From time to time you might see claims that Amish live in Mexico. However, this is not the case. There are no established Amish communities in the country.

There was an Amish presence there, however, nearly 100 years ago. Amish lived in Mexico for about six years in the 1920s, having left Ohio due to issues over state school requirements. This is the only community I am aware of ever having existed in the country.

Amish lived in a place known as “Paradise Valley” in Nuevo León in the 1920s

So what are people seeing when they claim to have seen Amish living in Mexico? It seems to me there are three main possibilities (also described in the video below focusing on an “Amish sighting” in Tijuana, but applicable in general).

Explaining “Amish in Mexico”

One is that the Amish being seen are actually Amish, and are visiting Mexico for purposes of medical tourism. This has been a common destination for Amish seeking less expensive medical care or treatments not available in the US.

Amish travel for medical treatment to locations far from home – both with in the US and outside of it. Photo: Bruce Fingerhood/flickr

A second possibility is that people aren’t actually seeing Amish, but rather seeing plain-dressing members of other religious groups, most likely Mennonites. Mexico has a sizeable Plain Mennonite population, notably the Old Colony Mennonite communities in Chihuahua and Durango. They also have similarities to the Amish, with distinct plain dress, use of a German dialect, and in some cases use of horse-drawn transport. Though living in rural areas they fairly commonly visit towns and cities to sell their products.

A third explanation is that what people are seeing are in fact Amish, but they are living in the country temporarily, in the function of assisting Old Colony Mennonites with their schooling. Old Colony schools had (some still have) a reputation for being of low standards, leading to poorly-educated students which in turn would exacerbate social problems in their communities. The Amish have provided educational aid by sending Amish teachers to teach a term at a time in the Old Colony schools.

Photos of Old Colony Mennonites from the Book Called To Mexico – on Amish educational aid in Mexico

This is a long-running relationship which you can read more on here. Accompanying them are Amish adults, so you will have some Amish “house parents” living there as well as a way to support the usually young female teachers.

I suppose there are other possibilities explaining sightings of Amish south of the border (Amish on vacation? Disaster relief or mission work for more mission-minded Amish?) but I think these are the main ones.

Amish in Belize? Also a “No”

Relatedly, you also might see claims that Amish live in Belize. However, they do not. Those making such claims are usually mistaking a horse-and-buggy Mennonite group – Noah Hoover Mennonites – for the Amish. They have an Amish-like appearance, with the men wearing beards (which is otherwise uncommon for Plain Mennonites).

Video runtime: 3:58

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