A man wearing a black wide-brimmed hat and a long black coat drives his horse-and-buggy to the market. He passes farms where blond-haired children work in the fields, the girls wearing large “Little-House-on-the-Prairie” bonnets and wide skirts, the boys wearing striped bib-overalls and straw hats. This scene, reminiscent of an earlier time in the United States, still takes place today in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
In 1922, at the invitation of President Alvaro Obregón, 20,000
Mennonites came to Mexico from Canada to settle on 247,000 acres of land
in Chihuahua's San Antonio Valley.
The immigration was profitable for both Mexico and the Mennonites. In
Canada there had been friction between the Mennonites and the Canadian
government—the Mennonites do not believe in educating their children
past the sixth grade, else they become too worldly and stray from their
religion, and they do not believe in serving in the military. The Mexican
government was seeking farmers to settle the land which had previously
been owned by William Randolph Hearst, who had been expelled from the
country along with the other foreign landowners, following the Mexican
Revolution. The two parties made an agreement whereby the Mennonites
would purchase the land from the Mexican government and their children
would be forever exempted from the educational laws of Mexico and from
serving in its armed forces. In addition, the Mennonites were exempted
from paying taxes for fifty years.
Today, there are around 50,000 Mennonites living in the vicinity of the
city of Cuauhtémoc, which is located about sixty-five miles west
of the capital city of Chihuahua. They are known throughout Mexico for
the fine cheeses they produce and for the wheat, corn, and oats which
The Mennonites trace their roots back to 16th-century Europe. The Anabaptists,
preachers of adult baptism, were persecuted for their beliefs, and many
emigrated. The Mennonites take their name from Menno Simons, a 16th-century
Dutch Anabaptist leader, who laid down many of the principles of their
faith. Perhaps the most important of these principles was that of forming
spiritual communities in which the faithful would live apart from the
secular world and remain close to the soil.
On the California Native's escorted trips through the Copper Canyon area
we visit the homes, farms and schools of the Mennonite people who, along
with the Mexican farmers, city-dwellers, and Tarahumara Indians, make
up the wonderful cultural mix of northern Mexico.
Click Here for information on our Copper Canyon Tours.