Mennonites in Bolivia
By Kevin Williams
Someday I'd love to make it to one of the Mennonite colonies in Latin America. The Mennonites have had a presence there for some time as have the Beachy Amish Mennonites (Belize seems to be the most frequently visited by Beachys). The Amish, on the other hand, have had little luck establishing communities south of the border, but it isn't for lack of trying. One of the more interesting experiments was an Amish attempt to start a community in Honduras in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The settlement is described in great detail in a superb book called "Sunshine and Shadow" by Joseph Stoll. The Amish really did try to make a go of it then, but they just couldn't pull it all together. Family ties are so thick among the Amish that moving so far away simply isolates them and unlike other groups which might use planes to travel the Amish traditionally have not.
I have featured the work of photographer Jordi Ruiz Cirera before in this site, but a Slate Magazine piece puts a lot of his work under "one roof" in a great pictorial essay. Wow, the photos are gorgeous! You feel like you are there. One thing that jumped out at me: the blue bowls. I've talked about them before. Those ubiquitous blue bowls are used by so many Amish and Mennonites for meals. I don't care for them much because all your food gets piled together. No peas with my mashed potatoes, please. I like a flat plate. But, oh well.
While I have not been south of the border before (closest ever was Brownsville, Texas) you do get a good feel for the at least the Mexican Mennonite community when visiting Alymer, Ontario. The tiny outpost in the southern part of the province is a melting pot of Russian-Mennonites, Amish, and a sizable contingent of Mennonites who were living in Mexico but have moved back. Of course, Mennonites who have grown up in Mexico (and I am sure this would be true for Bolivia also) have acquired different tastes in foods and products and "MennoMex" is there to help them making the transition. What a neat story. I posted about it a couple of years ago here.