Religious and Cultural Understandings

Religious and Cultural

Low German-speaking Mennonites who have come to Ontario from Latin America are a part of a rich religious tradition with a long history that has entailed migrations across three continents. 90% of the Mennonites that migrated to Mexico in the 1920s were part of the Old Colony Mennonite Church, so called because they had emigrated to Canada (and from there to Mexico) from the first colony established in Russia by Mennonite settlers in 1789.

Tradition and a desire to remain separate


Distinctive dress is a visible reminder to both themselves and the world around them that they do not share the values and the lifestyle of society around them. It should be noted however, that when they wear traditional dress in Ontario, it does not necessarily mean that they are attending an Old Colony church.

The Old Colony Mennonite Church is characterized by a deep respect for tradition and an expectation that its members will live in accordance with that tradition. The basis of this respect is a desire to remain separate from and different than society around them. The Old Colony Mennonites’ primary allegiance is to God, they believe, and not to the political, economic and social systems that govern the countries in which they live.  Tradition—often expressed by the phrase, “we wish to do as we were taught”—is the vehicle Old Colony Mennonites use to ensure that this separateness is maintained.

I am an Old Colony Mennonite. My church teaches me that it is important to be there for my fellow Mennonite brothers and sisters and also that the Bible teaches me to remain separate from the world. One other foundational belief that I have is that my faith must be lived out in my everyday life.             

This is why I choose to live a lifestyle that is different from those around me and why I am sometimes wary of a lifestyle that is seemingly associated with worldly ideals.

Not all colonies are the same


Many colonies in Latin America include manufacturing businesses, often related to the agricultural sector.

Within their shared commitment to tradition and separateness, there is, nevertheless, tremendous variation between different Old Colony groups in Latin America.

At one end of the spectrum are colonies for whom being separate means rejecting aspects of modern life such as state-supplied electricity and using animal-drawn vehicles for transportation. Other colonies have loosened many of the prohibitions. The dress code is relaxed, vehicles are permitted, and colony members are not required to support themselves only through agriculture but are permitted to engage in business.





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