Mennonites of Paraguay

In order to visit Bolivia, the Romanians need a visa you can get directly at the border in exchange for $100.

You also have the option to get it for free but for this, you have to visit a consulate. As we are 5, we opted for the second option and applied for the visa at the Bolivian Consulate in Iquique – Chile.

The visa was offered to us for a maximum of 3 months.

We spent exactly three months in Bolivia, I wrote about it here and here and here. We would have stayed longer but after exceeding the Peru visa for a year and three months and a cumulative $ 1,800 fine, we said we should play nice and respect the laws although we consider them to be unfair to human freedom.

By traveling, we discovered that borders are invented by people to exploit other people in order to make a profit. In old times I think it was exactly the opposite! The only change is the ignorance and stupidity of the man that is getting bigger.

I will leave my frustration aside and I will continue the story.
We entered Paraguay from Bolivia through the “wonderful” Maior Infante Rivarola Customs. This happened in 2017. The customs was like a small control post in the middle of the wilderness, on the only existing road, 150kms away from the closest human settlement.
This border delineates Bolivia from Paraguay through the most hostile zone of South America in the so-called Chaco.

Chaco is a green dessert if we can call it this way, a very-arid area with temperatures exceeding 50 degrees in summer and with low vegetation in the form of spiny bushes.

Chaco comes from Quechua and means “hunting territory”.

In this hostile place, because of the lack of water, the high temperatures and the wild animals, they found their home the Mennonites, a religious group of North European origin, with their own language called Plautdietsch.
It is interesting to see how Mennonites came here and especially why in the most hostile area of South America!

For this Chaco, the Bolivians fought with the Paraguayans in the “Chaco War” between 1932-1935, where more than 100,000 people died.

What for?
Practically for nothing.

The two countries fought believing that this dessert is a big oil field.

This oil has not been discovered until today.

The Paraguayan government wanted to populate the area in order to be more accessible to troops and oil exploitation, which was believed to follow, so in 1921 it gave a law allowing the Mennonites minority group to create its own state.
Mennonites were recognized as skilled and hardworking farmers, so the Paraguayan government receives them with open arms and guarantees religious freedom, exclusion from military service in accordance with their beliefs, the right to speak their own language in schools and their own social organization and financial system.
So starting with 1926, the first families of Mennonites began to appear.

When we arrived in Chaco and saw the colonies of Mennonites, I realized how hard it was. The totally hostile land, lack of water, wild animals (jaguars, smokes, about 60 species of snakes and more than 220 species of reptiles) were their welcoming party when they arrived in Paraguay!

To find out the story, I visited the Jacob Unger Museum in the capital, Philadelphia, with the children.

The Mennonite name comes from the one who gave them the new religion, so to speak, Menno Simons.

This Menno, a priest of the Romano-Catholic church, met regularly with other partisans of the day in the mayoralty of Zurich, Austria, to study the Bible. This happened in 1525. After a thorough study of the scripture, Simons discovers that baptism of children is not found in the Bible and so a controversial discussion on this issue began, which later became a disagreement between church representatives. Meanwhile, he was transferred to Witmarsum where he came into contact with the Anabaptists and began to adhere to their ideas on the interpretation of the Bible.
The Anabaptists consider it theft to the child to baptize him at an early age, the baptism must be a conscious gesture, meaning that you must be an adult and choose yourself to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

This is the source of the so-called “re-baptized” name given to the Mennonites.

Well, the idea is that the Mennonites have not been accepted by the Church, many of them were persecuted, chased away, tortured in Europe for centuries.

Their escape comes in 1770 when Ekaterina the Great, Queen of Russia invites them to populate the steppe area in Ukraine in exchange for the relief from military service and the guarantee of their religious beliefs. The Mennonites take the offer, populate the area and become in a few hundreds of years landlords known as “kulak”.
But with the Russian Revolution in 1905, they get prosecuted again and end op deported in the Gulag. Lenin considers them enemies of the people, the vampires of the proletarians.
This is a short story of the Mennonites in Paraguay.

We ran into them by chance.

The idea is that they all dress the same.


Men wear a jean overall and the women a long floral dress.
We found them in the first town after the border with Bolivia, named La Patria. We stayed here for a few days. Lavinia at one point says: “I don’t understand where they get all this energy from, on such hot weather.

Look, this boy came a lot of times into the store and carried many bags of something”.

I look at her and say: “It’s not one boy, they are several different boys, they just all look the same, blond, tall and blue-eyed”.
We were a little baffled with all these Europeans around us after such a long time with none encountered.

The Mennonites are organized in colonies. Some are more open, some are more closed.

Closed means that they don’t use cars, only horse-pulled wagons and they share everything.

They have a large storehouse where they all come for supplies and they are noted in a book.

They don’t use the money. They each do something and they put everything together and then use everything together.
They are very nice people, they look happy, we haven’t communicated much with them because they only speak the old “Plautdietsch” language, a Prussian dialect with Dutch influences.
We spent a few nights in a closed colony, at a family with 14 children.

They helped us fix Lollipop’s trunk that broke in our way to Chaco.

One night Carla woke up with a palm-sized tarantula on her leg. I don’t think that the inhabitants of the area will ever forget how a Romanian child can scream when they first meet a tarantula! Our children went through their toys and gave some of them to the Mennonites children with all their heart. The joy was mutual.
Open colonies are very similar to the German countryside.

People are ok, hardworking and open to the new.

The main occupation is agriculture and at this moment they provide 50% of the total milk supply and milk-derivates of Paraguay.
If you ever intend to visit Paraguay, I strongly suggest that you visit the Mennonites colonies in order for you to witness with your own eyes the saying “a good farmer makes a good farm”.

Menonitii din Paraguay 

Pentru a vizita Bolivia, romanii au nevoie de viza pe care o poti obtine direct la trecerea frontierei in schimbul a 100$. Ai si varianta sa o obtii gratis dar pentru asta trebuie sa vizitezi un consulat. Cum noi suntem 5, am optat pentru cea de-a doua varianta si am aplicat pentru viza la Consulatul Bolivian din Iquique – Chile. Viza ne-a fost oferita pentru o perioada maxima de 3 luni. 

Exact 3 luni am stat in  Bolivia, am mai scris despre asta aici si aici. Am fi ramas noi mai mult  dar dupa depasirea vizei in Peru cu un an si 3 luni si o amenda cumulata de 1800$, am zis sa fim cuminti si sa respectam totusi legi pe care noi le consideram a fi injuste fata de libertatea omului. 

Calatorind am descoperit ca granitele sunt inventate de oameni pentru a exploata alti oameni in vederea obtinerii unui profit. Inainte am impresia ca era exact invers! Singura schimbare este ignoranta si prostia omului care devine din ce in ce mai mare. 

Imi voi lasa frustrarea  deoparte si voi continua povestea.

Am intrat in Paraguai din Bolivia prin “minunata” vama Maior Infante Rivarola.Treaba asta s-a intamplat in 2017. Vama e ca un mic post de control, in mijlocul pustietatii, pe singura sosea existenta la 150km distanta de cea mai apropiata asezare omeneasca. 

Aceasta granita delimiteaza Bolivia de Paraguay prin cea mai ostila zona a Americii de Sud, in asa zisul Chaco. 

Chaco este un desert verde daca am putea sa-i spunem asa, o zona super arida cu temperaturi ce depasesc 50 de grade vara si cu o vegetatie joasa gen tufis spinos.  Chaco vine din limba Quechua si inseamna “teritoriu de vanatoare”. In acest loc ostil omului din lipsa apei a temperaturilor ridicte si a animalelor salbatice si-au gasit casa “Menonitii”, un grup religios de origine Nord Europeana, cu propria limba pe nume Plautdietsch. 

Interesant este de vazut cum au ajuns menonitii aici si de ce in cea mai ostila zona a Americii de Sud!

Pentru acest Chaco s-au omorat la propriu Bolivienii cu Paraguayenii in asa numitul “Razboi din Chaco” intre 1932-1935, unde au murit peste 100.000 de oameni. Pentru ce?

Practic, pentru nimic. Cele doua tari s-au luptat crezand ca in acest desert este o mare punga de petrol. Acest petrol, nu a fost descoperit nici pana in ziua de azi. 

Guvernul Paraguayan si-a dorit sa populeze zona pentru a putea fi mai accesibila trupelor si exploatarii petroliere ce se credea ca va urma asa ca in 1921 da o lege prin care permite grupului minoritar Menonita sa-si creeze propriul stat. 

Menonitii erau recunoscuti ca si fermieri priceputi si foarte muncitori asa ca Guvernul Paraguayan ii primeste cu bratele deschise si le garanteaza libertatea religioasa, excluderea din serviciul militar conform credintei lor, dreptul de a vorbi propria limba in scoli precum si propria organizare sociala si sistem financiar. 

Asa ca incepand cu anul 1926 incep sa-si faca aparitia primele familii de Menoniti. Cand am ajuns  noi in Chaco si am dat nas in nas cu coloniile de Menoniti, am realizat imediat cat de greu le-a fost. Terenul total ostil, lipsa apei, animalele salbatice (jaguari, pume, cam 60 de specii de serpi si peste 220 de specii de reptile) cam cu asta s-au distrat menonitii cand au ajuns in Paraguay!

 Ca sa le aflam povestea am vizitat impreuna cu copiii muzeul Jacob Unger din capitala Filadelfia.

Numele de menoniti vine de la cel ce le-a oferit si noua religie ,ca sa-i spun asa, si anume Menno Simons. 

Acest Menno, preot al bisericii Romano Catolice, se intalnea regulat  cu alti partizani ai vremii in incinta primariei din Zurich, Austria, pentru a studia Biblia. Asta se intampla in anul 1525. Dupa o cercetare amanuntita a scripturii, Simons descopera ca botezul copiilor nu este de gasit in Biblie si asa incep discutiile contradictorii pe aceasta tema, care a devenit marul discordiei intre reprezentantii bisericii. Intre timp este transferat in Witmarsum unde intra in contact cu anabaptistii si incepe sa adere la ideile lor privind interpretarea Bibliei.

Anabaptistii considera ca este  un furt sa botezi copilul de mic, botezul trebuie sa fie constient, adica tu trebuie sa fi un om matur si sa alegi de buna voie si nesilit de nimeni sa te botezi in numele Domnului. De aici Menonitilor le mai vine si denumirea de Re-Botezati. 

Bun, ideea este ca Menonitii n-au fost acceptati de catre Biserica, mai mult au fost persecutati, fugariti si torturati pe tot teritoriul Europei timp de cateva secole. 

Scaparea le vine in 1770 de la Regina Rusiei, Ecaterina cea Mare care-i invita practic sa populeze zona de stepa a Ukrainei in schimbul exonerarii de la serviciul militar si a garantarii drepturilor religioase. 

Menonitii accepta, populeaza zona si ajung in cateva sute de ani marii boieri si propietari de terenuri, numiti “Kulak”. 

Numai ca odata cu Revolutia Rusa din 1905, incep a fi persecutati, culminand cu exproprierea si deportarea lor in Gulag. Lenin ii considera inamicul poporului, profitorii si vampirii proletariatului. 

Cam asta ar fi pe scurt povestea Menonitilor din Paraguay. 

Noi, am dat peste ei din intamplare. Ideea este ca ei se imbraca la fel. Adica toti! Barbatii sunt intr-o salopeta de blug de la mic la mare iar femeile intr-o rochie lunga inflorata. 

Noi am dat peste ei din intamplare in prima localitate din Paraguay dupa granita cu Bolivia care poarta numele La Patria. Aici am zabovit cateva zile. Lavinia imi spune la un moment dat: “Nu inteleg de unde au oamenii astia atata energie pe caldura asta… uite la baiatul asta ….este a nu-s stiu cata oara cand vine la magazinul ala si incarca masina cu nu’s ce saci”!

Eu, ma uit ciudat si-i spun: “Nu este unul singur, sunt cateva sute dar imbracati la fel”! 

Da, asa si era, toti imbracati la fel, blonzi, inalti si cu ochi albastri!

Eram un pic blocati si nu intelegeam de unde atatia europeni in zona, dupa ce ne obisnuisem in Bolivia sa nu vedem picior de european.

Acesti Menoniti sunt organizati in Colonii. Asa se numesc aici. Unele colonii sunt mai deschise, altele mai inchise. Inchise inseamna ca nu folosesc masinile, doar carute trase de cai si au totul la comun. Au un mare depozit de unde se aprovizioneaza cu totii si se scriu “pe caiet”. Nu folosesc banii. Fiecare face cate ceva si produsele finite se predau la acest depozit. 

Sunt oameni foarte ok, par fericiti, nu am prea comunicat cu ei, pentru ca nu vorbesc decat limba “Plautdietsch”, un vechi dialect Prusac cu influente Olandeze. 

Am stat cateva nopti intr-o Colonie inchisa, la o familie cu 14 copiii. Ne-au ajutat sa ne reparam portbagajul de la Lollipop ce se rupsese pe drum spre Chaco.  Intr-una din nopti Carla s-a trezit cu o tarantula de marimea unei palme chiar pe piciorul ei. Nu cred ca vor uita vreodata locuitorii acestei zone cum tipa un pui de roman ce ia contact pentru prima oara in viata cu o tarantula! Tot aici copiii au facut o triere la jucarii si le-au oferit din toata inima familiei de menoniti. Bucuria a fost impartasita din ambele parti!

Coloniile deschise sunt foarte asemanatoare cu satele Germane. Sunt oameni foarte ok, foarte muncitori si deschisi noului.  Ocupatia principala este agricultura si au ajuns la ora actuala sa furnizeze 50% din productia totala de lapte si produse derivate a Paraguayului. 

Daca aveti vreodata sa vizitati Paraguayul, va recomandam cu caldura sa vizitati si Coloniile Menonite, pentru a traii si vedea cu proprii ochi cum “Omul sfiinteste locul”! 

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