59 minutes | Jan 20th 2021

Elisa Pulido, "The Spiritual Evolution of Margarito Bautista: Mexican Mormon Evangelizer, Polygamist Dissident, and Utopian Founder, 1878-1961" (Oxford UP, 2020)

The Spiritual Evolution of Margarito Bautista: Mexican Mormon Evangelizer, Polygamist Dissident, and Utopian Founder, 1878-1961 (Oxford University Press, 2020) provides the first full-length biography of a celebrated Latino Mormon leader in the U.S. and Mexico in the early twentieth century. Surprisingly little is known about Bautista's remarkable life, the scope of his work, or the development of his vision. Elisa Eastwood Pulido draws on his letters, books, pamphlets, and unpublished diaries to provide a lens through which to view the convergence of the evangelization efforts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mexican nationalism, and religious improvisation in the U.S. Mexico borderlands.

A successful proselytizer of Mexicans for years, from 1922 onward Bautista came to view the paternalism of the Euro-American leadership of the Church as a barrier to ecclesiastical self-governance by indigenous Latter-day Saints. In 1924, he began his journey away from mainstream Mormonism. By 1946, he had established a completely Mexican-led polygamist utopia in Mexico on the slopes of the volcano Popocateptl, twenty-two kilometers southeast of Mexico City. Here, he preached an alternative Mormonism rooted in Mesoamerican history and culture. Based on his indigenous hermeneutic of Mormon scripture, Bautista proclaimed that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were a chosen race, destined to wrest both political and spiritual authority from the descendants of Euro-American colonists. This book provides an in-depth look at a man still regarded with cultural pride by those Mexican and Mexican American Mormons who remember him as an iconic and revolutionary figure.

David-James Gonzales (DJ) is Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University. He is a historian of migration, urbanization, and social movements in the U.S., and specializes in Latina/o/x politics and social movements. Follow him on Twitter @djgonzoPhD.

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