The Spiritual Evolution of Margarito Bautista : Mexican Mormon Evangelizer, Polygamist Dissident, and Utopian Founder, 1878-1961
The Claremont Graduate University
This dissertation uses the life of Mexican Mormon convert Margarito Bautista (1878-1961) as a lens through which to view the convergence of Mormon evangelization, Mexican nationalism, and indigenous religious improvisation in the Mexican/U.S. borderlands during the early twentieth century. It examines issues of race, chosen-ness, national identity, indigenous authority, and Mormon fundamentalism. It argues that Bautista promoted an indigenous re-centering of the spiritual world based on Mormon doctrine and Mexican nationalism, which insisted upon ecclesiastical self-governance for Mexican Mormons, promoted a radical racial exceptionalism for indigenous Mormons, and predicted that indigenous Americans who strictly obeyed God's commands would be able to wrest both political and spiritual authority from the descendants of Euro-American colonizers.
This dissertation retraces Bautista's religious life, from his conversion to Mormonism in Central Mexico in 1901, to his association with Mormon polygamists in northern Mexico in 1903. It follows his twenty-year residency in Salt Lake City, where Bautista was something of a Mexican Mormon Wunderkind, and where he helped to found the first Spanish-speaking unit of the Church. In 1935, when Bautista concluded that the Salt Lake hierarchy no longer supported his ecclesiastical advancement nor the ecclesiastical self-governance for other Mexicans, he began his journey into dissidence. In 1935, he returned permanently to Mexico, where he was excommunicated in 1937 for his involvement in a schismatic movement that insisted on indigenous leadership in the Mormon mission in Mexico. He was shortly thereafter shut out from the schism he helped to foment, due to his pursuit of polygamous wives. Once outside the auspices of the hierarchy of the Mormon Church and the movement he helped to found, Bautista launched his career as religious entrepreneur, establishing Colonia Industrial/Nueva Jerusalén-a utopian society outside Mexico City that practiced plural marriage and the communal ownership of property in 1946. While Bautista clung to early Mormon practices as a means to bring about a millennium where indigenous Americas would lead the world, it was his felt connection with his Aztec roots that enabled him to create a alternative Mormon subculture on both sides of the U.S./Mexican border—one that elevated Mexicanidad and venerated the mystical revelations of Joseph Smith. [From the author]