About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mennonite Move Blasts Chihuahua Economy

As if the tough times in Ciudad Juarez weren't enough of a strain on the economy of the state of Chihuahua, MX, over a thousand ultra-conservative Altkolonier Mennonites near Cuauhtémoc have announced they are headed to Quintana Roo. The group repersents about 40,000 kilograms of daily cheese production as well as livestock, equipment, and cash valued at, according to the Heraldo de Chihuahua, between six-hundred million and a billion pesos in value - hundreds of millions of US dollars. The paper cites internal divisions as well as problems with access to water and health care within the communities.

Much of the infrastructure currently in place in northern Chihuahua was put in place originally by Mennonites who donated thousands of dollars and labor for the construction of roads, schools, water, etc., after their 1921 arrival. The Plaza of Cuauhtémoc, the largest seat of the Mennonites in Mexico, contains not only the standard array of the busts of Mexican heroes like Benito Juarez or Ignacio Allende, but also busts of Mennonite settlers and Chinese Chihuahuans. In short, it is a town that recognizes the truly international construction of this agro-industrial border region.

Never fear, however, that this exodus of the Altkolonier marks a departure of Mennonites from the area in general. Since the 1940s the Mennonites have been gradually modernizing in the area, and the vast plantations of wheat and apples in the area - fed on the illegally punched wells deep into the aquifers of the altiplano - are owned by Mennonites that use electricity and drive motorized vehicles. While the departure of the Altkolonier is a strain, I think we'll see a number of ejidal groups that abut their property make a play for the ground as well as moves by the liberal Mennonites to buy up the property - if the Altkolonier will well to them. The division between the two groups is fairly ugly (the conservatives are convinced that a drug re-hab facility owned by modernists is a brainwashing facility), with the liberals making the following statement about the conservatives:
"Ellos por ignorancia no aceptan muchas cosas, como la luz y los carros, pero tampoco permiten que sus hijos menores de 12 años acudan a misa, no utilizan métodos anticonceptivos y no les enseñan español a sus hijos como una manera de evitar que salgan de su comunidad y se relacionen con otras personas"

(Because of ignorance those people don't accept a number of things, like light and motorized vehicles, and they even deny children under twelve the right to attend church meetings, they don't use contraception, and they don't teach their children Spanish as a way to avoid leaving the community and forming relationships with other people.)
The above photo is one of Larry Towell's on the Mennonites. Buy his book.

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