Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is well known for his carefully crafted all-American image. But the frontrunner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination has a more complicated family history, says Nick Miroff in The Washington Post, with deep and enduring roots south of the border. Here, four little-known details about Romney's "Mexican roots":
1. The Romneys fled the U.S. to Mexico
Mitt Romney's great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, was born in a Mormon colony in Nauvoo, Ill., in 1843. The Mormon church's founder, Joseph Smith, was killed by a mob a year later, and the Romneys and other Mormons fled, following Brigham Young across the Great Plains and the Rockies to settle in the Salt Lake Valley. Like many 19th century Mormons, Miles Park Romney was later hounded by federal marshals enforcing anti-polygamy laws. He had four wives and 30 children, and the 1882 Edmunds Act stripped polygamists of many basic citizenship rights, including the right to vote. Miles Park Romney was jailed once, and his property confiscated. In 1885, he fled south into Mexico, and settled in the Chihuahua desert on the banks of the Piedras Verdes River.
2. Romney's father was born in Mexico
The candidate's late father, two-term Michigan Gov. George Romney, was born in a Mormon colony in Mexico in 1907. George Romney's parents were U.S. citizens, so he was, too. George Romney would later serve as Michigan's governor and U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and ran for president in 1968. Some questioned whether his birth in Mexico made him ineligible for the presidency, but it became irrelevant when Richard Nixon knocked George Romney out of the race with a string of primary victories.
3. And then the Romneys fled back to the U.S.
The Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910, three years after Mitt Romney's father, George, was born. Gaskell Romney — Mitt's grandfather, George's father — put the family on a train for El Paso. When the dust settled, one-third of the Mormons who had left Mexico returned, but Gaskell Romney and his immediate family stayed in the U.S.
4. But some of Romney's relatives still live in Mexico
Three dozen Romneys still live in Colonia Juarez, the Mormon colony in northern Mexico that the candidate's great-grandfather helped establish. They speak English and Spanish with equal fluency. One, a 70-year-old rancher, was once briefly held by a gang of ransom-seeking kidnappers. Most of the Mexican Romneys disagree with their distant relative's hardline stance on illegal immigrants from Mexico, but — even though they have never met him — support his presidential bid, and could vote for Romney via absentee ballot. Because these Mexican Romneys' parents retained U.S. citizenship, they have it, too.