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A Mexican President of the U.S.?

25 January 2007

With the U.S. Presidential election not until November 2008, there are already a few “foreign” candidates being talked about. Barack Obama, with a Kenyan father and Indonesian step-father, grew up in Indonesia, though he was born in Hawai’i. John McCain was born in Panama (although the “Panama Canal Zone” was U.S. territory at the time).


Bill Richardson ONLY had a Mexican mother (though I believe his father had been born in Nicaragua) … so isn’t that exotic. Richardson, a former congressman, cabinet officer and diplomat, and present Governor of New Mexico, may be the first “Hispanic” to be a serious candidate for U.S. President, but he isn’t the first Mexican.


Richardson was raised in Mexico City, but was born in California. The U.S. consitution requires presidents to be “natural born citizens,” but doesn’t quite spell out what that means. At any rate, Richardson, like Obama, was definitely born in the United States. His mother waited out her pregnancy in Pasadena California because his father wanted to assure that his child was a U.S. citizen (the Richardsons were wealthy New Englanders at base… though whether they were thinking of presidential requirments is doubtful).


There might have been a consititutional question had George Romney been elected in 1968. Romney, a liberal Republican (not a contradiction in terms in his day) had been President of American Motors Corporation (Romney, ahead of his time, introduced compact cars to America), a successful Michigan Governor and a serious contender for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 1968. He had a good record on civil rights, especially admired for making low cost housing available in his state and for promoting racial integration. History might have been very different if he, not Richard Nixon, had been the Republican candidate in 1968.


What destroyed Romney’s candidacy was his admisssion, after a trip to Viet Nam that he had been misled by the media. Unfortunately, he used the word “brainwashed” — leading the “spin meisters” of the time to question his competence and sanity. Romney’s religion (he was a devout Mormon) was also somewhat against him (though, in those far off days, the Republican Party was open to minorities, as long as they were well-heeled minorities… and Romney was a very wealthy man). And… there were lingering questions about his elgibility for the office.


Citizenship was largely a matter of where you lived (and were born) until recently. In Mexico, where the President must have a Mexican-born father, there were questions about Vincente Fox’s elgibility for office, too (Fox’s grandfather was an American, and his father once claimed U.S. citizenship when the large estates were broken up: foreign claims were arbitrated under a different court than the court that heard Mexican claims). And, there is no question that Romney was born in Chihuahua in 1907 and that his parents and grandparents were Mexicans.


The Romneys were (and still are) are leading family in the Mormon religion. The sect, starting in New York State ended up, via Iowa and Missouri, in Utah, then part of Mexico, in 1846. After the Mexican-American War, Utah became part of the United States. Being mostly English-speaking and of northern European heritage, most Mormons adjusted to U.S. culture without much problem. However, in 1852, the Mormon prophet Brigham Young, announced that the sect would accept polygamy. By 1862, the U.S. government had outlawed the sect, attempting to end the practice.


While the sect was again allowed to worship openly in the U.S., Mormons had begun emigrating to Chihuahua where they were allowed to practice their religion – and, coincidentally, Porfirio Diaz was encouraging agricultural settlements. The Romneys were among the leaders of the Colonia Juarez community, which was one of several flourishing Mormon colonies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Borderlands has a good short history of the Mexican Mormon colonies. Notice the importance of the Romneys).


In 1912, President William Howard Taft, after his Ambassador touched off the violent phase of the Mexican Revolution (Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson engineered a coup against the democratic reformer Francisco Madero, which led to the Constitutionalist and Zapatista uprisings against Victoriano Huerta), “ordered” U.S. citizens to leave Mexico. Romney’s parents did, talking young George with them. But, it was Romney’s GRANDPARENTS who’d emigrated, willingly, to Mexico. While citizenship was a lot less formal in the 19th century, it still appears that George’s parents considered themselves Mexican citizens, as did most other Mormons – most of whom stayed in Chihuahua and eventually sided with Pancho Villa, like every other good Mexican in Chihuahua.


My guess is that George Romney today would be a dual national. Romney’s son, Mitt Romney, the former goveror of Massachucetts, is a contender for the Republican nomination for President in 2008. So, I’m wondering if he can, like Richardson, claim to have a Mexican parent. Or, if George really was a Mexican, is Mitt the “anchor baby”?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. hotoffthepress permalink
    26 January 2007 11:12 am

    I founded the WARNING LABELS ON POLITICIANS™ campaign [] and, to date, have prepared “Warning Labels” for Bill Richardson, Mitt Romney and 17 other announced or soon-to-announce candidates. Should I have some of them reprinted in Spanish?

  2. 22 July 2007 7:04 pm

    Your blatant assertion that minorities are not welcome in the GOP is a lie, no more, no less. We also still have an overabundance of liberals, though, of course, liberals tend to be more racist, nowadays, and conservatives never were.

  3. 31 December 2007 10:56 am

    Doug, the GOP is a long-time haven for racism and we all know it. You make yourself seem terribly foolish by calling down up here.

  4. Mr. Rushing permalink
    30 January 2008 7:43 pm

    the republican party is only racist against mexican illegals.


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