Francisco Olazábal pioneered the Latino/a Pentecostal movement in the United States, Mexico, and Puerto Rico from 1916 to 1937. He was raised a pious Catholic until the age of 12, at which time he and his mother (Refugio Velazquez) were converted to Protestantism through the work of itinerant Methodist preachers in Mazatlán, Mexico. They served lay traveling Methodist evangelists in the Sierra Madre Mountains. After visiting family in San Francisco and considering sailing the world as a merchant marine, Olazábal rededicated his life to the Christian ministry through the preaching of George and Carrie Judd Montgomery around 1902–1903. He later attended the Wesleyan School of Theology in San Luís Potosí, Mexico, for three years (1908–1010). He immigrated to the United States in 1911, where he assumed the pastorate of a Spanish-language Methodist Church in El Paso, Texas. Olazabal then traveled to Moody Bible Institute where he studied for one semester before following American evangelist Reuben A. Torrey to Los Angeles, where he was hired to evangelize the Spanish speaking on behalf of the Church of the Open Door. After he left, Olazabal pastored Spanish-speaking Northern Methodist Episcopal churches in Pasadena and later the San Francisco Bay area. In 1916, he was persuaded by the Montgomerys (who had since converted to Pentecostal-ism after attending the Azusa Street Revival) to convert to Pentecostalism. He was ordained on September 24, 1916, by the General Council of the Assemblies of God and went on to pioneer the work in Los Angeles, El Paso, and throughout Texas. He eventually left the Assemblies of God because (he said) the “gringos have control.” As a result, he created the first completely independent and indigenous Latino/a Pentecostal denomination in the United States in 1923 called the Latin American Council of Christian Churches. Olazabal's Page 410 | Top of Articleevangelistic-healing campaigns attracted 250,000 people throughout the United States, Mexico, and Puerto Rico during his 30-year (1907–1937) ministry. He held major evangelistic-healing campaigns in East Los Angeles, San Fernando, Watts, Modesto (California), Nogales (Arizona), Chicago, El Paso, San Antonio, Brownsville, Houston, Laredo, Mexico City, Cleveland, Tennessee, New York City, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He organized an evangelistic-healing campaign in Spanish Harlem in 1931 that attracted over 100,000 people and another in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1934 that attracted thousands of people to the Pentecostal faith. He founded a Bible college in El Paso in 1922, first published the magazine El Mensajero Cristiano in 1923, and contributed to the origins of at least 14 denominations. At its height, his council claimed 150 churches and 50,000 followers, with missionaries in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central America, Columbia, Chile, and Spain. After his death in 1937 at the age of 51, due to an auto accident, Olazábal's body was displayed in a gas-vapor-filled casket for viewing by tens of thousands of people in Houston, Spanish Harlem, Chicago, El Paso, and East Los Angeles, where he is buried in Evergreen Cemetery not far from William J. Seymour, the African American founder of the global Pentecostal movement.
References and Further Reading
Espinosa, Gastón. “El Azteca: Francisco Olazabal and Latino Pentecostal Charisma, Power, and Faith Healing in the Borderlands.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 67, no. 3 (Fall 1999): 597–616.
Gale Document Number: GALE|CX2446900089