Jordi Ruiz Cirera
On the Bolivian lowlands there is the home of more than 50.000 Mennonites, who arrived here during the fifties, mainly from Mexico and Canada. Mennonites are Christian Anabaptists who left Germany around the XVI century, and since then have been migrating from country to country in order to preserve their lifestyle. Throughout this migration they have always remained apart from the local population, and have preserved their ancestral way of life; refusing to use most modern utilities like cars, telephones or electricity, and maintaining a very humble existence. However, the pressure of a consumerist society and the new ideas of the younger generation are creating difficulties threatening the existence of their very lifestyle.
The new socialist government in Bolivia is increasing environmental control that prevents the Mennonites from cutting down the forest, and the growing “influence of the locals”, means easier access to alcohol, music and cars, big issues with which the colonies are not sure how to deal. Some will eventually decide to leave the colony for a new and more isolated one, where the forest is yet to be cut, and Bolivian towns are tens of dusty kilometers away. But still Mennonites will always be a considered a source of income for Bolivians, and they know this. Sometimes they have to go to the city, but they don’t drive, they have cattle but no way to sell it. So no matter where they settle again, soon taxi drivers will start driving around, cattle buyers will pass with their trucks, and just a while after a little shop will be placed right at the entrance of the colony. New countries in which to settle are difficult to find, and so is new land in Bolivia, so the feeling of ‘getting to the end’ of a period is felt all around the community. They call themselves menonos.
Five Siblings. With no birth control Mennonite families are big, with an average of 10 kids per family, and reaching the maximum of 19 children from the same woman.