Do Amish Live In Mexico? Belize?

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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    8 Comments

    1. R.C.

      From what I’ve read, I think a number of the Noah Hoover Mennonites in Belize are ultimately of Amish origin, derived from various offshoot groups and individual families seeking a purer form of Anabaptism, who mixed with different Old Order and Russian Mennonite groups with similar aims.

    2. Spanish Outlook Belize

      How about an article on the Mennonite community in Belize, centered around Spanish Outlook. Our church has some contact with these folks. I believe in excess of 2,500

      1. I’d love to share something on that but I don’t have the experience or info. Maybe you could suggest something?

    3. Interesting

      Erik, thanks for your excellent coverage on another interesting topic. Is there any other cultural group of people who are regularly misidentified this often?

      1. That’s a good question. I’m not aware of one but maybe someone has a suggestion

    4. Jeremiah

      Mexico New Orders

      Although the Amish met in this instance are likely persons traveling to Mexico for medical purposes, there is (or will be shortly) a New Order Amish community in Mexico. The reason is that one of the two South American settlements had the country’s borders shut during the Covid scare thereby cutting the residents off from the rest of the body, prompting them to move to Mexico. I can’t remember the name of the Mexican location.

      1. I hope to hear more on this. Seems it might even make sense for both groups given the great distances. That said since New Orders are more lenient about flying this would make the matter of distance somewhat less of an issue.

    5. No Amish in Mexico

      I personally know several families who have gone to Mexico for medical procedures. Because The Amish have no medicare – or for that matter, no insurance at all – it behooves them to seek medical assistance in Mexico where prices are more affordable. Depending on just what medical procedure is necessary, they do seek assistance from the Shriners.