Benemérito de las Américas: The Beginning of a Unique Church School in Mexico
In 1957, President David O. McKay instructed Church leaders to investigate creating Church-sponsored schools in Mexico. The vision of Church leaders reached beyond educating the students and focused on training faithful Latter-day Saints that would teach and influence children and youth throughout Latin America. Marion Romney and others assessed the educational needs of Church members in Mexico; membership in the Church reached twenty-five thousand by 1961. They worked to find and purchase land, develop building plans, and select directors for these Church schools. They created a society that had the legal authority to purchase land and run schools in Mexico, since religious organizations could not do so. In 1961, they purchased land north of Mexico City, which became the site of Benemérito de Las Américas, a complex including a junior high, preparatory school, and normal school. The land had been a farm and ranch, and the Church kept it in operation so that students could work and pay for their own schooling. The school educated many thousands of students over forty-nine years, and it became a cultural as well as educational center for Mormons in Mexico. In 2013, the school was converted into a missionary training center for the Church—a change that continues its mission to influence people throughout Latin America.