UPDATE 1-Romney's Mexican cousins lament U.S. election loss

Reuters Middle East

* Romney's great-grandfather moved to Mexico in 1880s

* Romney had strong support in Mormon community

* His stance on immigration stance seen as too tough

(Recasts with Romney's defeat)

COLONIA JUAREZ, Mexico, Nov 6 (Reuters) - In a verdant oasis

in the deserts of northern Mexico, Republican challenger Mitt

Romney's Mormon cousins mourned his presidential election defeat

on Tuesday as a lost opportunity to pull the U.S. economy out of

the doldrums.

Romney's relatives in Mexico, whom he has never visited, had

high hopes their clan's most famous son would win the keys to

the White House, create jobs and boost trade.

When the former private-equity executive and Massachusetts

governor conceded defeat to President Barack Obama early on

Wednesday, his Mexican brethren reacted with a mixture of dismay

and stoic resignation, hailing his candidacy as a step forward

for promoting understanding of the Mormon community.

"I'm just feeling very, very sad," said Virginia Romney, who

was born on the same day as Romney in 1947, and is married to

his Mexican second cousin Kent.

"Just to let him slip away from being president of the

United States is a real tragedy for the U.S. because he could

have given the country so much," the 65-year-old added. "He has

been such a success in everything he has done."

The family's Mexican roots go back to Mitt Romney's

great-grandfather Miles P. Romney, who crossed south of the

border in the 1880s, like other early Mormon settlers in Mexico

fleeing U.S. marshals who were seeking to arrest him for

practicing polygamy.

His descendants still live in Mormon enclaves in the state

of Chihuahua about 200 miles (320 km) from the U.S. border and

near where Mitt's father, George Romney, was born. There are

about 300 Mormons left in the area, and dozens called Romney.

Today, Colonia Juarez is a pocket of green fields, manicured

lawns, well-pruned trees and American-style suburban life hemmed

in by mile upon mile of desert waste and scrubland.

Driving down a hill into leafy, ordered surroundings, a gold

statue glimmers atop a white Mormon temple. In the cemetery, the

modest graves of Romneys have simple stone plaques, while

flowers and crosses adorn elaborate Mexican tombs.

Leighton Romney, another of Mitt's Romney's second cousins

in Chihuahua, said the Republican's hopes had been buried

because his party had failed to connect with voters on issues

like immigration and foreign policy.

"As poorly as the economy is doing and as bad a record as

Obama has, in some way the Republicans weren't able to take

advantage of it," said the 53-year-old businessman. "Mitt ran a

good campaign. And he did a lot for his party."

"He also did a lot for his religion. He brought it to the

forefront and hopefully people will be more informed about the

Latter Day Saints church now," added Leighton, who was local

organizer for the successful presidential election bid in July

by Mexico's incoming leader, Enrique Pena Nieto.

IMMIGRATION CRITICISM

Many of Romney's Mexican relatives have built successful

careers as farmers selling fruit and other produce to the United

States, and they were adamant the multi-millionaire Republican

was the best man to turn around the struggling U.S. economy.

His defeat was a loss to the United States, they said.

"In my opinion Barack Obama is not doing the job," said

Michael Romney, 64, vice principal of the school in Colonia

Juarez and Romney's second cousin. "I have three boys and a

daughter in the United States, and their lives are drastically

different after these past four years."

Despite rallying behind the Republican nominee in the

election, the Mexican Romneys were critical of the Republican

line on immigration issues in the United States, arguing that

many Mexicans crossing the border illegally were just acting out

of economic necessity.

Republicans generally back strict controls against illegal

immigration and Romney took a hard line to win his party's

nomination. As candidate, he sought to woo Hispanic voters by

pointing out that his father was Mexican-born, but otherwise

said little about that part of his family history.

George Romney was just 5 years old when the family left the

area in 1912, driven out with others under threat from Pancho

Villa's rebel troops during the Mexican Revolution.

Some went back when things died down, but George Romney's

parents settled in the United States. He became a successful car

executive and Michigan governor, and made his own presidential

bid, failing to win the Republican nomination in 1968.

Mitt Romney's relatives had hoped he would bring to the

White House the pioneer spirit of his forebears, Mormons who

lived in dirt dug-outs and overturned wagons, irrigated a vast

desert to raise herds of cattle and cultivated peach and apple

orchards.

Two of his siblings visited Colonia Juarez several years ago

to see a small wooden train station said to have been built by

his great-grandfather, as well as other Romney landmarks.

The candidate's Mexican connections drew considerable media

interest in the campaign, and some are looking forward to the

spotlight moving away from the quiet little Mormon settlement

again.

"Thankfully, our 15 minutes of fame are now over," said

Leighton Romney. "Now we can get back to our lives and Obama can

realize he has a huge debt to take care of."

(Writing by Dave Graham and Simon Gardner; Editing by Kieran

Murray and Peter Cooney)

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