Towards the eastern end of the Copper Canyon rail line, the city of Cuauhtémoc contains Mexico’s largest Mennonite community (around fifty thousand). You’ll come across Mennonites throughout Chihuahua and Durango – the men in bib-and-tucker overalls and straw stetsons, as often as not trying to sell the tasty cheese that is their main produce, and the women, mostly silent, wrapped in long, nineteenth-century dresses with a headscarf. The Christian sect, founded in the sixteenth century by a Dutchman, Menno Simons, believe only in the Bible and their personal conscience: their refusal to do military service or take national oaths of loyalty has led to a long history of persecution; today there are famously large communities of Mennonites (and their Amish cousins) in Pennsylvania, US. The Mennonites arrived in Mexico in the 1920s from Manitoba, Canada, but among themselves they still speak a form of German, although so divergent as to be virtually unintelligible to a modern German-speaker. Note that the Mennonites of Cuauhtémoc are not as traditional as their American cousins these days – indeed, they own local banks, stores and restaurants.

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