Argentina Mennonites
Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi

LA PAMPA, Argentina — It's Argentina, but you won't hear much Spanish or tango music, or see any "futbol" in this village.

It's nothing quite like the rest of this modern South American society. The Orthodox Mennonites of "New Hope" colony prefer it that way.

More than 1,000 Mennonites immigrated here from Mexico and Bolivia in 1985. They said they needed to move to avoid too many consanguineous marriages — marrying blood relatives. They now number about 1,500, living on a tract of about 40 square miles on the outskirts of Guatrache, a town in La Pampa province.

It's a struggle to stick to tradition: no electricity, no cars, no dancing, not even sports, on top of a list of other strict Anabaptist Christian customs.

They rarely get married to outsiders. All men wear the same dungarees and cap. Women wear long old-fashioned dresses and cover their heads. 

The colony mostly speaks to each other in Plautdietsch, also known as Low German, but manages other languages when outsiders come around.

“We are aware that there’s a world out [there] where people use mobile phones,” Caterina Hardem, a housewife who cooks for visitors, says in English. “We respect everyone’s culture but we don’t want any of this technology,” she explains. She's currently wrestling with her teenage son’s desire to get a cellphone.

Holding onto traditions is a challenge facing Mennonites around the world. Many elsewhere have chosen to adapt to aspects of the modern societies around them. 

Originating in Germany, religious intolerance forced the Mennonites out of the old country before the Protestant Reformation, and they emigrated all over the world, primarily to Africa, Latin America and the United States. The US Mennonite Church claims more than 95,000 members. There are an estimated 1 million Mennonites worldwide. 

You may be familiar with some of the American communities, but have you ever seen the Mennonites’ South American digs? Swipe through the photo slideshow above for a glimpse.

  • Hi! There are about 1,500 Orthodox Mennonites living in the "New Hope" colony, a 40-square-mile stretch of land in Argentina’s Pampa region.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • Many of the Mennonite children of Argentina don't speak Spanish because their parents want to keep them away from Argentine society and customs. They mostly speak to each other in Plautdietsch, also known as Low German.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • Instead of automobiles, Mennonites primarily use horse-drawn vehicles, or their feet, to get around.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • Or they use this nifty pushcart thing. Here's Abraham Loeven, 14, bringing fuel home from a store.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • Then he took a rest.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • In the New Hope colony, children go to school until age 12. They learn how to read in Plautdietsch, or low German, using the Bible. Boys then go to work with their brothers and father in the fields.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • Argentina’s Mennonites originally came from Germany.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • Here are the children of the Newdorf family. Mennonites do not use contraception and tend to have large families.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • Mennonites of the “New Hope” colony agricultural and manufactured goods at a lower cost, thanks to their cooperative.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • Abraham Braun, owner of the supermarket, with his wife. They moved here from Mexico 28 years ago.
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi
  • Abraham Braun explains that devout Mennonite women and girls need to cover cover their hair when they pray because "Jesus only listens to those who do so."
    Credit: Kamilia Lahrichi

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