Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mennonite in Mexico

Continued from Pasajero Menonita

Suddenly the breakfast I had just eaten didn’t sit so well in my stomach when I saw the flight attendants walking down the aisle passing out papers and pens.

“We are landing in Guadalajara in about forty minutes. You need to have your immigration papers filled out by the time we land. Especially for those of you who are boarding a connecting flight,” explained the flight attendant.

When the flight attendant handed me a pen and the immigration paper I just stared at it blankly.

“Anna, the instructions are also in English on the other side.”

“It’s just that I have never filled out one of these before and earlier I got in big trouble because I said too many wrong things. I’m afraid that I will make a mistake again and get in trouble for it.”

“If you don’t mind that I would be looking at your passport, I can fill that out for you,” said Daniel.

I didn’t think twice about handing my passport to over to him if he was able to take that burden off my shoulders.

“That would help me out a lot. Thank you,” I said as I handed my passport, pen, and paper to him. I felt relieved and embarrassed at the same time as he handed me back my passport and the immigration form, but I thought since he seems to know what he is doing I will ask him one more favor.


“Yes, Anna.”

“How, will I know where to go when we get to Guadalajara?”

“I could tell you if I looked at your ticket.”

“Okay,” I said and handed my ticket over to him. He looked at it for a moment and explained what gate number I had to go to.

“I can walk you there and show you.”

“That would be great. Thank you.”

“Oh, and one more thing, you don’t need to collect your luggage, it will automatically be transferred onto the airplane that you are going on,” he explained.

“Thank you. That was going to be my next question.” 

After landing in Guadalajara, Daniel walked me to the gate where I had to wait two hours to get on the other airplane.

“Are you hungry? Would you like to join me for lunch?

“Ahhh, okay.”

“Do you like gorditas?” he asked and watched as my face light up like the Christmas tree that was behind me.

“YES! I love gorditas. Mexican food is one of the things that I have missed the most since I left,” I explained. I got a bit emotional and teary eyed as I heard myself say that out loud.

“Okay then, come on, let's go.” As we made our way to the food court, Daniel explained that he had eaten gorditas at that restaurant every time he visited Guadalajara.

Hola señorita, ¿qué te gustaría pedir?” (Hello miss, what would you like to order?)

I froze and just stared at him and looked at Daniel and he said, “Go ahead Anna, tell him what you want.”

“Okay, um, bueno, me gustaría dos gorditas. Los que tienen rajas con queso. (Okay, I would like two gorditas. The ones with roasted peppers and cheese.)

Muy bien y para beber? (very well and to drink?)”

Una fanta de toronja por favor (A grapefruit fanta please.)”

Muy bien (very well)” he said and the proceeded to take Daniel’s order. While Daniel ordered, I couldn't help but feel proud that I had just ordered my very own food for the first time in Mexico.

When that waiter put the plate of gorditas in front of me, I felt like I should say my ‘thousand, thousand times thank you’ prayer before I ate them instead of after like I had been taught.

I silently said my prayer quickly and when I took the first bite of the gordita it felt like I had just made it home as I savored the flavor I had missed so much.

“Wow, Anna don’t you find them spicy?”

“Yes, but that’s how they are supposed to be. Just like I remember them.”

“I once ordered those by accident and almost died from the heat. Ever since that I stick to the less spicy ones.”


“Yes, really.”

I laughed as I asked, “Do you think that anyone has ever died from spicy food?”

“I doubt it. Or at least I hope not,” he answered and we both laughed as we continued eating.

Daniel put his business card on the table and asked, “Do you email?”

“I am learning, I think with the help of my teacher I could.”

“Very well, here is my business card. I would love to know how the rest of your trip turns out. Would you be able to send me an email when you get back?”

“Okay, I will try.”

“Well, Anna, I think you better head back to the waiting area at the boarding gate. It was a pleasure having you as a travel companion. Good luck with the rest of your trip.”

“Okay, well, thank you for helping me with everything.”

“It was my pleasure, Anna. Have a safe trip home,” he said as he got up and picked up his bags.

“Okay, you too,” I said while I watched him walk away.

I sat back down with my full belly for a moment and experienced a feeling of having just regained possession of something that I had been missing the whole time I had been in Canada. I felt like I had finally eaten the food that I had been craving ever since I had left Mexico.

I took Daniel’s business card and didn’t even attempt to read what he did for a living. I just put it in my backpack and went back to the boarding gate.

I got really nervous as I thought about the rest of my trip and who I might be sitting beside next. I got up and walked up to a huge glass wall where the bright Mexican sun was shining in. While I stood there soaking up the sun, I wished with all my heart that the person that would sit beside me would be as nice as Daniel had been.

After boarding the flight and settling into my seat, I got really sleepy from all that sunshine I had been getting and almost fell asleep before I even found out who would be sitting next to me. I waited and waited but no one claimed the seat next to me. When the plane took off I realized that I would have all three seats to myself during the flight to Durango. I thought YES! What could be better than this? A belly full of Mexican food, the sun shining on me and three seats to myself. Can life get any better than this? Well at least for the next few hours anyway.

When the seatbelt sign turned off, I made myself a pillow with my backpack, laid down and fell asleep. I had a dream that I had slept during the whole flight to Durango and no one woke me up, so I didn’t get off the plane and it flew all the way to Posen Land. People were speaking a language that I couldn’t understand until a man’s voice kept saying, “Señorita, señorita, señorita, desperta (Miss, miss, miss, wake up.)”

When I sat up and asked, “What time is it?” A woman said to the man that was waking me up, “Ya ves, te dije que ella debía ser gringa (You see, I told you she must be American) the man rolled his eyes at her and whispered something to her and proceeded to ask me, “Miss, would you like something to drink?”

“Yes, water, please. How long have we been flying?” I asked as I thought, I really need to know if I missed my stop and if I am on my way to Posen Land.

“Yes, miss, um, twenty minutes or so.”

I let out a relieving sigh and said, “Okay, thank you.”

As I drank my water, reality began to sink in and I got so worried as I imagined walking into my parent's house. I thought, “I wonder if it's going to be dark by the time I get to Hamburg. Oh no! I hope they don’t have a vicious dog.” And my heart started pounding out of my chest uncontrollably until I spotted a Mexican tabloid magazine with Kate Del Castillo on the cover of it. I recognized her from a Telenovela I had seen her in. I thought I wouldn’t even attempt to read it and just look at the pictures of her.

For a moment I forgot all about how frightening it would be for me to walk the dirt road that led to my parent's house and what I might encounter on the way there. I began to daydream about being able to dress like Kate. I found her so fascinating that I actually began reading bits and pieces of what was written about her in Spanish. 

As I thought, “Sorry Kate, but am totally stealing your style, my thoughts got interrupted by the flight attendant asking me, “Cacahuetes? (Peanuts?)”

Finally, I was able to figure out what time it was when I heard the announcement through the speaker saying that we were to land in Durango City in fifteen minutes and that it would be four o’clock Mexico time. With my new skills that I had learned in math class, I began to calculate in my head a rough timeframe of when I might be walking that dreaded dirt road leading to my family’s unexpected surprise. But that all depended on the bus and what time it would head out toward Nuevo Ideal.

Other than my nervousness of what was ahead of me, I felt rested, well nourished and hydrated as I walked off the plane and into the Durango City airport. I followed the crowd to the luggage collecting area and spotted my suitcase right away. But first, I watch how others got their luggage off the rotating conveyor belt. When my suitcase got closer, it was too far away from the edge and I couldn’t reach it. I panicked as I watched it go past me, but a man noticed and grabbed it for me when it went past him. He rolled it over to me and asked, “Miss, is this yours?”

“Yes! Thank you! Thank you!” I shouted.

De nada señorita.”

I took my luggage handle and walked off thinking, “Okay, where do I go now?” But luckily this airport was way smaller than the one in Guadalajara and you couldn’t miss the long line of taxis out the front of the airport through the clear glass doors. I didn’t even have a chance to look up or deeply inhale my first breath of Durango air because a taxi driver was already putting my luggage into the back of the taxi. He asked where I would like to go and that’s when I wished that I could answer him honestly and say, where I am going and where I would like to go are two very different places. But I just smiled and said the bus station, please.

That thought got me wondering where exactly Kate Del Casillo lived and I wished that I was going to meet her to go shopping instead of the Mennonite colony I was going to. At that very moment, I imagined that being the thing I would want to do instead. I just finished that thought when the taxi pulled up to the bus station. I thought, Okay this bus station is way too close to the airport. I wasn’t ready as I dug out my Mexican pesos. I nervously handed over the pesos hoping that they would still be good. The taxi driver looked at the pesos for a moment and said, “Muy bien, gracias güerita.” (Very well, thank you) (Native Mexican people often called us güera or güerita. The word is used to describe people with fair skin and blue or green eyes.)

I walked into the bus station and headed straight to the spot that had the star symbol of a bus line that I remembered passing our colony on the daily bases called Estrella Blanca (White Star.) I took a deep breath and dug deep to find enough Spanish words to explain that I was going to the Mennonite colony that was closest to the bus stop near the small village of Nuevo Porvenir. When I figured that I had explained it well enough, the man said, “Ah, sí, las colonias menonitas ¿verdad? (Oh yes, the Mennonite colonies, right?)”

Sí!” I shouted with excitement. But then my heart sank when I realized that I hadn't changed into my pleated Mennonite dress yet. I was still wearing pants! Click here to continue reading my story.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pasajero Menonita

Continued from Suspicious Mennonite

My heart began pounding out of my chest as memories of being asked to go with a police officer surfaced. But this officer wasn’t as nice as the one that handled my stalker case. This one didn’t even offer me a seat. He seemed very angry and twice as tall as I was when. He got so close to me that I could smell his breath as he began yelling at me. “WHY DO YOU HAVE KNIVES IN YOUR BACKPACK?”









“I,” that was all I could get in, he was so angry that he wouldn’t even let me explain. Finally, the door opened and a young officer with a nice smiled came in and asked the tall officer, “May I?”

“GO AHEAD!” He yelled as he walked out and slammed the door.

“Why is he so mad at me?” I asked.

“I’m not sure but maybe I can help. My name is Ben. What is your name?”

“Anna,” I replied in a shaky voice.”

I braced myself as he walked up to me and put his hand out to shake mine. I hesitated but he wouldn’t put his hand down, so I reached out and put my shaking hand on his and shook it.

He slid a chair close to me and said, “Alright Anna, have a seat and explain yourself. What is going on here?”

I began explaining, he seemed to buy my story until he asked what nationality I was. I told him that I was German.

“You are German?”


“Okay, I’ll be right back,” he said and left.

The door opened and a different man came in with my passport in his hand. He began speaking to me in German, but I didn’t understand a word of what he was saying. I just stared at him. He paused and waited for me to respond and when he realized that I couldn’t answer him in German, he explained the other officer told him that I was German.

“Well, I am.”

“But you don’t speak German?”

“Not like that.”

He looked at my passport and said, “You say that you are German but your Canadian passport says that you were born in Mexico? Is this correct?”


“Then why do you say that you are German when you are asked what nationality you are?”

“Because, I am German,” I answered.

“Okay, so what language do you speak fluently then?” he asked.

“None,” I answered and he began pulling his hair back and I knew from watching George that that meant he was getting really frustrated.

“Look, I really don’t speak any language that fluently.”

“Okay, so what language would you say that you speak the most?”

Plautdietsch. But in Canada people tell me I speak Low German.”

He stared at me for a minute and then proceeded to leave the room. A couple of minutes another officer came in. This one spoke Spanish and English.

¿Donde naciste? (Where were you born?)”

En México.”

¿Qué parte de México? (What part of Mexico?)”

La colonia Haburgo, Nuevo Ideal Durango.”

¿Es usted menonita? (Are you Mennonite?)”

No estoy seguro. (I’m not sure.)”

“Okay, what do you mean you are not sure if you are a Mennonite or not?”

“Well, the English people in Canada tell me that I am a Mexican Mennonite. But we call ourselves Dietsch, not Mennonite, but I am not sure if they are right and I just don’t know these things.”

“Okay, Anna. Thank you for explaining that. I think I know what's going on here. When an officer asks you what your nationality is, you have to say you are the nationality of the country that issued your passport.”

“Okay, but I am not a Canadian.”

“Yes, you are.”

“I am?”

“Yes, when you became a Canadian citizen, you became a Canadian. Even though you weren't born in Canada, that is your nationality. Okay?”


“Explain to me again, why you have knives in your backpack?”

I started from the beginning again. I told him a bit more about myself, that I had left my colony and that I was really just going home for the first time on my own since coming to Canada. I explained that I really did think that a set of silverware was the best gift I could bring my mom.

“Okay, so you don’t travel back to Mexico often?”


“How much money do you have on you?”

“Fifty dollars and a few pesos that I think aren't even good anymore because they took away a bunch of zeros from the peso since I left Mexico.”

“Okay, did anyone ask you to take anything with you?”

“Ahhh, no. But if it’s that much trouble, then you can just keep my gift.” I explained.

“No! Here,” he said as he handed me my passport and said, “Have a safe trip home.”

“Okay, thank you,” I answered and just stood there unsure of what I should do next.

“Go! Get out of here, good luck with the rest of your trip,” he said.

I packed everything back into my backpack including the set of silverware and walked out thinking, “Okay, so where do I go now?” Then the woman that checked my luggage yelled, “Ma’am, don’t forget your ticket” and explained where I had to go next. When I finally got to the right gate where I was going to board the flight. I had just enough time to go to the bathroom and throw up one more time before they called to board the flight.

A flight attendant escorted me to my seat, a middle seat. I sat down in my seat, hugged my backpack, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and thought, “Ahhh finally,” then two men came and sat down on either side of me. I sat up straight, held my breath and thought, “Na oba!”

They both looked at me and said, “Hello,” as the seatbelt lights came on and the flight attendant began explaining the rules and what to do in case of a crash. I had no more time to think. The plane started moving and when it took off it felt like my stomach had been left behind just like when I went on my first motorcycle ride with George. All I could do was hold on to my backpack and repeat all my memorized prayers in my head over and over until I couldn't hear myself pray anymore because my ears were popped.

“Here, would you like a piece of gum?” Asked a deep voice that reminded me of Hilary’s voice.

I looked over at the man to my right. He even looked a bit like Hilary, only he didn’t wear glasses, he didn't have a beard, and he had a sleek haircut. He was dressed in a gray suit and a black and gray striped tie. I just stared at his fancy gold watch as he handed me a pack of gum and said, “This will help to un-pop your ears.”

“Okay,” I said in a shaky voice as I reached and grabbed the gum. I was shaking so much that I couldn't even open the gum pack.

“Here, let me assist you,” said the man and took the gum back. He opened the pack, placed his hand under my shaking hand and carefully dropped a piece of gum into my hand without touching it.

I put the piece of gum into my mouth and as I began breathing in the strong mint flavor from the gum, it felt like the plane had stopped in mid-air. I was really careful as I tried to relax my body back into the seat so I wouldn’t touch either one of the men sitting beside me.

“It’s okay, you can relax. It is going to be a very long flight for you if you are going to be this tense the whole time,” said the man that sat on the left side of me.

I quickly closed my eyes and pretended that I was sleeping so I didn’t have to talk to the men anymore. I had actually fallen asleep when I woke up from a loud snoring sound that was coming from the man to my left. Once I was fully awake I realized that my head was resting on the man's shoulder that gave me the gum. I quickly move and said, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, feel free to use me as a pillow. I don’t mind at all.”

While I slowly moved further away from him I noticed that he was flipping through a Spanish-English dictionary. I got all excited when I saw the dictionary and the words flew out of my mouth before I even thought about it. “Are you learning Spanish?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Me too,” I said and pulled out my Spanish-English dictionary.

“Okay, where are you traveling too?” he asked.

“Durango Mexico.”

“I am going to Guadalajara,” He explained.

“Okay, do you have family there?”

“No, this is a business trip.”

“Okay,” I said and reminded myself not to ask him any more questions. I began flipping through the pages of my dictionary.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what brings you to Durango?”

“Just the airplane,” I answered.

He laughed and said, “Very well.”

“No, I mean I am just landing in Durango, from there I am going to Nuevo Porvenir. That’s where I am visiting family.”

“Okay. So are you getting onto a different plane in Guadalajara?”

“I have no idea. I haven't even looked at the papers they gave me when I almost wasn’t allowed to get on this plane.”

“Oh, how so?”

“I think it's because my English is terrible. Whenever I answer the questions I am being asked no one ever understands what I am trying to say. It seems the more I explain the more confusing it gets for the people that ask me the questions.”

“But, you speak English just fine.”

“You think so?”


“Okay, then maybe it's because people keep telling me that I am Mexican Mennonite but I am not Mexican and if I am Mennonite, I didn’t know about that.”

“Yes, I can see how that could be confusing.”

I assumed he would also be confused to learn about people that live in Mexico that call themselves Dietsch and thought I should just change the subject. So I asked if he would help me figure out if I was supposed to get on a different plane in Guadalajara.

“Sure,” he said and I dug out every piece of paper they had handed me at the airport and showed them to him. He looked through them and said, “Yes, you have to get off this plane and go through Mexican Immigration in Guadalajara and then get on a different plane to go to Durango.

“Do you know if I will have to fill out all kinds of papers?” I asked.

“Yes, you most certainly will,” he said and noticed how panicked I looked as I processed what he had just told me.

“I will have to do the same paperwork. I will show you what you need to do.”

“Okay, thank you,” I said and inhaled a deep breath as I leaned back into my seat while I closed my eyes.

“May I ask, why that seems so frightening to you?” And before I could answer we got interrupted by the flight attendants serving breakfast. The clinking sounds of the coffees being served woke up the man to my left. I was very uncomfortable as I had a set of eyes looking at me from both sides as I bowed my head and said my prayer. When I finished, the man to my right explained, “How rude of me, to ask you such an invasive question while you don’t even know my name. I am terribly sorry, my name is Daniel.”

“Hi, I am Nick,” said the man to my left.

“Okay, and I’m Anna,” I said and they both smiled at me as we began eating our breakfast. Click here to continue reading my story.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Anna Wall, una mujer de armas tomar


Liliana Salomón Meraz / VISIÓN DURANGO

Hace apenas unos días tuve el gusto de conocer en persona a Anna Wall, una mujer relativamente joven, originaria de las colonias menonitas de Nuevo Ideal, específicamente de la colonia Hamburgo, quien emigró a los 19 años a Canadá en la década de los 90’s. Ella habla alemán bajo, español e inglés y también estudia el idioma francés, ya que vive en Canadá. Allá trabaja en un centro de salud comunitario.

Nuestra amistad comenzó de manera virtual, gracias a que su madre, quien aún vive en las colonias menonitas de Nuevo Ideal, le hizo llegar mi libro “Historia de los menonitas radicados en Durango”. Ella me mandó una solicitud de amistad por Face y hace apenas unas semanas me dijo que venía de vacaciones a México y quería conocerme, a lo cual accedí gustosa.

Nuestro encuentro en la ciudad de Durango fue rodeada de su familia: su madre, su hermana, su cuñada  y su pequeña sobrina. Fue como si nos hubiéramos conocido desde siempre. Platicamos durante horas y nos fuimos a desayunar. En esta conversación me di cuenta que Anna ama su trabajo, ya que ahí puede aprender cada día algo nuevo, ayudar a la gente, hablar los idiomas que domina, hacer compras, preparar recetas, ser una líder y sobre todo, vestirse como le place hacerlo. Y no es que esté en contra de la típica vestimenta menonita, su madre sigue vistiendo de esa forma, pero ella ya es de otra generación, es una de las pocas mujeres que pueden darse el lujo de ser libres de vestir, de pensar, de hacer, gracias a que vive en otro país.

En Canadá, en su tiempo libre, Anna ve telenovelas durante una hora, con diccionario en mano inglés/español. Si hay una palabra que no entiende, la busca y la repite con la finalidad de que su mente se mantenga fresca. También le gusta mucho leer y sobre todo, escribir. Diariamente redacta algo y posteriormente lo publica en su blog “Mennopolitan”, el cual le ha dado la oportunidad de conocer gente y recibir ofrecimientos para visitar universidades a impartir charlas. Hasta un libro autobiográfico tiene listo ya, para ser publicado próximamente.

Anna me cuenta que cuando vivía en su lugar de origen, las colonias menonitas de Nuevo Ideal, no aprendió a leer, lo cual la tenía en cierta forma aislada del mundo. Tampoco hablaba español y quiero pensar que por consiguiente, tampoco escribía. Como fue considerada una “aprendiz difícil” lo que significa que tenía una discapacidad de aprendizaje, tuvo que permanecer en su casa desde antes de los 12 años para ayudar a su madre en las tareas del hogar, pero principalmente en la cocina. Ahí nace su amor por la comida y ocasionalmente publica una receta menonita o mexicana.

En el blog Mennopolitan, Anna desea que quienes lo lean, tengan una imagen más clara del intrigante mundo de los menonitas que hablan el alemán bajo, conocer por qué salieron de Canadá, se trasladaron a México y van y vienen de Canadá a su antojo. Quiere explorar a esas preguntas a través de sus historias, compartiendo sus experiencias personales, tanto de su infancia y adolescencia en México, como su juventud adulta en Canadá. Ella escribe en el blog semanalmente sobre sus luchas como una adolescente analfabeta, deprimida, averiguando la vida en Canadá, a medida que crece y madura como mujer. A lo largo del camino ella desea compartir lo que aprendió sobre la historia fascinante de su propia gente.

Platicar con Anna es descubrir otro universo. Alcanzar a vislumbrar que las barreras sólo existen en nuestra mente, y que si una joven que nunca había salido de su entorno rural y que no tenía la capacidad de leer y hablar otros idiomas, pudo lograr sobresalir y cumplir sus metas pudo hacerlo, con más razón quienes tienen más ventajas de por medio. Anna tiene tatuado en su espíritu esa fe que mueve montañas, esa determinación que no es fácil encontrar, y esa luz que ilumina a todos los que le rodean. ¡Cómo me gustaría conocer más Annas para que me sigan inspirando!

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