IT IS late November 1932 in busy Mexico City, where more than one million people live. Just a week earlier, traffic lights were installed here for the first time. But people are now excited about something else. Reporters are at the train station with their cameras ready, waiting for a special guest to arrive. Who is it? It is Joseph F. Rutherford, the president of the Watch Tower Society. Local Witnesses are also waiting to welcome Brother Rutherford, who has come to attend their three-day convention.
The Golden Age said: “Beyond question this convention will go down in history as an event of outstanding importance” in the efforts to spread the truth in Mexico. But this was a small convention that only about 150 people attended. Why, then, was it so important?
Before that convention, the truth had not spread very much in Mexico. Since 1919, there had been small assemblies, but after that year the number of congregations had actually decreased. When a branch office opened in Mexico City in 1929, it seemed that the situation would get better, but there were still some obstacles to overcome. The organization had instructed the colporteurs, as pioneers were then called, not to mix business with preaching. One colporteur got so angry about this that he left the truth and created his own Bible study group. Also during this time, the branch overseer had to be replaced because of his wrong conduct. Loyal Witnesses in Mexico needed encouragement.
During his visit, Brother Rutherford encouraged these faithful ones very much with two motivating talks at the convention and five lectures that were broadcast on the radio. It was the first time the brothers used radio stations to spread the good news across Mexico. After the convention, a new branch overseer was appointed to organize the work. The Witnesses were now full of zeal, and with Jehovah’s approval, they continued preaching.
In the next year, 1933, there were two conventions in the country, one in Veracruz and one in Mexico City. The brothers were working hard in the territory, and they were having good results. For example, in 1931, there were 82 publishers. By 1941, there were ten times as many! About 1,000 people came to Mexico City for the 1941 Theocratic Assembly.
“INVASION OF THE STREETS”
In 1943 the Witnesses started to advertise the “Free Nation’s” Theocratic Assembly, which would be held in 12 Mexican cities. * (See footnote.) They did this by wearing sandwich signs. These were made of two large signs that were attached together and worn over the shoulders, with one sign hanging in the front and one in the back. Witnesses had been using such signs to advertise their conventions since 1936.
Advertising with sandwich signs was so successful in Mexico City that the magazine La Nación wrote about the Witnesses attending the assembly: “The first day, they were asked to invite more people. The following day, they had outgrown the venue.” The Catholic Church was not happy about this success, so they opposed the Witnesses. But the brothers and sisters were not afraid. They continued to advertise the convention. Another article in La Nación reported: “The whole city saw them.” It said that the brothers and sisters were “transformed into advertising ‘sandwiches.’” The article also showed a picture of brothers on the streets of Mexico City. Below the picture was the caption: “Invasion of the streets.”
BEDS THAT WERE “SOFTER AND WARMER THAN THE CEMENT FLOOR”
In those years, most Witnesses had to make big sacrifices to attend the few conventions held in Mexico. Many brothers and sisters came from isolated villages that were far away from any train lines or even roads. One congregation wrote, “The only line that passes near this place is a telegraph line.” So delegates had to ride mules or walk for many days just to get to a train that would take them to the convention city.
Most Witnesses were poor and could barely afford to get to the convention. When they got there, many stayed with local Witnesses, who showed them love and hospitality. Others slept in Kingdom Halls. One time, about 90 brothers stayed at the branch, where they slept on boxes of books. The Yearbook said that the brothers were thankful because the boxes were “softer and warmer than the cement floor.”
For those Witnesses, being able to gather with their brothers and sisters was worth any sacrifice. Today, there are more than 850,000 Witnesses in Mexico, and they have the same grateful attitude. * (See footnote.) A report in the 1949 Yearbook said that the sacrifices the brothers had to make did not lessen their zeal for Jehovah’s worship. Each assembly they had was “one of their main topics of conversation for a long time afterward.” The question the brothers asked again and again was, “When are we going to have another assembly?”—From our archives in Central America.