IT IS late November 1932 in Mexico City. Just a week earlier, the first electric traffic lights had made an appearance in this bustling city of over one million inhabitants. But now the traffic signals were old news. The city’s reporters have moved on to this week’s event. With cameras ready, they are at the train station, awaiting the arrival of a special guest—Joseph F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society. Local Witnesses are also on hand with a hearty welcome for Brother Rutherford, who has come to attend their three-day national convention.
“Beyond question,” The Golden Age stated, “this convention will go down in history as an event of outstanding importance in the onward march of Truth in the republic of Mexico.” But what made this convention, attended by only about 150 people, so noteworthy?
Before that event, there was little Kingdom fruitage in Mexico. Since 1919, small assemblies were held, but the number of congregations actually decreased in subsequent years. The opening of a branch office in Mexico City in 1929 seemed promising. There were hindrances, however. When instructed to stop mixing commercial business with the preaching work, one resentful colporteur quit and formed his own Bible study group. Meanwhile, the branch overseer engaged in unscriptural conduct and had to be replaced. Loyal Witnesses in Mexico needed a spiritual boost.
During his visit, Brother Rutherford gave these faithful ones great encouragement, delivering two stirring convention talks and five powerful radio lectures. For the first time, Mexican radio stations carried the good news throughout the country. After the convention, a newly appointed branch overseer organized the work, and zealous Witnesses went ahead with renewed strength and with Jehovah’s blessing.
The following year saw not one but two conventions held in the country, one in the port city of Veracruz and one in Mexico City. Hard work in the field began yielding fine results. In 1931 there were 82 publishers. Ten years later, there were ten times as many! Some 1,000 came to Mexico City for the 1941 Theocratic Assembly.
“INVASION OF THE STREETS”
In 1943 the Witnesses put on sandwich signs to advertise the “Free Nation’s” Theocratic Assembly held in 12 Mexican cities. * Two placards were attached at the shoulders and hung, one in front and one behind, an advertising method that had been in use by Witnesses since 1936.
Commenting on the success of the sandwich-sign parade in Mexico City, the magazine La Nación stated: “The first [assembly] day, [the Witnesses] were asked to invite more people. The following day, they had outgrown the venue.” The impact of these parades did not please the Catholic Church, which led a campaign against the Witnesses. Despite opposition, fearless brothers and sisters kept taking to the streets. La Nación also reported: “The whole city saw them . . . men—and women—transformed into advertising ‘sandwiches.’” The article featured a picture of brothers on the streets of Mexico City. Below the picture was the caption: “Invasion of the streets.”
“BEDS SOFTER AND WARMER THAN THE CEMENT FLOOR”
In those years, most Witnesses had to make great personal sacrifices to attend the few conventions held in Mexico. Many delegates came from isolated rural villages, beyond the reach of trains or even roads. One congregation wrote, “The only line that passes near this place is a telegraph line.” Thus, delegates had to ride mules or walk for days just to reach a train that would take them to the convention city.
Most Witnesses were poor, barely able to pay for a one-way trip to the convention. On arriving, many stayed with local Witnesses, who lovingly opened their homes to their brothers. Others slept in Kingdom Halls. On one occasion, about 90 delegates stayed at the branch, where they had “as beds 20 cartons of books apiece, in rows.” The Yearbook account commented that the grateful guests found these “beds softer and warmer than the cement floor.”
For those appreciative Witnesses, gathering in joyful Christian assembly was unquestionably worth all the sacrifices. Today, as the number of publishers in Mexico steadily climbs toward the one million mark, that grateful spirit still prevails. * A 1949 branch report from Mexico stated about the brothers: “The difficult times they have do not dampen their Theocratic spirit because each assembly we have is one of their main topics of conversation for a long time afterward and the question the brethren continually ask is, When are we going to have another assembly?” That report is as true today as it was back then.—From our archives in Central America.