hour. I strongly encourage any looking to make reservations to do so soon.
Double Tree by Hilton
600 N. El Paso Street
El Paso, Texas 79901