Juanita García Peraza was born in Hatillo on June 24, 1897, in a Catholic family. Later, she moved to Arecibo where she lived for many years. She had four children from her two marriages. At 42 years of age, while living in Arecibo, doctors diagnosed her with a chronic gastric ulcer, for which she received medical treatment for several years. After a visit from a Pentecostal believer who prayed for her recovery, García Pedraza joined that church. She believed she was healed by divine intervention.
It was believed that she had the gift of receiving prophetic revelations and that the Holy Spirit worked through her. She spoke in tongues. That is how she acquired her new name, Mita, which according to legend means "spirit of life" or "spiritual mother." In 1940, she was expelled from the Pentecostal Church of God and she founded the Congregation Mita in Arecibo, which consisted of eleven followers and her.
In 1943, she founded the Free Church and offered services in the homes of the faithful and, later, in small wooden temples that were rented. In 1947, as the result of personal revelations, Mita made the decision to move to Hato Rey and along with her followers she acquired a house on Duarte Street, where they conducted their religious services. Ten years later, they bought land in Arecibo and a lot on the same street in Hato Rey, on which they built a temple.
Mita not only tried to direct the spiritual life of her followers, but also created an economic and social structure that supported the community. As the congregation grew and stabilized, it acquired more properties in the area that served as the headquarters for the church’s offices. With her guidance and approval, cooperatives and corporations were developed in Hato Rey and Arecibo to provide jobs and services to the community. She also created a Corps of Guards that was in charge of keeping an eye on the Mita community.
Meanwhile, she continued her missionary work, which went beyond the island. In the 1950s, she traveled to the United States, where she founded congregations. Today, there are Mita congregations in Boston, Chicago, Connecticut, Miami, New Jersey, New York and Orlando. In the 1960s, she created others in the Dominican Republic and there are congregations still today in Santiago de Los Caballeros, Santo Domingo, Bonao, Azua, Valverde Mao and Maizal.
Mita’s health began to deteriorate in 1968 and she died on February 21, 1970, due to cerebral thrombosis. After her death, the Congregation Mita was left in the hands of her disciple, Teófilo Vargas Seín, who was known as Aaron. Under Aaron’s direction, the Congregation Mita has expanded to other countries such as Canada, Curacao, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador and Mexico.
These communities have continued their social and economic organizing. Among their organizations providing services to members are the Congregation Mita School, the Paradise Institute and the Office of Social Assistance and Counseling. Mita is a Christian sect whose source of authority comes from the experiences and revelations of Juanita García Peraza.
By the PROE Editorial Group
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 16, 2014.