Hopelchen Old Colony Mennos

I spent a few interesting days with the Sommerfeld and Old Colony Mennonites that live in the colonies around Hopelchen. They were friendly, if a bit shy and guarded. It’s a relatively new area for the Mennonites, the first colonies were started about 28 years ago, and there are still new colonies being started today. They are not nearly as rich as the Mennonites in the north, and in general are far more conservative. The Mennonites here don’t have as many confrontations with the Mexicans as is the case in the north, but there’s still some tension caused by the rather destructive and land-depleting farming practices of the Mennonites, as well as their racism and ignorance.

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There’s a very clear racism towards the Mexicans (both Spanish and Mayan) from the Mennonite side. I was told that the two can’t mix because they eat different food, they worship in different churches, and, if that’s not gonna stop you, Mennonite men with Mexican wives have reported that they even smell different.

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The Mennonites here would say faith and culture hold the community together. I’d say ignorance plays a pretty big role as well. These communities actively promote ignorance as a virtuous trait, and are afraid that if their children receive more the 6-7 years of education that they now receive that they’ll run away from the colony. I ran into a lot of people who had no knowledge of basic natural science, such as how ocean tides work, why there are clouds in the sky, etc. They are deeply ignorant of anything beyond their tiny world. The Beachy Amish have come to proselytize the Old Colony (as have other more evangelical Mennonites as well as the Jehovah Witnesses) but even they warned me that education beyond Grade 12 could put the soul in danger. I think this ignorance plays a pretty big role in the tension between the Mennonites and the much better educated Mexicans.

 

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7 thoughts on “Hopelchen Old Colony Mennos

  1. Your written racist quote ” they smell different” caught my attention since I just read Orwell’s “Road to Wigan Pier” where he discusses the gap between the upper class in England and the working class and infers discrimination often comes down to that. Smell. Even rich socialists struggle with those that smell different. I heard that at a mission conference about a church being deliberately inter cultural and each group ( and there were many) struggling with the foreign smell of others. Appreciate your writings.

  2. I’m not sure you really understand the Mennonites all that well. You fail to mention that the Mexican government loves them that’s why they give them cheap land. They turn often somewhat useless land into rich farmland which in turn feeds the Mexican people. Yes, they are rarely in-educated, even racist but so are alot of the Mexican people towards the Mennonites. It is good to be honest, however you also need to see the positive in these people. A good journalists sees things through the eyes of all people involved in his “documentary”.

    • Hi Dave,
      Having just returned from Hopelchen in August, I am curious about your reference to “cheap land”. What we found was community small plot farmlands, under production by the Mayan people using traditional ag. practices (like horse-drawn and hand ploughs) and jungle lands that may be able to become farmland (slash and burn!), but at what cost to the native, natural environment. Those jungle lands were certainly NOT cheap, with pricing comparative to good farmlands in Western Canada. And legal land titles were questionable, to say the least. If you have a lead on affordable land around Campeche for our Mennonite friends, can you please share? Thanks.

      • “Cheap farmland in Mexico” is governed by a policy termed ejido.

        I would be very interested in learning the precise directions to the Mennonite farmers you visited, if you would be so kind. (A friend who grew up anabaptist, and lives here in Merida would like to visit them. I would drive, and perhaps do some interpreting.) Thanks. ~eric.

  3. “Oh, those evil racist white Mennonites keep to themselves”

    Cry me a river. Seriously, they are the minority in Mexico (a very tiny minority), and because not all of them are mixing into extinction you whine. In fact, the Mexicans who whine do so because of their own racism. Some of them hate Mennonites of European decent. You see it in the comments section of Youtube videos and in real life. They criticize them over everything, mainly for no other reason than jealously. They often exaggerate stories about how they treat their own, how they treat the land, how they treat Mexicans. They keep to themselves and there is nothing wrong with that. Mexicans should stop with their hatred. If they have an issue with the practices of the Mennonites than they should also have an issue with the practices of the Mayan.

    It’s funny, because Mennonites and Natives get along well. For example, Tarahumara and Mennonites get along very well, because both groups respect each others solidarity and community based lifestyles. Both groups even work together and many larger Mennonite farms and businesses employ them. It is the Mestizos who complain.

    The success of Mennonites and racism go hand and hand, and is an issue everywhere Mennonites have ever lived… Mennonites have always become successful. In Russia, they were also hated on and because of that 35,000 were killed during the early 20th century. In Bolivia, they are often hated on because the government simply doesn’t like their success or their white skin.

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