If Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination, he'll not only be the first Mormon to do so: he'll also be the first presidential candidate whose father was born in Mexico.
According to a report by MSNBC, much of the Romney family is still living south of the border, including second cousin Leighton Romney and roughly 40 more relatives whose ancestors were religious pioneers, spreading the Good Word for over 125 years.
Romney's Mexican Heritage
He's got a great pioneer heritage, starting with people that crossed the plains going from Illinois to Utah, and then on from Utah to Mexico, Leighton Romney told Mike Taibbi on Rock Center with Brian Williams.
So there's a great heritage there of people that had to fight for what they believed in, he continued. I think there's a vast amount of experience that he could draw from there.
It's a background that the 64-year-old presidential candidate -- who has called for harsh crackdowns on illegal immigration from Mexico -- has almost never mentioned. With all the focus on his religious beliefs, Romney almost never speaks of his family in Mexico.
The only time he's discussed his Mexican background was in one quotable extract where he described his family fleeing the country to escape religious persecution.
Fleeing U.S. Prosecution
In fact, it was prosecution, not persecution, that drove Romney's great-grandfather Miles from the U.S.
Miles Park Romney led his family south of the border to escape imprisonment for polygamy, which Mormons called plural marriage and which was banned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the late 19th century.
When Mitt Romney's father George (1907-1995) was a small child, the Mexican Revolution broke out, and the family fled Colonia Dublan, a colony in the north, back to the U.S., where his father met future wife Lenore LaFount of Utah. Mitt Romney was born in Michigan. George Romney became CEO of American Motors, governor of Michigan, and, briefly, a 1968 Republican presidential candidate.
'I think it's something to stand up and be proud of.'
Many of the Romneys, however, chose to remain behind, and most of them are dual citizens.
We certainly have a love for both countries, Leighton Romney said. I think that having two countries that you love and two countries that you can serve or be a beneficiary of their service is a great thing.
The Mexican branch of the family is very supportive of their famous relative, and hope Mitt Romney will be more open about his Mormon faith and his Mexican heritage as the race goes on. The GOP candidate has never visited his family across the border, but Leighton Romney feels he and the family have nothing to be ashamed of.
I don't think that any candidate for any office would shy away from their religion, he said. I think it's something to stand up and be proud of.