Updated: Nov 16
The Lions In Sight team conducted a two-day vision clinic in Casas Grandes in late October, 2023. The LIS team members hailed from California to North Carolina, with several members from Missouri.
Casas Grandes, population just over 5,000, is located in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. It’s known for its pre-Columbian archaeological UNESCO site at Paquime.
Day one started off quickly at a gymnasium next to a local baseball stadium. The clinic team, with much help from local Lions Club members, set up the clinic and its stations. Patients were given tickets beforehand for two-hour blocks, which smoothed the process. It was a busy morning with team members new to clinic work learning the process quickly. On day one, 400 patients attended. A Mexican ophthalmologist from Chihuahua joined the clinic to schedule treatments for patients suffering from serious ocular problems.
After the clinic, the team visited the UNESCO ruins at Paquimé. The team arrived late, but the site was held open just long enough to get a quick glimpse of the ruins and a stop at the gift shop.
Our guide was a local retired American, Philip Stover. He served as a theology and history professor, as well as a school district superintendent in the San Diego area. Philip has written several books about the area’s history, especially relating to pottery and Mexican religious affairs. Especially interesting to several of us was the unique Mormon and Mennonite history in the area.
Our next destination was the Mormon colony at nearby Colonia Juárez. Founded in 1886, one of ten such colonies established in northern Chihuahua State after the anti-polygamy Edmunds Act passed in the U.S. in 1882. Although planned before the end of polygamy, many of the colonists continued the practice until the LDS church officially ended the practice in 1904. The town sits in a little side valley at the eastern edge of the Sierra Madre mountains. The plan of the town is familiar to anyone who has traveled to rural Mormon towns throughout the American West.
We visited the top of Romney Hill to see the smallest LDS temple (dedicated in March 1999). The hill is named after the local family who donated the land for the temple. It is the same family related to former Michigan governor and secretary of the US Department of Health and Urban Development, George Romney. He was born in Colonia Dublan next to Nuevas Casas Grandes. His son, Mitt Romney, a U.S. Senator, former Governor of Massachusetts, and 2012 Republican candidate for President. Below the hill is Academia Juárez, a well-known private high school run by the Mormon church.
The team had dinner in Juan Mata Ortiz, a nearby village, at the home of Dr. Stover and his wife, retired expats from San Diego.
Day two of the clinic was much busier with 600 patients. The team had dinner with the mayor of Casas Grandes and local Lions Club members and the next day, headed back to the U.S.
For more details about the clinic trip, click here.