- Destiny Yarbro
7 Reasons I Loved Living in the Mormon Colonies
Photo by my mom :)
I was given the opportunity to live in Colonia Juarez for one year and I immediately fell in love with the incredible people and the wonderful town. This post comes from my experiences there, but I am sure those of you who have lived down there can relate.
Most people haven't heard about the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. Back in the day, I hadn't either.
For those of you who don't know how the colonies came to be, you may want to watch this 4 minute video by Ben Nielsen, a Colonia Dublan kid, before continuing to read my post:
There is no way to describe how wonderful the Mormon Colonies are, but I am going to try:
1. The Colonies are BEAUTIFUL.
I remember driving down to Colonia Juarez for my first time. For hours we'd been driving through arid desert - nothing around us as far as I could see. It was definitely Mexico - tienditas popped up here and there and nichos/descansos were dispersed along the road - and a few military checkpoints were a stark reminder of the political tension of the time. Eventually, we made a right and drove along a small road that winds through some hills. Suddenly, as we came over a hill, there was a beautiful lush valley with a river and apple and peach orchards, and a small town, filled with 19th century brick homes. The tiny LDS temple was the obvious focal point, sitting on the most prominent knoll, just above the school that I would be attending. I could not have been more surprised to see this quaint town tucked away in such a barren part of Northern Mexico.
The moment I saw the town, I knew I would love living there. It was small, personal, and quaint. It had a sweet spirit and was home to some of the best memories of my life.
Photos by Jeff Romney, Carl V Larsen, & dailymail.co.uk,
2. Everyone is so welcoming.
My birthday is in September, shortly after the school year begins. Being that I was at a new school, I assumed that most people would not even know I had a birthday. (This was before you could cheat on Facebook.) I went to mutual around the night of my birthday and the young women and young men "kidnapped" me up to the mountains where we barbecued and just hung out around a large bonfire. Yep, that one night convinced me I was one of them and it made all the difference.
Photo from my personal records.
3. Everyone is bilingual - like REALLY bilingual.
I remember sitting at the dinner table with one family who would be going along in English and then hit one word of Spanish and all of a sudden, everyone is speaking in Spanish. At first, it seemed to me that the conversation jerked from one language to the other, but soon I noticed how seamless the transition was. You simply use the word that matches what you're saying best - there is no Spanish or English about it.
Photo from my personal records. Awesome float students made for one of the MANY parades we held.
4. All the teenagers attend Academia Juarez (Juarez Stake Academy).
One of the best parts of my time there was attending Academia Juarez. I played trumpet in the Jazz Band, played Mrs. Pott's in their Beauty and the Beast musical, and accompanied for a variety of other groups. I thrived in my English-speaking classes and struggled in my Spanish-speaking classes. :) My cousin and I performed piano with a full student-orchestra and went on tour. The professors were incredible and SO invested in the students - the entire small community literally raises the children together.
My fellow students were wonderful. It was still high school, so we were all trying to navigate being teenagers together, but so many were welcoming to me when I felt SO out of my element. The group dates, bonfires, dances, parades, random hangouts, and cultural celebrations were a blast! [And can I just say, I have NEVER been to any parties since like the ones we had there - they know how to party down there! :) ]
Photo on skyscraper.com
5. Many LDS church leaders trace their roots to the Colonies.
There is something about the people in the Colonies that makes me want to call them pioneers. In reality, they are most certainly the descendants of pioneers. But even today, there is a level of consecration that comes from years of maintaining and holding this land for a deeper purpose. The Saints had been run out before in the early 1900s and still today find themselves threatened by those wanting to take this oasis of the desert from them. The people in the Colonies are not perfect, but they are consecrated. In my mind, that is why so many church leaders can trace their roots to the Colonies (or have been born there.)
You've probably heard a few of these last names in the Church:
One of my favorite stories about the Colonies that was told in a General Conference talk by Elder Daniel L. Johnson who is from Colonia Juarez. [I used to pass he and his wife running when I went running in the mornings - before he was called.]
6. There is a temple.
President Gordon B. Hinckley authorized the tiny Colonia Juarez temple in Mexico specifically for the Saints down there who had been so faithful but would never get enough members to get a large temple. The best part was that the Saints built the majority of the temple themselves. I remember listening to stories of how the kids going to Juarez Stake Academy would run up to help with temple construction between classes or during lunch. The entire community was involved in building that temple. It was their miracle.
Photo from www.ldschurchtemples.com
7. Everyone is related...and anyone else is treated like family.
Due to the fact that since 1880 there have been a limited number of families in the area, everyone is related to each other. Most attend university, get married in the States and quite a few return back to the Colonies. I came in as someone without roots to the Colonies and yet they welcomed me with open arms.
When I graduated from Academia Juarez, I received letters from most of the sisters in the ward and small gifts from many of the community members. I was emotional as I realized how much they loved me and viewed me as one of their own.
Photo from my files. Dr. Osuna, our music professor and the local doctor.
The Purpose of this Post:
I want to dedicate this post to all the CJ people who welcomed me with open arms and invested in me like they did their own children. In particular, the Taylors who had me in their home nearly every night, the Weiss' for letting me live with them, my Young Women leaders (many of whom were Romney's) who supported me, Aunt Kelly and the cousins for loving me, and Bro. Osuna for giving me opportunities to grow musically. I wish a simple post could communicate the gratitude I feel for all of you. Thank for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Learn more about the Colonies: Click on image to buy on Amazon.
Wikipedia >> (This is NOT an affiliate link.)
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