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.


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.


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.





Victoria and I left San Cristobal two days ago. We got up early, before dawn, with plans to get to Campeche in a day. Ha! yea right. Vic’s bike started spewing oil again as we pulled out of town, so we nursed it to the Yamaha dealer. I knew the problem…an o-ring by the oil filter was torn, so Gary and I, back in Mexico City, jury rigged an o-ring, which seemed to work. but it didn’t. Now I figured we’d spend the time and get it right. The shop boys drove all over town finding the right one, but about an hour or two later we were back on track. Then I got us lost, again. I do that a lot. After making about a 5-10 km backtrack I started asking every dude I could find along the route what town we were heading for. I learned to pronounce one or two town names and then just shouted them out at random as we drove through villages, doing a quick straw poll of which way most of the arms were pointing. It works great.

The ride from San Cristobal was stunningly beautiful…through more mountains, more curves, misty valleys and chilly mountain passes. We had a blast riding it. But it was sooo slooowwww. You just can’t go more than 60km/hr on that road without killing yourself. So we had to split the ride from SC to Campeche in half, stayed in a gritty little town called Frontera last night. It was heavenly when we finally broke free of the mountains…flat, straight roads. I twisted my throttle till I thought it would break off.

We just pulled into Campeche this afternoon. Lovely little colonial town, cobblestone streets lined with tidy pastel brick and plaster buildings. Looks much like San Cristobal at first glance, sans the mountains.

Today was one of the best days on the road so far. We set off early, just after sunrise, just a coffee and then the road. We rode for an hour or so and then pulled over when we finally saw the sea, but on the inland side, as we rode the isthmus (don’t know the name). We stopped in a small restaurant, and ordered what we saw the worker dudes eating. A seafood soup of sorts, fresh prawns, a whole fish between the two of us, all very fresh, with tortillas. Lovely breakfast. We then drove like the clappers (Vic is now hitting 120km/hr with total abandon. Don’t tell her mom) until we passed a HUGE blue crab walking across the road. By the time I’d pulled a u-turn and made it back he was making off for the bush. Another guy had spotted it at the same time as me and was sprinting for it…when I pointed it out he looked surprised. I think he thought we were racing for dinner. Nah, I just wanted to see it. He pulled it from the underbrush and headed home with it, I resumed my ride. We stopped off again once the water, this time on the Gulf side, looked nice and clean. Pulled over at a beach cafe, stripped down and had a great swim in nice clear water off a white sand beach. I couldn’t bear to put my riding jacket back on, so rode the rest of the day in my t-shirt…bit burnt now. Pulled over once more to buy sandwiches in a gasolineria and eat them under a shady tree overlooking the sea. Pulled into Campeche around 5pm, found a cheap hotel, and here I sit…

Tomorrow I’ll ride to Hopelchen, where there are several large Old Colony Mennonite colonies. Goodbye Tecate, hello home-baked pie. It’s a battle between calorie sources.

Photo by Victoria Burrows