Life In A Belize Mennonite Colony (Documentary)

This is an absorbing 42-minute documentary on the Little Belize Mennonite colony. Little Belize is the home of approximately 3,000 Old Colony Mennonites, living on about 100 square kilometers of land. The Old Colony Mennonites are Plain Anabaptist cousins of the Amish, with numerous similarities to them.

The producers of the documentary, made for the Deutsche Welle network, were granted permission to film some families in the colony. The people we encounter come across as very human and likeable. A number of them speak English in addition to Plattdeutsch (English is the official language of Belize).

There is Abram, a blacksmith with 20 children, Margareth, whom we meet on a visit to a fabric shop, outcast Wilhelm, the self-taught medical practitioner, Franz, a mechanic who is beginning to “crowd the fence” with his purchase of a smartphone, and a second Abram, an ebullient traditionalist who takes his family to a new community in the Amazon jungle in Peru.

You’ll notice numerous similarities to the Amish, in things like their mode of transportation, clothing, and even auction tradition. The buggies sit lower to the ground on a different style of wheels. The German dialect is different, and the clothing patterns and headwear are as well.

We also see inside an Old Colony school in the film’s opening scene, which brings to mind the Amish-driven education outreach project operating for many years now in a number of colonies. The film actually begins in the Belize colony, but then a large chunk of it is about Abram’s move to Peru, which is fascinating in itself.

The images captured are impressive and beautiful, albeit having a staged feel in a few places. That said, this is a very well-done and worthwhile look into a community of devout and traditional people.

Hat tip to Steve Myers for bringing this film to my attention.

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    1. sylvie SCHUBNEL

      Je me pose la question de ces nouveaux conquérants, vont-ils faire un massacre écologique en déforestant le poumon de la planète pour faire des routes, de l’agriculture etc….
      Qui tend trop son arc le casse,…….il faut des loisirs pour détendre son esprit, la musique ou des chants sacrés peuvent aider à la louange du Seigneur ou écouter une radio religieuse ciblée ce n’est pas un péché. Il faut aussi concevoir que nous sommes que de petites âmes et que nous ne sommes pas parfaits. Pouvoir appeler un médecin est évident, que feront-ils si un enfant tombe malade dans cette jungle loin de tout….Dans les monastères les règles se sont assouplies avec les années tout en conservant le dogme et la doctrine initiale. Cela n’en fait pas de moins bons Saints.
      Jean Sébastien Bach a fait des merveilles, il faut l’écouter c’est vraiment une louange au Seigneur.

    2. Geo


      Back in 2000, a belizean acquaintance told me about homesteading in Belize with free land for development, available to immigrants. Do any readers know if this program still exists (or ever did)?

    3. Non

      The most conservative Old Colony Mennonites live in the Yucatan region of Mexico, Bolivia, and Argentina. Northern Mexican Mennonite colonies are more liberal, as are the majority of Belize communities with exceptions.

    4. Non

      I think the Old Colony Mennonites should adopt the Amish lifestyle. Colony life is notoriously unstable for religious living and can cause more friction and a move towards more liberalization down the road.

      Plenty of examples have been seen throughout history. Look at the Hutterites, Ammana colonies, some Mexican Old Colony Mennonites, etc. Communal living has an effect on social cohesion and both absorbing or rejecting those that harm the traditional values. Basically, if there are problems between people, they still see each other every day. If one person has bad values it will have an affect on the values of all. You can’t just shun them, the process of leaving is more difficult. That is why I believe the Amish way of organizing their church is the more peaceful and really long-term way to ensure the success of a traditional religious community

    5. Johan


      As a Mennonite who moved to Canada when I was 10 I loved to see my home my grandma but I was looking for more plattdeutsch