Mitt Romney’s father was born in Mexico, but the Republican candidate seldom speaks of his family’s time there. It turns out that some of his extended clan still live south of the border. The Romney’s of Mexico reside in the hills of Casas Grandes (meaning “big houses”) in Chihuahua, about 190 miles from Texas.
Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, was born on July 8, 1907, in a home that’s still standing in the Colonia Dublan community of Casas Grandes. He and fellow Mormons left for the United States before social upheaval tore through Mexico to spark the 1910 Mexican Revolution.
George Romney went on to have an illustrious career in business and politics. He was head of American Motors Company and served as governor of Michigan and a cabinet member for Richard Nixon, the president who as a candidate had defeated George Romney in the 1968 Republican primaries. (His birthplace outside the United States did raise questions about whether he could run for president, although he was generally viewed as eligible.)
Mitt Romney, who stands a chance at becoming the first Mormon president, has sparked criticism for joking that he wished he were really Mexican. While trying to woo a room full of wealthy Republican campaign donors, he suggested that had his father been born of Mexican parents he’d “have a better shot of winning this.” That moment, captured clandestinely on video, was one of the clumsier of very few references to the Romneys’ Mexico years.
He refers to the Mexico chapter of his father’s life in his 2010 book “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.” Yet he only dedicates a short paragraph to that period. In reality he has said and written very little about his family’s Mexican origins. Furthermore, Mexico—and for that matter Latin America overall—has been but a footnote in the 2012 campaign, even as foreign policy stole center stage.
The Romney’s of Mexico say Mitt has never set foot on the land in Mexico that once belonged to his father—one more sign, some say, of his disconnect with the country. “I believe that Mitt Romney does not have a commitment to his roots, because I don’t feel it,” said Mitt’s second cousin Leighton Romney, a Mormon community leader in Colonia Juarez. “He does identify that his father was born in Mexico, but his dad left the country at a young age and was an American citizen.”