CASAS GRANDES, Chihuahua -- About 200 miles southwest of El Paso lies a piece of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's personal history.
It's found in his bloodline and his relatives who settled in the small and quiet Mormon community of Colonia Juarez.
The Romneys in this farming town of 1,000 are humble and friendly. And even though they have never met the candidate, they show admiration for their distant relative.
Lynn Romney, Mitt Romney's second cousin, said they may appreciate him more than he does them.
"We know who he is because of TV," Lynn Romney said. "But we have never shaken hands with him."
Though he does not consider himself Hispanic, Mitt Romney has briefly talked about his family roots in Mexico during political speeches and debates.
"In my case, my dad was born in Mexico and I'm proud of my heritage, but he was born of U.S. citizens who were living in Mexico at the time. He was not Hispanic. He never spoke Spanish nor his parents, so I can't claim that honor," Mitt Romney told journalist Jorge Ramos at a forum sponsored by Univision TV-Network last week in Florida.
Mitt Romney's father, George W. Romney, was born in 1907 in Colonia Dublan, in Nuevo Casas Grandes, about 16 miles
north of Colonia Juarez. George W. Romney was only 5 years old when he and his family moved back to the United States.
"But, hey, his family is here," said Casas Grandes City Manager Cesar Dominguez. "He has roots in Colonia Juarez."
The Romneys in Colonia Juarez are prominent farmers and ranchers. They are one of the main peach and apple producers of the region and provide lots of jobs to the community.
"They are greatly appreciated by others here," Dominguez said. "We have a high respect for them."
If Mitt Romney wins the U.S. presidency, maybe he will remember where he comes from and be interested in visiting the area, Dominguez said.
The area was settled by Mormons who escaped U.S. laws against polygamy in the late 1800s. About eight Mormon colonies were built along the valleys of Mexico's northern states of Chihuahua and Sonora.
Among them were Colonia Juarez and Colonia Dublan.
The Mormons here no longer practice polygamy. A church manifesto was written in the early 1900s banning plural marriages.
Mitt Romney's grandparents, Gaskell Romney and Anna Amelia Pratt, lived in Colonia Dublan until the Mexican Revolution. In 1912, revolutionary bandits stole their property and forced them to leave Mexico.
After the exodus of Mormons from Mexico, some of the Romneys decided not to go back, while others returned to rebuild their homes, Lynn Romney said.
"The Romneys from Dublan never came back," said Lynn Romney. "My grandfather, if he ever left, it was just for a couple of months. My father (Rulon Romney) was born here in 1915," he said.
Lynn Romney's grandfather was Miles A. Romney, brother of Mitt's Romney's grandfather, Gaskell Romney.
Gaskell Romney moved to the Eastern U.S., and the families lost contact, Lynn Romney said.
He said Mitt Romney's father never felt the necessity to claim his Mexican roots because he was too little when he left. George W. Romney, who was governor of Michigan, unsuccessfully ran for president and was a member of President Richard M. Nixon's Cabinet. He died in 1995.
While George W. Romney never claimed his Mexican nationality, Lynn Romney, who was born in the U.S., renounced his U.S. citizenship to become a Mexican national.
He was 3 years old when he arrived at Colonia Juarez.
Lynn Romney, 60, said that at the time he did not have the option of getting dual nationality.
"I'm 100 percent Mexican," Lynn Romney said.
Like many other Mexican citizens, Lynn Romney lines up with his family at the U.S. Consulate every 10 years to renew his tourist visa so they can visit their relatives in the U.S.
He is not interested in moving to the United States, he said.
While Mitt Romney keeps being criticized by political opponents for his tough stance on illegal immigration, his relative did not want to speak much about it, afraid that what they say may be used in the rough and tumble politics of the Republican primary.
Lynn Romney believes the U.S. should give temporary work permits to undocumented immigrants to do the work that U.S. citizens do not want to do. However, he does not agree with the proposed Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship through education or military service for some undocumented immigrants who entered the country at a young age.
He said he thinks undocumented students already have many benefits to study in the United States.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney's immigration plan for self-deportation and the fact that he has roots in Mexico have put the Romneys in Colonia Juarez in the spotlight.
Casas Grandes was mostly known for Paquime, an archaeological site that dates back to A.D. 700.
But since Mitt Romney announced his candidacy last year, journalists from all over Mexico and the United States have visited the town every week looking for the Romneys, Dominguez said.
The attention surrounding the Romneys in Colonia Juarez is to some extent "natural," Dominguez said.
"It's beneficial in the sense that many people now know where Colonia Juarez is," he said. "They now can tell Colonia Juarez is in the state of Chihuahua and is part of the municipality of Casas Grandes."
Dominguez said the Romneys have told city officials the family is not comfortable talking about their relationship with Mitt Romney.
They do not want to hurt his candidacy with their comments, and they do not like to be the point of attention at times when violence in Mexico is continually a matter of concern, Dominguez said.
Meredith Romney, another of Mitt Romney's second cousins and former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in Colonia Juarez, was kidnapped in 2009. He was released unharmed.
Many Mormons of American descent have fled the town since the drug violence began about four years ago, Dominguez said. Now Colonia Juarez has about 50 Anglo Mormon households, he said.
For their part, local government officials expect more people to visit the area if Mitt Romney is elected president. So far, the influx of tourism has not been affected, Dominguez said.
Besides the archeological site and its museum, the Mormon Temple in Colonia Juarez attracts people to the area, he said.
The Colonia Juarez Temple was built in 1999.
The white marble building sits at the top of a hill that over looks the colony.
"It's a beautiful temple that attracts a lot of people. And if Mitt Romney wins, I'm sure we will have more visitors," Dominguez said.
Another feature of the town is the Academia Juarez, or Juarez Stake Academy, which was founded in 1897.
Assistant Principal Alan Aragon said the academy is unique in Mexico because of its dual-language program. Teachers and students there speak fluent English and Spanish. There are 480 high-school students enrolled in school.
The institution is also unique in that students are able to take the ACT college entrance exam and compete in sports against schools in Arizona, Texas and other parts of the United States.
Many students attend American universities after they graduate from the academy.
Aragon, who attended the academy during the mid-1860s, said it is because of Academia Juarez that other people have learned about Colonia Juarez people and culture.