The Mennonites of Filadelfia
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 29th December, 2010
The Mennonites, like the Quakers to which I belong, have often suffered for their beliefs, especially their pacifism. As a result, many fled their homes in Russia, Ukraine, Germany and elsewhere and found sanctuary in the Americas. In Paraguay, where I’ve been spending the past week or so, they established a number of small ‘colonies’ in the inhospitable Chaco region, notably in the state of Boqueron. The first Mennonite settlers who came around 1930 to Filadelfia, where I am now, had to travel for weeks in horse-drawn waggons to get here as there was no road or railway at the time. In fact, the road which now runs right through the Chaco to Bolivia was only built in the 1950s, when Mennonite youths from America were allowed to do civilian service in Paraguay (aided by Paraguayan soldiers!) instead of being drafted into the Korean War. In the interim, many of the early settlers had died of typhoid fever and living conditions were extremely harsh. But aided by their belief in the twin virtues of Prayer and Work, they established viable communities. Filadelfia is the administrative centre of this particular colony, and is characterised by its grid layout of roads (only two of which are paved) and the folksy but rather austere businesses reflecting Mennonite traditions, even cooking.
(photo Nick Winter)