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Feb 29, 2008

Mennonite tradition of hard work and progress lives on in Spanish Lookout

Story PictureLast weekend News Five traveled to Blue Creek in the Orange Walk district to chronicle the achievements made by the Mennonites during their fifty years in Belize. Events celebrating the important milestone kicked off in Spanish Lookout today. News Five’s Kendra Griffith reports.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
This morning the residents of Spanish Lookout gathered with friends and family from North, Central, and South America to reflect and celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their migration to Belize from Chihuahua, Mexico.

Peter Remier, Resident, Spanish Lookout
“We are very thankful we can continue to live in peace and in harmony with the fellow Belizeans. We are very, very happy to be together in this beautiful country of Belize, living in peace and comfort.”

In the half century since their relocation, the residents of Spanish Lookout have much to be proud of. They’ve grown from a few families to over sixteen hundred residents; increased their land mass from fifteen to fifty-two thousand acres, assets that have contributed to a dominating presence in the poultry and agriculture sectors and the construction industry.

Peter Remier
“There are definitely new avenues that business people and also the farmers will look into, see if the could do a variety of things not just stay with the most common things that they were used to. Furniture is one of the businesses that is doing very—it’s a very productive industry. All the furniture is being made for the people of Belize and also, I understand, for the cayes as well. These businesses do provide a lot of job opportunities for the residents of Spanish Lookout and beyond. We have a lot of labourers that find employment at our businesses and they are receiving benefits and so do we.”

Kendra Griffith
“What are some of the secrets to the Mennonite’s success in these industries?”

David Plett, Member, Anniversary Committee
“I think it’s the way our parents teach us. We are asked to get up early in the morning and feed. Everybody, it doesn’t really matter how young you are, you have something to feed. You have to clean eggs, you have to take the eggs from the hen barn prepare this before you got o school so everybody is working. We think that a lazy person has too much time to think of bad things, so we don’t allow anybody to be lazy. We make sure that everybody has something to do from morning to night.”

In 2005, the community received a mixed blessing when Belize Natural Energy struck oil beneath their land.

David Plett
“It has been a struggle, but there is different views on the oil find. I think it has been very beneficial for us. There is of course a lot more traffic. We are probably going to need a traffic department in the future to start helping us regulate the traffic a little bit.”

Jacob Dyck, Resident, Spanish Lookout
“For agriculture, seems like there are some disadvantages with going on with oil with all those pipelines and everything, but natural resources I think is always a benefit from a country.”

This weekend, Spanish Lookout is showcasing the tools old and new that have contributed to their success.

But life for the Mennonites of Spanish Lookout was not always wonderful. Before the migration in 1958, several men made to trip to assess the land known then as British Honduras. Impressed with what he saw, one Mennonite exclaimed, “This is truly a fine place to live.” But when their families made the trek less than a year later, they were not as taken with their new territory.

Peter Reimer
“The environment was completely different than what they were used to back in Mexico because of the dry and high altitude and the complete environmental issue was a lot different. Many of our pioneers came to Belize expecting it to be somewhat like Chihuahua, Mexico and they encountered so many new challenges they were never exposed to earlier. So with little technology, with a little experience that they brought along with them; some of it worked in Belize and some of it didn’t work so well in Belize. There was the idea of a trial and error basis, that’s what was used, seeing which crops would be doing well and they discovered that numerous crops and trees or fruit trees didn’t do too well. They had to adapt another form of making a living.”

That persistence has paid off for the Mennonites who survived that rocky start because they are certainly are enjoying the fruit of their labours. Kendra Griffith Reporting For News Five.

The anniversary festivities will continue all day on Saturday with outdoor activities including a parade, a cow milking competition, a rodeo and jungle tours. All the events are offered free to the public.

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