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 engage 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


This webinar will explore how Mennonites have historically addressed the spiritual, social, and economic implications of alcohol production, consumption, and sales in their communities...

December 9th, 2021

Virtual Lecture