United Mexican States
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With an area covering nearly 2 million square kilometers (762,000 sq miles), Mexico is by far the largest land holder in Central America. And at over 100 million people, Mexico also boasts the largest Central American population. With such a large area Mexico has an incredible diversity of physical features, including western shores on the Pacific Ocean and eastern shores on the Gulf of Mexico. Contrasts in altitude and latitude produce wide climatic variations from the high temperatures on the coast to the cold of the mountains and volcanic cones which can exceed 2,000m (6,000 feet).
For thousands of years advanced civilizations have inhabited the area. Most present day Mexicans are descendant of the Amerindian peoples who lived in the region at the time of the Spanish Conquests of the early sixteenth century. Among the empires were the Aztec, Mayan, Toltec and Olmec. The great Mayan pyramids and other ancient cities are being excavated and give testimony to the great advances made by these people before the advancement of European settlers into the region.
Agriculture occupies about a quarter of the Mexican population with most farmers living by producing maize, beans and squash. Cash crops for export include coffee, cotton and sugarcane. Some meat is exported from the north and with such long coast lines, fishing is also an important export industry. About a fifth of Mexico is forested providing important hardwood for export, as well as chicle, the base for chewing gum. The Gulf of Mexico is the source for oil and Mexico is one of the largest oil exporters in the world, outside of OPEC. Mexico is also the world’s largest producer of silver. Other mineral reserves have yet to be tapped.
With the advent of the Spanish in the early sixteenth century many of the native populations were forced into a system of large scale estates and serfdom that lasted for nearly three hundred years, until abolished in 1829. By 1810 Hidalgo was leading a rebellion against Spain and independence was recognized in 1836. Ten years later, US troops captured Mexico City which resulted in treaty grants of large amounts of territory to the USA. In the 1860s Mexican Monarchists pushed for and briefly re-established a monarchy under Emperor Maximilian, Archduke of Austria and brother of Emperor Franz Joseph. Maximilian was briefly backed by France’s Napoleon III but with the failure of the monarchy Maximilian was executed at Juarez’s orders in 1867. By 1876 Diaz had been established as dictator and began to expand the economy by building railways, developing industry and encouraging foreign investment. Madero overthrew the Diaz government in revolution in 1910-1920. Since 1929 one party, the PRI, has dominated. In the later twentieth century the economy contracted causing a loss of jobs and crises. Today Mexico is a Federal Republic with two legislative chambers, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Perhaps as a result of the Spanish Colonial era the religious scene of Mexico is dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. 93% of Mexicans are Catholic, 4% are Protestant and the remaining 3% represent a milieu of other faith traditions.
The Christian Woman’s Board of Missions began the support of the work of Merritt L. Hoblit in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico in 1895. Others, like Bertha Mason, joined that mission that soon moved to Monterrey. By 1900 the first church was formed with Mexican leadership. Thomas Westrop (1837-1909) and his wife Francesca Barocio (1853-1910) translated hymns into Spanish, began schools, and expanded the mission northward. During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917), American missionaries fled Mexico, leaving evangelists like Felipe Jimenez to lead the Monterrey churches. The CWBM moved their mission to central Mexico by 1919, moving toward indigenization of the work. By the 1960’s Mexican leaders developed a “Revolutionary Plan for Evangelism, resulting in 290 baptisms and a new church in Mexico City. In 1963, the churches formed the Association of Evangelical Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ). Unfortunately, a dispute over property led by 1993 to two groups of Stone-Campbell Christians from this mission heritage, the Fellowship of Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) and the Alliance of Evangelical Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ).
When the CWBM moved their mission to central Mexico in 1919, Enrique Westrup and others continued the Monterrey work as a Direct Support Mission. Later Antonio Medina became a direct support missionary, planting more than a dozen churches. Schools like the Colegio Biblico, founded by Harlan and Francis Cary in 1944, and the Mexican Bible Seminary, founded by Gerald and Geneva Bowlin in 1950, were important in training Mexican ministers. Today churches in Mexico associated with Christian Churches/Churches of Christ number 260 with 14,300 adherents.
Churches of Christ entered Mexico through three attempts at establishing Christian colonies of immigrants from the United States, from 1897-1911. However, successful evangelism began in 1932 when Pedro Rivas returned to Mexico from study at Freed-Hardeman College in Tennessee. Settling in Torreon, he and others started a school of preaching as well as planting churches. Later another school was established at Monterrey. Many from the United States have done short-term mission work in Mexico in addition to long-term mission teams being sent. Today there are over 400 Churches of Christ with over 25,000 members in Mexico.
The International Churches of Christ have 26 congregations in Mexico, including the 3789 member Mexico City Church.
The 1974 World Convention, Mexico City, Mexico
The 9 th World Convention was held in Mexico City, Mexico, July 30 through August 4, 1974 under the theme “Emmanuel-God With US”. Dr. J. Daniel Joyce was the Convention President. Daniel Lopez De Lara served as First Vice President and welcomed the Convention to his home town. At that time Mexico City boasted 24 congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with a total membership of 1,323. A number of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in and around Mexico also participated in the Convention. At that time Convention did not extend to a cappella Churches of Christ. Sessions of the Convention were held in the Maria Isabel Hotel and the National Auditorium. On the opening night the former President of Mexico, His Excellency, Miguel Aleman, brought greetings to the Assembly, as did, U.S. Ambassador Joseph J. Jova. Among the speakers that year were President Daniel Joyce, Walter Bingham, Richard Crabtree, Leander Keck, Mrs. Luis Parrilla, Ron O’Grady, Frank Wood, Ernest Campbell, and others. The Communion Service for that year was a bit different from the typical closing service in that it was held in three services in the Fiesta Palace Hotel Ballroom at 8, 9 and 11. Each time featured different interpretive meditations from different individuals on the themes of The Family of God, The Shameful Divisions in the Family, and The Walls are Crumbling. After which a love offering was taken to be used for the Mexican Churches. An estimate 4,500 people attended the Mexico City World Convention, including 1,000 youth, representing about 30 different countries.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
The Christian Woman’s Board of Missions, 1874-1919, Ida Withers Harrison, privately published, 1919(?). This contains a record of the work done by the CWBM in Mexico.
Survey of Service, compiled by the International Convention of the Disciples of Christ, Christian Board of Publication, St. Louis, Mo., 1928.
The Background, Current Condition and Suggestions, for Future Growth of the Christian Churches in Monterrey, Mexico With Special Reference to the Church Growth Movement, William F. Hoff, unpublished master’s thesis, Cincinnati Christian Seminary, 1983. Used with permission of the author.
The Church Abroad, Lora Banks Harrison, Southern Christian Press, San Antonio, Texas, 1960.
For online directories of a cappella Churches of Christ see:
Though it is located in Eagle Pass, Texas this school is devoted to the evangelization of the Hispanic culture. Supported by Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
264 N Brazos St.
Eagle Pass, Texas 78852
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206 (USA)
For a list of many Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (in the United States) missionaries/ministries see:
Mission Services Association
7545 Hodges Ferry Road, Knoxville, TN ( USA) 37920
Telephone: 1 800 655 8524
Fax: 865 573 5950
Directory of the Ministry
1525 Cherry Road, Springfield, IL ( USA) 62704
Telephone: 217 546 3566
Workers for Mexico is a conference of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ missionaries and their families. Contact Francis Nash, Director
Website: www.workersformexico.org or write to Francis Nash at Box 400, Grayson, KY 41143