Settlers, Braceros, Narcos

Settlers, Braceros, Narcos (SBN) engages in a century-long exploration of Mennonite mobility. Leaving Canada for northern Mexico as settlers in the 1920s, thousands of traditional Mennonites were welcomed as frontier farmers by the post-revolutionary Mexican government. By mid-century they had established large colonies in the states of Chihuahua and Durango, but their image as “model farmers” was threatened by a decades-long drought.  

This environmental catastrophe led a generation of Mennonites born in Mexico to look to aquifer-based irrigation. Others engaged in “return” migration as seasonal labourers to the nation their parents had left behind. This small-scale survival strategy was consolidated as a major migratory option in the face of renewed droughts and neoliberal reforms in the late twentieth century that threatened the viability of all small-scale farming in northern Mexican communities. Mexican Mennonites became a fixture in southwestern Ontario’s greenhouse economy, with a handful even gaining notoriety as transborder drug smugglers (“narco-Mennonites”).

SBN thus places border-crossing Anabaptists at the centre of the tumultuous migratory, environmental, and agricultural histories of twentieth-century North America. 

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Attend Our Upcoming Event

Reporting on Sexual Violence in Mennonite Newspapers

For CTMS's sixth annual lecture, Dr. Melanie Kampen will examine the coverage of sexual abuse in selected Canadian Mennonite newspapers from the 1980s to the present, analyzing how experiences of abuse in churches and communities are reported on, as well as shifts in attitudes towards women, abuse, and social and theological norms..

May 5, 2022

Virtual Lecture