Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

The "Green Hell" Becomes Home: Mennonites in Paraguay as Described in the Writings of Peter P. Klassen

Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

The "Green Hell" Becomes Home: Mennonites in Paraguay as Described in the Writings of Peter P. Klassen

Article excerpt

Kaputi Mennonita, eine friedliche Begegnung im Chacokrieg. Collected and edited by Peter P. Klassen. Filadelfia, Paraguay: n.p. 1975. Pp. 166.

Immer kreisen die Geier: Ein Buch vom Chaco Boreal in Paraguay. By Peter P. Klassen. Filadelfia: n.p. 1986. Pp. 263.

Die Mennoniten in Paraguay: Reich Gottes und Reich dieser Welt, vol. 1, 2nd edition. By Peter P. Klassen. Bolanden-Weierhof, Germany: Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein e.V. 2001. Pp. 480. (1st edition, 1988. Pp. 383.)

Kampbrand und andere mennonitische Geschichten aus dem paraguayischen Chaco. By Peter P. Klassen. Filadelfia: n.a. 1989. Pp. 137.

Die deutsch-volkische Zeit in der Kolonie Fernheim, Chaco, Paraguay, 1943-1945: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der auslandsdeutschen Mennoniten wahrend des Dritten Reiches. By Peter P. Klassen. Bolanden-Weierhof: Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein e.V. 1990. Pp. 148.

Die Mennoniten in Paraguay: Begegnung mit Indianern und Paraguayern, vol. 2. By Peter P. Klassen. Bolanden-Weierhof: Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein e.V. 1991. Pp. 376.

Und ob ich schon wanderte ...: Geschichten zur Geschichte der Wanderung und Flucht der Mennoniten von Preussen uber Russland nach Amerika. By Peter P. Klassen. Bolanden-Weierhof: Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein e.V. 1997. Pp. 319.

Die schwarzen Reiter: Geschichten zur Geschichte eines Glaubensprinzips. By Peter P. Klassen. Uchte, Germany: Sormentau Verlag. 1999. Pp. 273.

The story of the Mennonites in Paraguay is multifaceted and full of surprises. It is a story of successes and failures, never lacking in dramatic elements; and it embraces a wide gamut of Mennonites: from arch traditionalists like the Old Colony people from Mexico, who avoid any education sare the most rudimentary, to congregations with members in the professions, even in politics, educated in national as well as European and American colleges and universities. While Paraguay is not the only country where Mennonite settlers have essentially replaced an existing local population, in no other country have they been forced so directly to acknowledge a local population living there before they arrived and to grapple head-on with issues related to recognizing another culture.

Paraguay has a Mennonite population of over 29,000 (1) today. They live in 17 different colonies throughout the country and in the capital city of Asuncion. Somewhat over half of them live in 3 colonies in the Chaco Boreal, about 1300 in Asuncion, and the remaining in colonies located in East Paraguay. The settlers arrived between 1927 and 1983, coming to this country for different reasons.

Although several books and studies on these Mennonites have appeared in English, (2) materials written in German, some by Paraguayan Mennonites themselves, are not well known in the U.S. While Mennonites in the U.S. may be unaware of their Paraguayan coreligionists, many Canadian Russian Mennonites are well acquainted with much of the Paraguayan Mennonite story because of their common German and Low German (Plautdietsch) languages and the considerable migration back and forth.

Published in German, the earliest significant account of the immigration to Paraguay, albeit written from the viewpoint of a 1930s German Nationalist, is Walter Quiring's Deutsche erschliessen den Chaco. (3) Quiring visited Paraguay but was not an immigrant to Paraguay himself. The most significant single author dealing with the Paraguayan Mennonite experience, in his eight published books totaling over 2000 pages, is Peter P. Klassen. Unlike Quiring, he has lived and worked in Paraguay since he arrived there as a young boy. His books, available only in German (except Kaputi Mennonita, which is translated into Spanish), deal with many different aspects of Mennonite life, the background of the settlers, their practices, their environment and their interaction with their surrounding world. This essay will introduce Klassen and provide an insight into the scope of his work and the story he has to tell. …

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