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Records of YMCA international work in Mexico

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-56


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, pamphlets, maps, journal and newspaper articles and other records documenting YMCA international work in Mexico. Much of the collection discusses the attempt to develop different YMCAs throughout the country, including such locations as Mexico City, Monterrey, Torreon, Tijuana, Chihuahua and Cuauhtemoc. Also mentioned are the impediments to the development process in Mexico, such as financial difficulties, loss of property and National conflicts including the 1911 Mexican Revolution and the Mexican Civil War which followed. Correspondents within this collection include George Ira Babcock, Walter Clyde Taylor, Enrique Carlos Aguirre, Richard Williamson, Taylor Reedy and A. Hugo Grassi, among others.

A major portion of the collection discusses two major YMCA-related events that halted Mexico City YMCA's work for short periods of time. The "Tragedy of 1933" and the "Mexico City Crisis of 1948," were both instances that involved labor strikes at the Mexican City YMCA, as well as lawsuits and YMCA building closures. Discussion of Mexican YMCA policies during these times occurs in great detail throughout the correspondence within this section of the collection. This material includes records of the First Mexican National Convention, where Mexican YMCA policies, such as the Mexico membership basis, were discussed and changed. The First National Convention is also where the Mexican Federation of YMCAs was developed.

Another large portion of the collection concerns building projects. The YMCA Buildings for Brotherhood Program is discussed throughout the Chihuahua YMCA area especially. Development within the Mexican YMCA mentioned within this collection also includes the Mariano Matamoros Community Development Center in Tijuana and the Camohmila Camp and Rural Reconstruction Center. References to various management training programs such as the IEPATL (Instituto de Estudios Profesionales para la Administracion del Tiempo Libre) and the Mexican YMCA National Training Institute are also made throughout the collection.


  • 1889-1992.


Language of Materials


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The origins of the YMCA in Mexico date back to 1891, when the North American YMCA's International Committee sent George N. Taylor to Mexico City for a preliminary survey. He became the general secretary of a Christian society of young British men living in Mexico. Taylor died in 1893 and his successor resigned after a few months in office. In the mid 1890s, Edward P. Gaston, a local American businessman, became general secretary. He freed the society of debt, improved the gymnasium, enlisted the support of prominent government officials and increased Mexican membership.

In 1902 the North American International Committee sent George I. Babcock to Mexico City. He found the earlier organization practically extinct. Babcock inaugurated an English speaking YMCA and within six months it had over 500 members. In 1904 a Spanish speaking branch was formed and in 1910 the two branches were brought together into one building. A third branch was opened in Monterey in 1905. Within the first year in Monterey, YMCA membership expanded significantly and native Mexican membership increased from two people to over forty. Also in 1905, the Chihuahua YMCA was founded by its first secretary general, William George Coxhead. In 1910 revolution broke out in the state of Chihuahua, and spread to the surrounding states. Chihuahua YMCA work was closed for over a year but eventually reopened with the assistance of the International Committee.

The Mexican revolution spread throughout the country and became a civil war lasting for a decade. Activities within the YMCA in Mexico were maintained, but with difficulty. In 1913 the YMCA building in Mexico City was partially destroyed during the city's bombardment. Membership was reduced by a fourth after the occupation of Vera Cruz by United States troops in 1914. Reconstruction was needed for the cities ravaged by war, banks were closed and money had no fixed value. By 1915, however, the YMCA in Mexico City's doors were consistently open, and multiple new locations were identified as ripe for YMCA activity.

Student work emerged as a priority. The student department of the Mexico City YMCA was reorganized in order to enable students to find lectures, conferences, personal interviews, hospital visits, committee work, moral and educational programs and entertainment. These activities were meant to form the character of the student, help them to develop good habits, enable their spirit of service and unfold their moral personality, which, it was thought, may have been neglected due to years of war.

In 1920 the Mexican YMCA's membership basis was called into question. The first national convention was held in 1921 with delegates from Mexico City, Chihuahua, Monterrey and Tampico in attendance. A Mexican National Committee was formed and the YMCA membership requirement was changed to include people with a personal declaration of faith rather than requiring an active membership in the Evangelical Church. The Mexican membership basis also required that not more than one third of the board of directors of an association could belong to any one denomination and that not more than a third could be non-church members. The recruitment and preparation of Mexican leadership was also stressed. Although some students were sent to the YMCA college in Springfield, Massachusetts, a training school was established in Mexico City to fulfill this need.

The depression of the 1930s brought grave problems to the Mexican YMCAs. The training school was closed, and in 1931 the Monterey secretary, E. J. Simonds, was recalled by the International Committee. The Tampico Y was discontinued and the YMCAs in Monterey and Chihuahua were threatened as well, due to the lack of expected external support. By 1933, Walter C. Taylor, Secretary General for the Mexico City YMCA, was the only secretary sent by the North American International Committee still working in Mexico.

In 1934, a labor strike forced the Mexico City YMCA to cease all operations. The Mexico City building was put up for sale and Taylor's suggested program, which entailed concentration on physical work at an outdoor site, the purchase of a camp and a modest building near the center of the city for the development of social, educational and spiritual features for those really interested, was approved. In April, 1935 the strike was settled by arbitration, the sale of the building was canceled, and Taylor's program was given up. The camp site, in Camohmila, and a ten-acre recreation center called Charles B. Williams, in the heart of the industrial district of Mexico City were, however, both actualized. The Y's Men's Club, known locally as the Axis Club was responsible for obtaining the camp site. In 1941 the camp in Camohmila also became a center for rural reconstruction.This program was intended to stimulate interest and enthusiasm to the general YMCA program and teach the surrounding communities how to raise beneficial crops.

Walter C. Taylor retired in 1946 and Taylor Reedy, sent in 1944, succeeded him. The Mexico City YMCA was involved in another crisis in the year 1948 when a rebellious movement among discontented YMCA members caused a suspension of services. Athreatened labor strike among employees was averted by an increase in wages, which in turn forced the raising of membership fees in order to balance the operating budget. This conflict came to a head in the 1950s when it became increasingly difficult to raise funds from the public to balance the budget. A new building was proposed, with funding to come from the sale of the old one and through a public campaign to raise the additional amount that was needed. Negotiations of the sale were kept secret and rumors began to circulate through the press that the board of directors and the general secretary would profit from the sale. The issue rose to national significance when the YMCA was accused of being a tool for the United States government. Many members claimed that through their paying of dues they had rights to the building and proposed to seize it. To avoid violence, the board of directors closed the building, but several hundred members broke in, elected their own board of directors and for several weeks operated it. The original YMCA organization went to the courts and obtained a decision in its favor and took possession of the building. The sale of the building was completed, erection of the new building was begun and the public opinion towards the YMCA improved.

The Chihuahua building was taken from the association during the 1950s. The Chihuahua YMCA Building project, supported in part by Buildings for Brotherhood, was implemented to assist with the funding of a new building. After beginning a new phase of their construction program, the Chihuahua Y reached a new high in its membership and as of September of 1968 had 1,300 members. The Torreon YMCA, a branch of the Mexico City YMCA, also grew and expanded its field of activities. In the 1960s they developed an age group swim team which competed in national swimming championships and worked to raise building funds for the construction of a gymnasium. In May of 1968 an association in Cuauhtemoc was also opened. Within their first year they reported over 500 members.

In the late 1960s the YMCA of Mexico City opened a new training institute for YMCA secretaries. The IEPATL or Instituto de Estudios Profesionales para la Administracion del Tiempo Libre in the downtown Mexico City YMCA developed a course of studies aimed at Mexican YMCA professional training and the training of professional community workers for other private or governmental agencies. The director of the IEPATL sought the assistance of Springfield College in collaborating and sharing of community development and leadership training techniques. This joint effort became an invaluable asset to North American YMCAs in that the growing hispanic population in the United States could be better served by professionals trained to be culturally sensitive to a common Hispanic heritage.

In the 1980s the Mexican YMCA National Training Institute expanded to include a program sponsored by the Levi Strauss Foundation based around the strengthening of management skills. In 1989, in order to strengthen and reaffirm the principles and inter-movement cooperation guidelines, the International Division of the YMCA of the USA (USID) and the Mexican Federation of YMCAs (Mex. Fed.) reaffirmed an agreement between their movements that secured a mutually beneficial relationship. In 1992 the Tijuana YMCA became owner of its land, the construction of a Community Development Center was completed, and a full-service YMCA facility and headquarters were under construction in the community of Jardines De La Mesa. A university YMCA was also founded in the year 2000. As of 2012 the Mexican Federation of YMCAs maintained membership in both the World Alliance of YMCAs and the Latin America and Caribbean Alliance of YMCAs.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Mexico along with their dates of service:

Aguirre, Enrique C. (1916-1917) Lines, Ira Raymond (1922-1925)
Babcock, George Ira (1902-1915) Mackay, John Alexander (1930-1932)
Badley, Thomas W. (1963) McLean, Willis W. (1908-1912)
Bowe, Vernon P. (1908) Moench, W. G. (1918-1920)
Chaffee, Herbert Watson (1905-1909) Munger, I. Edwin (1893-1894)
Churley, Arthur William (1908-1916) Murray, John M. (1915-1916)
Coats, Albert James (1907-1909) Musil, Ronald J. (1965-1966)
Cockrell, Frank Parson (1917-1919) Philips, Wendell Edgar (1916-1921)
Coxhead, William George (1905-1914) Reedy, Taylor (1944-1958)
Custer, Irvin Dallas (1921-1923) Sawhill, Arthur Campbell (1922-1924)
Davies, Conley M. (1946-1951) Secrest, Edgar Lee (1921-1923)
Foster, Paul Clark (1905-1906) Simet, Patricia Agnes (1968-1970)
Garcia, Ernesto Benito (1911-1913) Simonds, Everett James (1930-1932)
Gaston, Edward Page (1894-1895?) Smith, Horace Walter (1919-1920)
Gonzales, Carlos (1964-1965) Stewart, Alfred A. (1910-1916, 1918-1921)
Goodwin, Harold Seth (1955-1960, 1962-1972) Taylor, George N. (1892-1893)
Hatch, Duane Spencer (1937-1948) Taylor, Walter Clyde (1916-1946)
Hatch, Ira Ashton (1947-1948) Turner, Augustine Elmer (1905-1915)
Hauter, Joseph Elmer (1906-1909) Underwood, Herbert George (1922-1925)
Holmes, Percy Kendal (1910-1912) Van Voorhis, Thomas (1921-1922)
Houghton, Frances M. (1970-1974) Veale, William James (1920-1921)
Humphrey, Arthur Andral (1916-1918) Walters, Marshall Leroy (1953-1954)
Jensen, Daniel (1925-1930) Warner, John Howell (1928-1931)
Kelsey, William Irving (1930) Welch, Dwight Otis (1958-1960)
Kohl, Leo Henry (1925-1927) Whittaker, Frederick N. (1907-1913)
LaRosa, Peter (1970) Williamson, Richard (1903-1934)
Lewis, Robert Lynox (1948-1958)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted formWorld Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and Canada, (New York: Association Press, 1957) by Kenneth Scott Latourette; from "YMCA Mexico" (, 2012; retrieved August 22, 2012); and from the collection.


8.1 Cubic Feet (22 boxes)


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, pamphlets, maps, journal and newspaper articles and other records documenting YMCA international work in Mexico, especially Mexico City, Monterrey, Torreon, Tijuana, Chihuahua and Cuauhtemoc. Also mentioned are the impediments to the development process in Mexico, such as financial difficulties, labor conflicts, loss of property and National conflicts including the 1911 Mexican Revolution and the Mexican Civil War which followed.


Additional information on and papers of many of the YMCA secretaries who served in Mexico (see names listed in the historical sketch above) can be found in the YMCA Biographical Files (Y.USA.12) at the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, February 2009, as collection FP012. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 9972608640001701

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Melanie Doherty and Lara Friedman-Shedlov.
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Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area