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Tony Rath's

 
PLACES TO SEE > TOWNS & VILLAGES > Blue Creek

Mennonite settlements do not generally attract tourists, but Blue Creek has modernized that common perception. Visitors to Blue Creek sometimes rub their eyes in disbelief that they are actually still in Belize. Supporting the border-to-border diversity found throughout Belize, Blue Creek fascinates curious travelers keen to experience a lifestyle (almost definitely) different from their own.

Horseback Riding on the Mennonite Catlle Ranch
Helping with the "Evening Roundup" on the Mennonite Cattle Ranch
Canoeing on Rio Bravo
Canoeing on the Rio Bravo

Like all Mennonite settlements, Blue Creek still retains its highly religious roots. Groups of families originally came from Canada and Mexico in 1960. The Old Colony Church monopolized the religious activity of the community until 1966, when it disbanded and its devotees scattered throughout Central and South America. Over half of the community's 400 residents now belong to the Evangical Mennonite Missionary Church, while the remainder has joined the more conservative Kleine Gemeinde.

Rainstorm over Northern Belize as seen from Blue Creek
Rainstorm over Northern Belize as seen from Blue Creek

The Mennonite lifestyle is fundamentally pure and simple. Each family has a few acres of pasture. Most speak an archaic form of lowland German and wear conservative clothing to cover their conspicuous pale skin and blonde hair. Girls marry young and cover their heads after they are baptized at age 16 or 17. Wholesome food takes on a new meaning in this preservative-free community. Their diet consists mostly of potatoes, chicken, eggs, cheese, fruit, and freshly baked bread. Most Mennonite communities support their own rigorous school system and elect a new leader every three years. The Belize Government has given the Mennonites a certain degree of autonomy since their settlement in the country.

Helping out Milking
Visitor Milking at the Hillside Bed & Breakfast
Mennonite Bed & Breakfast
Mennonite Bed & Breakfast at Blue Creek

The majority of the villagers earn an income from carpentry, cattle ranching, or agriculture. All Belizeans are familiar with the uncanny ingenuity of the Mennonites. To acquire electrical power, the residents of Blue Creek dammed the Rio Bravo and cut a channel to provide water for a small hydroelectric damn. Still, they lacked the equipment needed to regulate the flow of water. When a cargo plane crashed at the International Airport, the Mennonites purchased the wreck and converted its fuselage into a barn and used its hydraulic gear to control the flow of water-voila! Electricity.

The Road to Blue Creek over the Rio Bravo
The Road to Blue Creek over the Rio Bravo

Just thirty miles outside of Orange Walk Town, Blue Creek offers easy accessibility to many of the region's main attractions. Canoe trips down the Rio Bravo, boat rides in the Rio Hondo, and trips to the ancient Mayan city of Lamanai can all be done in a day with the direction of a local guide-in a horse-drawn buggy if you prefer! Because agriculture plays an integral role in the economy of the region, many activities cater to this expertise. Horseback riding, cattle round ups, and ranch tours showcase this Mennonite proficiency.

Relaxing at Green Lagoon, Favorite Swimming Hole of the Blue Creek Mennonites
Green Lagoon, Favorite Swimming Hole of the Blue Creek Mennonites
Archaeological Excavations at Blue Creek
Archaeological Excavations at Blue Creek

The Mennonites of Blue Creek share their land with a rich ancient Mayan past. Excavations of the nearby Blue Creek ruins have uncovered a city inhabited during the Middle Preclassic period. Blue Creek was apparently a nucleated village engaged in complex communal rituals and intense trade. Fragments of jade, coral, obsidian, and a number of marine shells have been found throughout the region. The ruins can be reached by 4X4 vehicle or horseback. Barton Creek cave, another Mayan ceremonial site, is also accessible from Blue Creek. Juxtaposing this ancient setting lay pastures and cultivated lands of a different era and culture.

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