Growing up a mere two hours from Pennsylvania Dutch Country, I was always fascinated by the Amish and Mennonite communities that lived so close yet a world a way. Shunning modern conveniences in favor of a simple life focused on religion, family and community, the Amish and Mennonites live in direct opposition to the modern world.
While perusing Google Maps the other day, I happened upon the town of Filadelfia (the Spanish spelling of Philadelphia) in Paraguay. As a native of the City of Brotherly Love, the name of this Paraguayan settlement piqued my interest, and after a bit of research, I learned that plunked down in the middle of Paraguay thrives a community of German-speaking Mennonites. Although I was aware of the many communities spread throughout the United States, I was rather surprised to discover that Mennonite colonies exist throughout South America as well.
The Mennonites fled to South America at the beginning of the 20th century to escape repression and religious persecution. Lured by the promise of free land, exemption from military service, and the ability to openly practice their faith, large numbers of Mennonites settled in an inhospitable region of Paraguay known as Chaco. When the ethnically German Mennonites first arrived from Russia, Canada, and the Ukraine, they christened one of their new towns Filadelfia.
Despite difficult living conditions, the industrious Mennonites found success in their adopted home. This interesting article details some of the tension that the Mennonites of Filadelfia have experienced with native Paraguayans as a result of their prosperity and cultural differences. For additional information about the Mennonites in Paraguay, click here.
Though Mennonite missionaries (most notably the Hersheys) were working in the province of Buenos Aires since the early 20th century, the Mennonites really took root here in Argentina during the 1980s, establishing a colony in the sprawling, wind-swept prairie of the province of La Pampa. There is also a small Mennonite community in Santiago del Estero in the northern portion of the country. Most of the Mennonites in Argentina relocated from colonies in Mexico and Bolivia. The site Colonia Menonita [Spanish only] features detailed information about the Mennonites here in Argentina, including their history and customs.
Though there is limited information in English about the Mennonites in Argentina, I did come across this series of posts from the travel blog Acrobat of the Road, which provides a fascinating look at the people of the Nueva Esperanza Mennonite colony in La Pampa. [Scroll to the bottom of the page to read the posts in chronological order.]
View additional images of Argentine Mennonites in this brief video.