Saturday, September 06, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 7

Missionaries Arrive in Galveston as Refugees from Mexican Revolution Sept. 10, 1913

On Sept. 10, 1913 a ship carrying 176 refugees from Vera Cruz and Tampico docked at Galveston. Among those refugees were about 40 Methodist and Presbyterian missionaries. They had been caught up in the revolutionary violence that was engulfing Mexico. The progressive president Francisco Madero had been deposed and killed the previous February. The newly-inaugurated president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, loathed the coup perpetrator Victoranio Huerta and supported his opponent Venustiano Carranza who promised a return to constitutional government. The Methodist school at Guadalajara was stormed by a mob. The borderlands, especially from Brownsville to El Paso became embroiled in the conflict as revolutionaries laid plans and obtained arms on the Texas side of the river.

Mexico had been a favorite Methodist mission field since the early 1870s. . Bishop Keener had taken Alejo Hernandez to Mexico City. Methodists had built schools, most famously in Puebla. Both the MEC and the MECS had conference structures, schools, missionaries, and Mexican preachers. In 1910 the MECS reported 17 missionaries, 63 native Mexican preachers, and 6,400 members. The MECS 1915 roster of missionaries reported 35 for Mexico. Only 14 of those missionaries listed Mexican addresses. The other 21 had come back to the United States—eight to El Paso alone.

The various denominations with missionary interests in Mexico were often confused by events on the ground including President Wilson’s occupation of Vera Cruz, frequent changes of government, and the Constitution of 1917 that severely restricted the civil rights of clergy and the right of churches to operate schools. The measures had been enacted to punish Roman Catholics, but Protestants also fell under the ban.

1914 was a particularly important year. In February of that year MECS missionaries in Mexico were called to Laredo to meet with denominational officials in an attempt to deal with the changing situation. Two months later the General Conference of the MECS created three conferences for Spanish-speaking Methodists. Two of those would be bi-national. The other consisted of of Texas east of the Pecos River. Two months later representatives of eleven denominations with mission interests Mexico met in Cincinnati and issued the “Cincinnati Plan.”

Texas Methodists were in a better position than most to sort through the confusion. Their schools in Laredo and El Paso could continue to serve Mexican children. The Revolution had displaced not just the Protestant missionaries who fled to Galveston, but also thousands of Mexicans who immigrated to Texas to escape the revolutionary turmoil. At least a few of the young immigrants found Methodist schools waiting for them.


Post a Comment

<< Home