Mennonites in Little Belize
David is 24 years old and from Belize. That might raise some questions. Where exactly is Belize and why is David so white and blond?
Belize is a small country in Central America bordering on Mexico, Guatemala, and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the only country in Central America where English is the official language, since it was a British colony back in the days. The country only has around 350,000 inhabitants, which are fairly diverse. There are Creoles, people with indigenous and Spanish descendants; there are indigenous Mayas; there are Garifuna descending from African slaves; and there are Mennonites such as David.
David is part of a religious community called Mennonites who are originally from Germany and the Netherlands. They belong to a similar religious group as the Amish in the United States. Most Mennonites migrated from Europe to Russia and later to North America during the 18th, 19th, and 20th century because of persecution. When in the 1950s, Canada wanted every child to go to a public school and every man to do compulsory military service, many Mennonites migrated further south to among others Mexico and Belize, as well as Bolivia and Paraguay in South America.
Mennonites are traditional farmers. They produce more than 50 percent of all the agricultural products in Belize. Each family lives in a big house surrounded by their farming grounds. There are several Mennonites communities living in Belize, of which some are opener to the modern age than others. Little Belize, where David lives, has around 2,000 inhabitants. They use tractors and other agricultural machines to work their fields. Some even have smartphones. Within their community, the Mennonites have their own churches and schools. Hence, people do not need to leave the community and live rather closed. Their beliefs of families are very traditional. Women do not have a say in public life and often only speak Lower German (Plautdietsch). The men, on the other hand, often speak English or Spanish to communicate and trade with the rest of the country. Their families are fairly large because Mennonites refuse family planning methods. Families with more than ten children are rather normal.
David himself is married and has two children, a two year-old and a six months-old. Six days a week he works in the local shop. On Sundays, he goes to church with his family and takes care of their little vegetable garden.