There are about a hundred Mexican Mennonite families currently living in the Niagara Region.
According to Wilhelm Harder, most of these Old Colony Mennonite families came from Mexico, between 20 and 30 years ago, to settle in and around Virgil and Niagara-on-the-Lake. He and his wife, with their three children, came from Zacatecas, Mexico. They were planning to work only for a summer, but then got work year-round in a greenhouse, followed by factory work, and now he has his own business building decks, fences and gazebos.
That happened to many families, who ended up staying for many more years than they had planned to. The dream had always been to save up money and go back to Mexico.
“About four years ago, some families started looking to move elsewhere,” Harder says. “Their thinking was that their children would not have the opportunity to buy a house or a farm with the prices increasing rapidly.”
The families want to move to a place where they can have more land, where they can work together with their entire family and start their own villages.
Most of these families have relatives somewhere in South America, and they heard about land possibilities in Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. Some men flew down and checked out these places, deciding on Bolivia. Others planned to return to Mexico.
But plans were delayed when the pandemic hit in 2020. However, when restrictions were somewhat lifted in the fall of 2021, plans to move finalized. For some families unfamiliar with vaccines, it was an incentive for them to move when they could still fly without being vaccinated.
To date, about 14 families with approximately 40 children have moved to Bolivia, and another eight families with about 24 children have moved to various parts of Mexico. The men of these families work mainly in construction and on farms.
This migration makes up about 10 percent of their church population in the Niagara Region.