A SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE
MENNONITE IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES
IN PARANA, BRAZIL
REYNOLDS HERBERT MINNICH, JR.
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Reynolds Herbert Minnich, Jr.
The present writer's interest in the Mennonites of ParanA was
stimulated by a visit among them in May, 1962. These people are involved
in various kinds of sociocultural change which are similar to those taking
place among their brethren in North America. The smallness of the Brazilian
group permits the investigator to gain an understanding of the process and
effects of such change which would be difficult to obtain by an attempt
to study the much larger Mennonite society of North America.
This research was possible because of the many people whose ideas
and cooperation enabled the present writer to bring the dissertation to
completion. Foremost among all these persons is the chairman of the
supervisory committee, Dr. T. Lynn Smith, whose untiring efforts went far
beyond those which a doctoral candidate may expect of his chairman. The
present writer is profoundly apprecJative of Dr. Smith for his helpful
suggestions, constructive criticisms, and careful reading and editing
of the manuscript. The frame of reference employed in this analysis
is largely that developed by Dr. Smith, as readily may be seen by a
perusal of the Table of Contents. Dr. Smith's sustained interest and as-
sistance have contributed substantially to whatever merits this study may
Special thanks also are due to the other members of the supervisory
committee for their helpful criticisms, suggestions, and encouragement.
committee for their helpful criticisms, suggestions, and encouragement.
They are the following: Dr. Harry Kantor, Dr. Lyle N. McAlister, Dr. John
V.D. Saunders, Dr. Joseph S. Vandiver, and Dr. Ruth Albrecht, who
substituted for Dr. Saunders during the later phase of the writing of the
A field study such as this depends greatly upon the active coopera-
tion of the members of the group involved. The present writer is deeply
grateful to the principals of the two Mennonite schools, Waldemar Ens
and Peter Pauls, Jr., and to some of their students, for their participa-
tion in the enumerative survey of Monnonite families. An important source
of information in this research is the numerous extended interviews with
most of the religious, educational, and community leaders. A special word
of thanks is due to each of them. In order to respect their desire that
their words remain confidential, it was decided not to specify individuals
in footnote citations to information gathered in such interviews, nor are
they included in the Bibliography. This opportunity is taken to express
the present writer's gratitude for their invaluable assistance in these
interviews, as well as for their hearty recommendations to others to
cooperate in the research project.
Special appreciation is due to Abram Dueck and Henry Ens, whose
complete mastery of German and English was indispensable in the prepara-
tion of the research instruments. The work in Witmarsum was facilitated
greatly by Peter Pauls, Sr., the president of the local cooperative, and
by Peter Pauls, Jr., the principal of the colony's school. Their dedica-
tion to the systematic gathering of statistical data, and the preservation
of historical documents, proved to be a great help in the realization of
this study. Also, Ernst Janzen was a faithful and effective assistant
whose work greatly enhanced the progress of the research.
Professors Jos6 Loureiro Fernandes and Altiva P. Balhana made rela-
tions with the University of Parana a very pleasant experience. Professor
Balhana, and other members of the University's Research Council, were much
appreciated colleagues in the research in Witmarsum, due to their continuing
interest in and study of this colony.
The present writer is deeply indebted to the many persons who co-
operated patiently in the formal interviews of heads of households and
the completion of the student questionnaires. The friendly acceptance of
an outsider by most of the members of a group which has many reasons to
distrust data-gathering strangers made the eleven months of participant
observation a period of great satisfaction.
Finally, the writer wishes to acknowledge the invaluable assistance
of his wife, Shirley Showalter Minnich, whose secretarial and editorial
help, and constant encouragement, have played an important role in the
completion of this dissertation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE . . . .. iii
LIST OF TABLES .o . . viii
LIST OF FIGURES . . x
PART I: INTRODUCTION
I. INTRODUCTION . ...... 2
II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDS . .. 14
III. A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ............. 33
PART II: THE DEMOGRAPHIC SITUATION
IV. THE NUMBER, DISTRIBUTION, AND CHARACTERISTICS OF THE
POPULATION . . .. 49
V. VITAL PROCESSES, MIGRATION, AND GROWTH OF THE
POPULATION o. .................. .... 87
PART III: SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
VI. THE INSTITUTIONALIZED RELATIONSHIPS OF MAN TO THE
LAND . . 102
VII. SOCIAL DIFFERENTIATION AND STRATIFICATION 124
VIII. DOMESTIC, EDUCATIONAL, AND GOVERNMENTAL SYSTEMS 146
IX. THE MENNONITE RELIGIOUS SYSTEM . .. 180
TABLE OF CONTENTS (continued)
PART IV: SOCIAL PROCESSES
X. COOPERATION, COMPETITION, AND CONFLICT . .
XI. ACCOMMODATION, ACCULTURATION, AND ASSIMILATION ..... .
PART V: CONCLUSION
XII. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS . . .
A. FORMS USED IN THE CENSUS OF PARANA MENNONITES .
B. FORMS USED TO SECURE INFORMATION FROM PARENTS AND STUDENTS
C. FORMS USED TO SECURE SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION .
D. ENGLISH FORMS OF THE UNPUBLISHED INSTRUMENTS USED FOR THE
MEASUREMENT OF ATTITUDES . .
E. ANALYSIS OF THE MARITAL-PREFERENCE QUESTION .
F. QUESTIONS USED IN EXTENDED INTERVIEWS WITH PARANA MENNONITE
LEADERS . . .. .
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . .
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . .
LIST OF TABLES
I The Relative Importance of the Three Large Age Groups
in the Four Parana Mennonite Communities, 1965 ... .. 55
II Selected Characteristics of the Populations of Four Parana
Mennonite Communities, by Residential Category, 1965 61
III Percentages of the Immigrant Population, Born in Stated
Countries, for Four Parana Mennonite Communities, 1965 63
IV Percentages of the Refugee, Foreign-Born Having Stated
Citizenship Status, in Four Parana Mennonite Communities,
1965 . . . 65
V Percentages of the Russian-Born Population Having Stated
Regional Backgrounds, for Four Parana Mennonite Com-
munities, 1965 . . .. 68
VI Median Age at First Marriage of Parana Mennonites, by Sex,
Selected Ages, and Community, 1965 . 74
VII Percentages of Employed Parana Mennonite Males Aged 14 and
Over, by Occupation and Community, 1965 .. 77
VIII Level of Educational Attainment of ParanA Mennonites Aged
15 and Over, by Sex, Residence, and Age, 1965 .. 82
IX Indexes of Fertility of Parana Mennonites, by Community,
1964 . . . 89
X R6sum6 of the International Migration of Parana Mennonites,
1935-1964 . . . 95
XI Percentages of Farms with Selected Implements and Vehicles
in Three Parana Mennonite Communities, 1965 .. 119
XII Social Class and Occupational Status, in Percentages, of
Male Heads of Households in Four Parana Mennonite Com-
munities, 1965 . . .. .138
LIST OF TABLES (continued)
XIII The Relative Importance, in Percentages, of the Subclasses
in Four Parana Mennonite Communities, Based upon the
Data for Male Heads of Households, 1965 . 142
XIV The Percentages of Students among Persons Aged 14-19 in Four
Paranh Mennonite Communities, by Sex, 1965 .. .169
XV Religious Festivals and Holidays of the Parand Mennonites 198
XVI Enrollment in Paranh Mennonite Bible Schools, 1965 201
XVII Percentages of the Persons Aged 20 and Over Having Stated
Religious Affiliation in Four ParanA Mennonite Communi-
ties, 1965 . . 207
XVIII Percentages of the Married Couples Having Stated Religious
Affiliation in Four Parana Mennonite Communities, 1965 209
XIX Sex Ratios of Persons Aged 20 and Over Having Stated
Religious Affiliation in Four Parana Mennonite Comnuni-
ties, 1965 .. .. 213
XX A Summary of Significant Relationships for Attitude Scale
Scores ... . ... o 220
LIST OF FIGURES
1. Location of the Mennonite Communities in Parana, and of
the Original, Abandoned Colonies in Santa Catarina,
Brazil . . 3
2. Age-Sex Pyramids for the Total, Boqueirao, Vila Guaira,
and Witmarsum Mennonite Populations in ParanA, Brazil,
1965 . . . 57
3. The Relationship of Age to Marital Status in the Mennonite
Population of Parana, Brazil, 1965 . .. 72
4. Frequency Distribution of Parana Mennonite Religion Scale
Scores, 1965 . . 181
5. Organization of the Mennonite Brethren Church in ParanA,
and Official Membership Data (January, 1965) ... .. .191
6. Organization of the General Conference Mennonite Church
in ParanA, and Official Membership Data (January, 1965) 192
7. The Relationship of Age to Church Membership in the Three
Principal Parana Mennonite Communities, 1965 ..... .210
This study is a sociological analysis of four Mennonite communities
in Parang, one of the southern states of Brazil. It is devoted primarily
to a comparison of the demographic and sociocultural situations of the
several communities, and of the changes which have taken place in them
since 1930, the year the Mennonites arrived in Santa Catarina, Brazil.
No attempt is made to describe in detail the complete situation of the
communities. The center of interest is the social and cultural change
which has occurred.
The field research on which this study is based was done from
September, 1964, through July, 1965. All four of the communities are
located in or near the city of Curitiba, the capital of Parana. (See
Figure 1.) They include the following: Witmarsum, a rural colony located
about 35 40 miles from Curitiba; Boqueirao-Xaxim, commonly called
Boqueirao (and referred to as such throughout this study), a large rurban
settlement about six miles south of the city; Guarituba, a small locality
group ten miles southeast of Curitiba, whose characteristics are inter-
mediate to those of Witmarsum and Boqueirao; and Vita Guaira, an urban
settlement named for the section of the city in which it is located. The
present writer spent considerable time in each of the four conducting
interviews, attending meetings, and visiting informally with numerous
Location of the Mennonite Communities in Parang, and of the
Original, Abandoned Colonies in Santa Catarina, Brazil.
families. The data which were gathered, often with the generous assistance
of various helpful Mennonites, are used in this study to analyze the demo-
graphic characteristics, the social organization, and the social processes
of the several communities involved. All of the tables and figures are
based on data collected, compiled, and computed by the present writer,
unless there is a specific statement to the contrary. An attempt is made
to assess the importance of the differences between the four communities,
as well as of the changes that have taken place since the first Mennonite
colonies were established in Santa Catarina.
The similarities and differences between the sociocultural patterns
characteristic of the Mennonites in Brazil at the present time and those
which prevailed in Russia, when they lived in that country, also are
analyzed. Although it is not possible to establish an empirical basis
for all topics of sociological interest for the Mennonites in Russia, a
considerable amount of reliable data exists concerning some aspects of
their society and culture (see Chapter III). With these materials, and
with the comparative results of studies among the Mennonites in Paraguay,
whose way of life continues to be very similar to that in Czarist Russia,
a reasonably accurate picture may be secured of the direction and extent
of sociocultural change.
Purposes of the Study
This research seeks to increase scientific knowledge concerning
some of the Mennonites in Brazil. Although numerous studies have been
made among these people in Western Europe and North America, and to some
extent in Russia, sociological research among the Mennonites in Brazil is
just beginning. Some notable work has been done in Paraguay, and the
present study provides a sociological analysis of about two-thirds of
those in Brazil. Unlike their brethren in Paraguay, Bolivia, Mexico,
and British Honduras, the Brazilian Mennonites have no special privileges
as a minority group. Therefore the present research is especially concerned
with the social processes by which a group of Mennonite immigrants adjusts
itself in a country where conditions' do not permit the transplantation of
the sociocultural patterns which were predominant in pre-revolutionary
Russia. Specifically, this study seeks to answer questions such as the
1. How many Mennonites reside in Parana, and what are their
2. What is the social organization of the Mennonite communities
in Parana and what are the important differences between the
3. How does the social organization in Paranh differ from that
of the original settlers in Santa Catarina, and that of the
Mennonite colonists in pre-revolutionary Russia?
4. What are the roles of the basic social processes in the four
5. What changes in the relative importance of the several
processes have taken place during the Mennonites' residence
in Brazil, 1930-1965?
6. What are the major social and cultural changes among the
Parana Mennonites during their residence in Brazil?
7. What are the principal causes, and who are the principal
agents, of these changes?
The general hypothesis of the present writer is that the Mennonites
in Parana are moving away from a group-oriented, authoritarian pattern of
living to one which is more individual-oriented and democratic. The
vastly different physical, social, and cultural conditions the immigrants
encountered in Brazil were among the original causes of the above trend.
In addition, many of those who chose Brazil instead of Paraguay for their
new homeland were more receptive to religious and other changes. Continuing
adaptation on the part of the Mennonites is due today to the greatly
increased contacts of the younger generation with the host society and
especially to the contacts Mennonite students have in non-Mennonite
educational institutions. These persons enjoy considerable prestige in
both societies, and they are the most effective channels and stimuli for
change at the present time.
The present writer spent eleven months in field research and
participant observation gathering the data needed to test the above
hypothesis, and to answer the questions listed in the preceding section,
as well as a host of related ones. During the first months he made an
attempt to become acquainted personally with the church, community, and
educational leaders. The cooperation and public support which these
men gave to the project provided, in the present writer's opinion, the
decisive ingredient which assured the success of the undertaking.
There were no accurate demographic data on the population, so a
census of the Parana Mennonites was made by the investigator. (See
Appendix A for the forms used.) The rural Witmarsum colony had family-
record cards for most of its families, so the present writer adapted the
form somewhat and used it for all the communities. A supplementary schedule
called for other desired information. Duplicate copies of the family-
record forms were made and a copy of each was deposited in the library
of the Boqueirao Mennonite School (Escola Erasto Gaertner). The large
task of taking the census was greatly facilitated by the hearty approval
given to the project by all of the leaders. The juniors and seniors of
the Boqueirao School cooperated in completing the forms in the large
urban community, as well as in the urban community of Vila Guaira.
Information concerning community, religious, and educational organi-
zation was gathered by means of interviews-in-depth with most of the
leaders. (See Appendix F for the questions used.) Numerous written
records, documents, and files also were examined. Considerable information
and understanding were gained by formal and informal visits in the homes of
many families in all the Mennonite communities.
Use of a Sample
The writer was interested in visiting a cross section of all the
households in order to gain greater perspective. He needed to obtain
selected information about the family, social participation, membership
in voluntary organizations, and political behavior from a representative
portion of the population. Finally, he wished to measure selected at-
titudes of a cross section of the people. Therefore, he decided to
interview intensively a 20 per cent, stratified, proportional sample of
all heads of households, which totaled 103 persons. To test the hypo-
thesis that the students attending non-Mennonite educational institutions
in ParanA held significantly different opinions and attitudes, when
compared with their elders, portions of the interview instrument were
given to as many as possible of those Mennonite students (70-or 90 per
cent of all such students). No attempt was made to insure that the
student sample would be representative, but with such a high proportion
of the population included, it is highly probable that such is the case.
Thle selected information was gathered through interviews with the
members of the sample of the heads of households (hereafter called
parents) by means of a mimeographed schedule. For comparative purposes,
the section containing the instruments for measuring attitudes, as well
as a question concerning preference in the choice of a marriage partner,
were included in the questionnaire given to the sample of students (see
Appendix B for copies of the Parents' Schedule and the Students'
Questionnaire). Both instruments contain items asking for information
on personal characteristics so as to enable the investigator to analyze
the results in terms of residence, age, educational attainment, and so
on. The section on attitudes contains five scales that are well known
to social scientists, plus a battery on Mennonite values constructed by
the writer. The English forms of the unpublished scales used are
included in Appendix D. The particular instruments were chosen because
For a discussion of the scales used, as well as the type of
analysis employed to interpret the result see Chapter'IX.
of their general nature, which reduces the problem of administering them
to a population having a European culture. Participant observation among
the Parana Mennonites confirmed the present writer's opinion that they
have a "way of thinking" which is quite similar to that of North Americans.
It was considered legitimate, therefore, to administer German translations
of the North American scales. Because of the unmeasurable effect of any
real difference of perspective on the part of the Parana Mennonites,
every effort was made to be very conservative in the analysis and inter-
pretation of the results.
Throughout this study "significant" relationships and differences
are those found to be statistically significant at the 5 per cent level,
as measured by a Chi-square test, unless there is a specific statement
to the contrary. In most of the tests a 2 x 2 contingency table was
constructed, and a Chi-square, corrected for continuity, was computed.3
Other relationships which the present investigator considers important,
in spite of a lack of statistical significance, are referred to as
"noteworthy." The small numbers involved in some of the analyses, due
to simultaneous subsorting by several variables, makes a rigid demand
for statistical significance at the 5 per cent level inappropriate.
3See Allen L. Edwards, Statistical Methods for the Behavioral
Sciences (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1954), p. 384.
The investigator used the following procedure in selecting the sample
of parents for each community. Subclasses appropriate to the Parana
situation were established for six personal characteristics of all the
heads of households in the population. The personal characteristics,
and their subclasses, are as follows:
Ag. Six age groups were used: 15-24; 25-34; 35-44; 45-54;
55-64; 65 and over. (Due to the small number in many of
the categories, five-year age groups were not appropriate.)
Religious Affiliation. Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite, Free
Evangelical Mennonite, and Nonnember"
Marital Status of Head of Household. Married, Widowed, Single.
Educational Attainment. Six subclasses in terms of years of
school completed, and divided in terms of the frequency
distribution of the population: 0-3; 4; 5-6; 7-9; 10-12;
13 and over.
Citizenship Status. Stateless, Naturalized Brazilian, Native-
Born Brazilian, Paraguayan (native-born and naturalized),
and German (native-born and naturalized).
Occupation. A total of 19 categories was used,-but reasons of
practicality caused a reduction to the following combina-
tions: Farmers; Craftsmen and Operatives; Laborers; Sales,
Service, and Clerical; Managers and Proprietors; and
Professionals (including Teacher-Preachers, Teachers,
Lawyers, Physicians, and Dentists).
Frequency distributions were made for the subclasses of the six
personal characteristics. Sample quotas, proportional to the respective
frequencies, were then established. The drawing of the sample was done,
as far as was practical, by means of a table of random numbers. The
last two or three persons in each sample were chosen by drawing slips
from a hat containing all the remaining persons who could satisfy the
stratified proportional quotas. The resultant sample, therefore, is a
20 per cent stratified, proportional sample.
Six substitutions were made for persons in the sample who would
not, or could not, participate. Substitutes were chosen in a manner
which would make the least alteration in the stratified, proportional
quotas (in half the cases exact substitutes were found).
Definition of the Population
An operational definition of Mennonite is necessary for this study,
and it is, of necessity, somewhat arbitrary. Various opinions on the
subject were found among the Parana Mennonites themselves. For the
purpose of this study, however, a Mennonite is a person born into a
family whose sociocultural heritage is identified with the Mennonite
colonies of Russia. His relatives are primarily, if not exclusively,
others with the same heritage. He speaks a dialect called Mennoniten
Platt (more properly, West-preussischen Platt Deutsch), and considers
himself to be a part of the Mennonite social group. Such a person is not
necessarily a member of a Mennonite church; but persons who have joined
other churches are not included in the population. Families in which
one of the spouses is a Mennonite, as defined above, are also included
if they consider themselves a part of the social group. The population
was further restricted to those who are residing permanently in Parana.
Those "temporarily" away from home such as students, soldiers, and young
In the small urban community of Guarituba, eight of the 25 house-
holds (32 per cent) were drawn.
unmarried workers, are not included in the population, although their
existence is noted in Chapter IV.
Two German families of non-Mennonite background, who are members
of Mennonite congregations also were included. When these two families
were asked whether they were Mennonites, their responses indicated the
essentially ethnic nature of the study group. Both responded in the
following manner: "I am a member of a Mennonite Church, but I am not
a Mennonite." These families, by intermarriage, probably will become
The Mennonites of Parana number about 2,500 or two-thirds of tlhe
3,700 German-speaking Mennonites in Brazil. This social group is part
of a larger one which came to South America from Russia, principally
during the early 1930's. Because of their background, they are often
called Russian Mennonites. They are part of a religious minority group,
but their most distinguishing characteristics in Parana are those of the
ethnic group: a common descent, history, and sociocultural heritage,
and a distinctive dialect. All of these are maintained by the practice
of endogamous marriage.
It should be noted that there are some Portuguese-speaking Men-
nonites in Brazil, whose congregations are the result of evangelistic
activity both by Brazilian and North American missionaries. Until
recently, however, there has been little meaningful contact between the
two groups: one strictly religious; the other socioreligious.
The General Conference Mennonite Church of ParanA maintains one
Portuguese-language mission congregation; and the Mennonite Brethren
Church of Brazil maintains three in Parana. (Data are for 1965.)
The Mission Board of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North
America sponsors work in five congregations, and conducts a school
The presentation will follow the general outline indicated in the
Table of Contents. Part I includes the introduction, as well as chapters
on historical backgrounds and a review of the pertinent literature. Part
II involves an analysis of the demographic situation, including the
number, distribution, and characteristics of the population, the vital
processes (fertility and mortality), and a brief consideration of migra-
tion. Part III considers the chief features of Mennonite social organi-
zation. Part IV contains an assessment of the role of the social pro-
cesses, with special attention being focused on the results of these pro-
cesses in terms of sociocultural change. Part V is devoted to a summary
of the findings and principal conclusions which have been reached through
the analyses of the data.
(primary and secondary programs), a Bible Institute, and an orphanage.
(Materials secured in an interview with the Rev. John Klassen, Director,
Mennonite Brethren Mission, Curitiba, Parana, July 3, 1965.)
The Mission Board of the Mennonite Church (in North America this
group is often referred to as the "Old Mennonite Church") sponsors work
in seven congregations and administers four bookstores in the Federal
District and the states of Goids and Sao Paulo. This group now
participates in an organization with the General Conference Mennonites
of Paranh for evangelistic activities. (Written Report of the Executive
Secretary, Associsao Evangelica Menonita, to the Council of [Mennonite]
Mission Board Secretaries, September 3, 1965.)
The Mennonite churches grew out of the evangelical Anabaptist move-
ment which began in Switzerland in 1525 and independently in the Low
Countries shortly thereafter. The two groups later came into contact
with each other, and some interchange of ideas took place. One of the
most important leaders of the Anabaptists in the Low Countries was Menno
Simons, and his name came to be applied both to the Dutch Anabaptists and
to the Swiss Brethren, who were known as Mennists and finally as Mennonites.
The Mennonites of Switzerland and southern Germany tended to
migrate to the New World, beginning in 1683, whereas their co-
religionists in the Low Countries moved eastward. This latter
migration was directed to the area near Danzig, in the Vistula River
Delta, where the Dutch Anabaptists drained the marshes and began to
develop their distinctive sociocultural characteristics. The first
Mennonites arrived in the Danzig area about 1547, and they maintained
See J.C. Wenger, Glimpses of Mennonite History and Doctrine
(Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1947), pp. 24, 72-75.
See Christian Hege, "Mennist," in The Mennonite Encyclopedia,
Harold S. Bender et al. (eds.) (4 vols.; Scottdale, Pa.: Mennonite
Publishing House, 1955-1959), III, 574.
3Wenger, op. cit., p. 111.
Benjamin H. Unruh, Die niederlaendisch-niJde.deutschen Hinter-
gruende der mennonitiachen Ostwanderungen im 16., 18., und 19.
Jahrhundort (Karlsruhe: Heinrich Schneider, 1955), pp. 125, 136-137.
meaningful tics with the Mennonites in the Low Countries for more than
two centuries. In Prussia the Mennonites slowly adopted a German-
oriented culture, and the German language finally replaced Dutch in the
church services about a decade before the migrations to Russia began.
As a result of religious persecution in Prussia, principally due
to their refusal to perform military service, the Mennonites sought a
new homeland where they might enjoy both freedom of religion and freedom
from the harassing tactics of an unfriendly government. An invitation
from Catherine the Great, coupled with broad privileges and guarantees,
stimulated the migration of many Mennonites from Prussia to southern
Russia during the period 1789 to 1850. The Mennonites in Russia, in
the unique situation of great civil autonomy for their isolated, closed
colonies, developed a culture quite different from that of the Mennonites
who remained in Western Europe, and also from that of the ones who
migrated to America. Since that time the Russian Mennonites have been
considered by the others as a special type.
5See Johan Sjouke Postma, Das niederlaendische Erbe der preus-
sisch-russlaendischen Mennoniten in Europa, Asien, und Amerika
(Leeuwarden: Drukkerij A. Jongbloed, 1959), pp. 109-148.
6 Ibid., pp. 168-170.
7There are numerous excellent accounts of this portion of Mennonite
history, for example, C. Henry Smith, The Story of the Mennonites (4th ed.
rev. by Cornelius Krahn; Newton, Kansas: Mennonite Publication Office,
1957), pp. 384-526; David G. Rempel, "The Mennonite Colonies in New Russia:
A Study of their Settlements and Economic Development from 1789 to 1014"
(Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, Stanford University, 1933),
passim; and Cornelius Krahn, "Russia," Mennonite Encyclopedia, IV, 381-393.
The Russian Period
The 150 years the Mennonites spent in Russia, under conditions in
which they were permitted both religious freedom and much political
autonomy, resulted in a sociocultural system unique among those of their
religious faith. By a decree of the Russian state, the Mennonites were
obliged to develop their own system of self-government. The Anabaptists
who had always eschewed governmental activities now had to constitute
what was practically a state within a state. The inherent contradiction
which this involved for them was solved by resorting to a rather technical
separation of church and state. But the development of a closely knit
social group residing in isolated, all-Mennonite communities, using a
language foreign to the Russians and living in a situation where church
and society became intimately mixed, if not fused, transformed the Men-
nonites from a religious sect into an ethnic group. "If they were not a
people when they arrived, they were forced into becoming one by the
conditions of their settlement."
Their amazing success on the steppes of Russia, first with live-
stock and then with wheat, enabled them to develop a level of economic
prosperity and cultural achievement previously unequaled by rural Men-
nonites. Before the outbreak of World War I, 80,000 of them owned more
than three million acres of land. They had eight industrial firms with
almost 1,800 employees, as well as 38 brick and tile factories. At that
E.K. Francis, "The Mennonite Commonwealth in Russia, 1789-1914:
A Sociological Interpretation," Mennonite Quarterly Review, XXV, 3
(July, 1951), 180. This excellent article shows clearly the dilemma
in which the Mennonites found themselves in Russia.
time Mennonites produced 6 per cent of all the agricultural machinery
of Russia. 9
Educational and charitable institutions also flourished, including
400 prin.ary schools, 13 secondary schools, four colleges for girls, two
normal schools, two trade schools, one commercial college with an eight-
year curriculum, a school for deaf and dumb children, a school for
deaconesses, and a Bible School. The Mennonites also owned and operated
hospitals, ir.ental institutions, o ph.,nges, and old folks' homes.
This progress was made only after an original period of difficult
times, and the "Golden Age" of Russian Mennonitism was tarnished by the
development of extreme formality and spiritual laxness within the church.
This situation finally produced a major denominational division, in ad-
dition to numerous minor ones, when the Mennonite Brethren Church was
organized in 1860.11 The main religious body had become an established
church, and it exerted severe pressures on those who did not conform
to the status quo.
In the period between 1790 and 1870, the Mennonite sectarians in
Russia had become a people whose conspicuous secular successes
were bought at the price of institutionalizatiy of religion and
secularization of the inner life of the group.
9See Rempel, op. cit., chapters XI, XII, and XIII; also Cornelius
Krahn (ed.), From the Steppes to the Prairies (Newton, Kansas: Men-
nonite Puiblication Office, 1949), p. 6.
10 See Reompel, op. cit., chapter XIV; Frank H. Epp, Mennonite Exodus
(Altona, Manitoba: D.W. Frieson & Sons, Ltd., 1962), pp. 19-22; and P.M.
Friesen, Die Alt-Evangelische MAlennonitische Bruederschaft in Russland
(1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamnitgeschichte (Halbstadt,
Ukraine: Verlagsgesellschaft Raduga, 1911), pp. 569-668.
lRobert Kreider, "The Anabaptist Conception of the Church in the
Russian Mennonite Environment, 1789-1870," Mennonite Quarterly Review,
XXV, 1 (January, 1951), 17-33.
12Francis, op. cit., p. 200.
Migrations to the New World
After the Mennonites of Russia had solved the crisis of providing
land for the growing number of their landless brethren in the colonies,
by means of a mutual saving fund, and after the first shocks of the
religious division had subsided, a new threat clouded their future. In
1870 the Russian government announced that no longer would any minority
groups be exempt from military service. The Mennonites sought exemption
from the proposed universal conscription, but it became a law in 1874.
This threat to one of their most important doctrines (complete nonresist-
ance) set off a migration of about a third of the group to North America,
1873-1880. About 10,000 of them settled in the United States and 8,000
in Canada. Those who remained in Russia developed two major systems of
alternative service: work in forestry and v noncombatant medical corps.
Following World War I, and the outbreak of the Russian Revolution,
the fortunes of the Mennonites in Russia went into dismal decline and
thousands of persons were seized by the desire to migrate to America.
13See Cornelius Krahn, "Mennonite Community Life in Russia," Men-
nonite Quarterly Review, XVI, 3 (July, 1942), 174-177.
14Georg Leibbrandt, "The Emigration of the German Mennonites
from Russia to the United States and Canada in 1873-1880," Mennonite
Quarterly Review, VI, 4 (October, 1932), 205-226 and VII, 1 (January,
1933), 5-41; and E.K. Francis, In Search of Utopia: The Mennonites in
Manitoba (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1955), p. 28. This book's first
chapter contains the best brief description of the Mennonite social
organization in Russia readily available in English, see esp. pp. 20-27.
15See Jacob Sudermann, "The Origin of Mennonite State Service in
Russia, 1870-1880," Mennonite Quarterly Review, XVII, 1 (January, 1943),
The reasons for this desire to migrate to the New World following
1917 are clear. The Mennonites, as well as all other German-speaking
colonists, were the object of a gradually increasing Russification
program. The war with Germany, of course, greatly heightened the desire
to wipe out the German cultural islands. All things German were banned
during the war; and then came the confusion and terror of the Russian
Civil War (1919-1920), the resulting famines and plagues (1921-1922),
and the increasing action of the Soviet government against independent
farmers, large and small, which broke up the Mennonites' way of life.
The communication of agriculture, plus the attempt to train the children
in atheism, gave the Mennonitos a strong urge to flee. 16
During the 1920's the Mennonites, as well as other German-speaking
colonists, suffered ever-increasing pressures and persecutions. An im-
migration corinittee was set up to aid Mennonites who wished to move to
Canada. This committee drew up a list of the reasons for the desire to
migrate, which are basically the three already mentioned: economic,
sociocultural, and religious. 17 During the 1920's approximately 20,000
of Russia's best farmers fled the Workers' Paradise and migrated to
16See Benjamin H. Unruh, "The Background and Causes of the Flight
of the Mennonites from Russia in 1929," Mennonite Quarterly Review, IV,
4 (October, 1930), 267-281i and V, 1 (January, 1931), 28-41.
17See Epp, op. cit., p. 48. It is noteworthy that this commission
was called Verband der Buerger hollaendischer Herkunft. On this oc-
casion, as well as after World War II, successful attempts to link Men-
nonites to their Dutch origins aided their migration to the Western
Ibid., p. 105.
The majority of those who went to Canada were the more prosperous
Mennonites of southern Russia. Then in 1929 Stalin decreed that village
communists could penalize farmers who did not pay their grain tax in
wheat, with a fine up to five times the value of the levy in wheat. The
grain harvest that year was quite small, and impossible taxes were imposed
to furnish a legal pretext for action against the Kulacs. The Mennonites
ii Siberia wore especially hurt by these developments, and in 1929, 15,000
of the faithful (Mennonites and other German-speaking colonists) camped
at the gates of Moscow. The Soviet government sent more than half of
them back to Siberia, but the reaction of the western world to these
events convinced the authorities to release 6,000 peasants, among whom
were .1,000 Mennonites. Some of these persons were able to go to Ca-
nada, but most of them went to South America. The largest group settled
in the Paraguayan Chaco, where a group of ultraconservative Russian
Mennonites, who Lad left Canada in 1926, had already taken up residence.21
About 1,100 of the refugees entered Brazil during 1930, and settled in the
virgin forests of the mountains of Santa Catarina. In 1934 about 180
persons arrived in Brazil via Harbin, China, where Mennonites from the
19D.H. Unruh, "Background and Causes," p. 280; anc H.S. Bender,
"Editorial," lMennonite Quarterly Review, IV, 4 (October, 1930), 236.
Joseph WVinfield Fretz, Immigrant Group Settlements in Paraguay
(North Newton, Kansas: By the author, 1962), pp. 83-103.
colonies located near the Amur River, on the Chinese border, spent several
years as ref'iLt'ccs after their flight from Russia in 1930-1931.
After World War II approximately 4,850 Mennonite refugees went to
Paragumy, and 1,200 settled in Uruguay, but none of them went first to
Brazil. later on, however, some of them moved to Brazil.23
This brief review of the history of the Russian Mennonites demon-
strates the validity of the oft-repeated statement that their history
is largely one of migration. In the course of centuries of persecution,
they developed an almost automatic response to any threat to their
faith: withdrawal, flight, emigration. 24 This response brought the
Mennonite pioneers to North America in the 19th century; and a similar
reaction in the 20th century carried the refugees from Communism and war
to South America. In Brazil, as in Paraguay, Mennonites once again had
to confront pioneer conditions of settlement.
The Mennonite Communities in Santa Catarina
The situation of the Mennonite refugees, after their flight from
Moscow to Berlin in November, 1929, soon became desperate. It was impos-
sible for them either to go en masse to Canada or to remain in Germany.
Arrangemrients had not been completed for them to settle in Paraguay, and
some did not wish to go there. However, permission was granted for them
22See U.S. Bender, "Harbin (Manchuria) Refugees," Mennonite Ency-
clopedia, II, 657; and Cornelius Krahn, "Amur," Mennonite Encyclopedia,
23See H.S. Bender, "Mennonites in South America," Mennonite Ency-
clopedia, IV, 583-584.
24See Francis, Utopia, p. 35.
See Francis, Utopia, p. 35.
to immigrate to Brazil, and Dr. Benjamin H. Unruh, himself a Russian
Mennonite who had migrated to Germany, encouraged those who wished to
leave for the New World to consider Brazil. He succeeded in persuading
one of the best-educated ministers, Professor Heinrich Martins, to serve
as the leader of those persons who chose Brazil as their new home. The
first contingent of refugees left Hamburg on January 16, 1930, and
arrived in Santa Catarina in February. Others soon followed and
settled on land acquired from the Hanseatic Colonization Company.
The Mennonites wished to settle in one geographical location in
order to establish their community organization on the basis of the
Mennonite patterns which existed in the colonies in Russia. The only
tract of land owned by the German company, which was large enough for
this, was a mountain valley located on the Upper Krauel River about 95
miles from Blumenau. The valley extended for 12 miles along the Krauel
River, and was covered with virgin forest. The primitive conditions in
which the colonists found themselves, and the isolation from transporta-
tion and market facilities reduced them to a level of hoe and fire
agriculture. By June, 1930, all the land in the Krauel Valley had been
allocated, and almost 100 families were settled on a high plateau about
18 miles from the original location. If the situation along the Krauel
25These data were secured through interviews with Prof. Martins in
Blumenau, Santa Catarina, April 24, 1965. See also H.S. Bender, "Brazil,"
Mennonite Encyclopedia, I, 408-410; and Walter Quiring, Russlanddeutsche
suchen eine Heimat (Karlsruhe: Heinrich Schneider, 1938), pp. 115-128.
was unfortunate, the second place, known as Stoltz Plateau, was "an
almost criminally impossible location.26
The colony in the Krauel Valley was named Witmarsum, after the
birthplace of Menno Simons, as a recognition of the aid which was
received from the Dutch Mennonites. The settlement on Stoltz Plateau
was named Auhagen, for a German official in Moscow who aided them in
their flight from Russia. The first years were ones of great difficulties
and considerable suffering. The two communities attained their maximum
population about 1934, at which time Witmarsum contained approximately
160 families, and Auhagen about 102, with a total of almost 1,500
As early as 1933 a few families began seeking a more promising
area for settlement. Some moved to Blumenau, Santa Catarina, and others
to the city of Sao Paulo; but those leaving soon were directed to Curi-
tiba, the rapidly growing capital of ParanA. In the mid-1930's about 65
families moved there from the settlement on the Stoltz Plateau. These
H.S. Bender, "Krauel," Mennonite Encyclopedia, III, 233-234.
The present writer's impression, after a visit to the area, was that
such a location practically amounted to banishment. The terrain is
suited only to the use of hoe and ax, and even today the inhabitants
remain on a level of creature existence. The Krauel Valley is
considerably more favorable, but its isolation from markets was a
great hindrance to progress.
27It is difficult to determine exactly the size of the population,
due to conflicting evidence, most of which is an educated guess. The
above data are based on Bender, "Krauel," for Witnarsum, and on data
from the Mennonite newspaper printed there during the 1930's. See
especially H.H. Loewen and P. Klassen, "Statistisches vom Krauel," Die
Bruecke, II, 4 (Juli-August, 1933), 5. Data for Auhagen (Stoltz
Plateau) secured in an interview with Heinrich Neufeld, one-time
Colony Manager, April 19, 1965.
formed the majority of the people who established the first Mennonite
locality groups in and near Curitiba, namely, Vila Guaira, and Boqueirao,
which consisted of three subdivisions (Boqueirio I, Xaxim, and Boqueirao
II--settled in that order).28 The origins of the Parana communities are
described in Chapter IV.
Problem of Nomenclature
The present writer was faced with a dilemma concerning what terms
to use in referring to the Mennonite locality groups. In Russia the
"colony" (Kolonie) was used to speak of the entire Mennonite locality
group which composed one coordinated political entity. In later years,
especially in Siberia, the locality group was sometimes referred to as
a "settlement" and its subdivisions were called colonies. Such a sit-
uation led to an indiscriminate use of the terms. In Brazil the Men-
nonites began to refer to their individual farms with the term Kolonie,
in accordance with the Brazilian practice of calling the farmer a colono.
It is clear, therefore, that a simple translation of the German terms
used by the Mennonites can lead only to confusion.
28Cf. Walter Quiring, Im Schweisse Deines Angesichts (Steinbach,
Manitoba: Derksen Printers, Ltd., 1953), p. 117, who confuses the
order of settlement in Boqueirao. See also Peter Klassen, "The Men-
nonites of Brazil," Mennonite Quarterly Review, XI, 2 (April, 1937), 112.
29See, for example, Walter Quiring, Deutsche erschliessen den
Chaco (Karlsruhe: Heinrich Schneider, ]936), p. 13, where the Fernheim
Colony is called a settlement, and a subdivision is called a colony.
Every other reference the present writer ever saw or heard about Fern-
heim has termed it a colony.
The present writer accepts the distinction between settlement and
colony, as used by Fretz. He observes that a colony implies an attempt
to transplant as completely as possible the way of life which the colonists
followed in their earlier place of residence (often called "mother colony"
by the Mennonites). The terms "colony" and "colonization" also imply
greater degrees of social cohesion, as well as a systematic attempt to
transplant the entire social and cultural milieu of the group, than do
the terms "settle" and "settlement."
In light of the above-mentioned distinction, the present writer
concludes that Witmarsum and Auhagen may be called colonies. Each one
was divided into three parts, as far as school administration was
concerned. In Witmarsum each geographical subdivision had its own system
of local government, which in turn was also a part of a colony-wide govern-
ment. The Auhagen colony did not have as complex a system of local
The locality groups in Parani, in the present writer's opinion,
should not be termed colonies, with the exception of Witmarsum. The
other settlements were characterized from the beginning by many of the
factors usually associated with colonies (common language, religion,
background, and ethnic origin), but those persons who established them
specifically avoided transplanting their traditional type of colony
organization and administration. In this study the locality groups
in and around Curitiba, Parana, are called settlements or communities.
30See especially Fretz, op. cit., pp. 23-24.
It is also necessary to consider the problem of whether the various
locality groups are communities or neighborhoods. In Santa Catarina the
subdivisions of the colonies were called villages by their inhabitants.
The present writer decided to consider them as neighborhoods of the
larger community, or colony. In Santa Catarina the colonies were not
large enough to produce separate communities within their borders. In
Paranfi each settlement may be considered a community. Boqueirao is
composed of three neighborhoods--Boqueirao I, Xaxim, and Boqueirao II.
The urban settlement, Vila Guaira, may be thought of as a neighborhood,
in terms of the city of Curitiba, but it is a community as far as Men-
nonite society is concerned. In making these distinctions between neighbor-
hoods and communities, the present writer concurs with Smith that "in many
cases it is difficult to draw an exact dividing line between the two.31
The perspective used here is strictly sociological, because any other
approach, such as the number and types of service centers, is less ap-
plicable to the situation involved. Although the above differentia-
tions are far from perfect, any other solution appears to be less satis-
factory to the present writer.
Form of Settlement
Due to the mountainous terrain, the Mennonites in Santa Catarina
were unable to establish the settlement pattern which they used on the
31T. Lynn Smith, The Sociology of Rural Life (3rd ed.; New York:
Harper & Brothers, 1953), p. 377.
32The usage followed here is in harmony with the generally accepted
concept of corimmnity. See, for example, Henry Pratt Fairchild (ed.),
Dictionary of Sociology (New York: Philosophical Library, 1944), p. 52.
steppes of Russia. There they lived in agricultural villages and farmed
the surrounding area according to an open-field system. The typical
village was bisected by a broad, straight street, on each side of which
were located the neatly spaced homesteads with farm buildings and
gardens.33 In the Witmarsum colony three line villages were established
along the primitive road (picada) which paralleled the Krauel River.
Each family lived on its own plot of land, which extended back from the
road. Undoubtedly the physical topography was the cause of the adoption
of the line village as the form of settlement, which is such a common
feature in the German settlements in southern Brazil.34
In Auhagen the colonists built their homes along three trails which
followed the ridge of the mountain top on which they were located. These
three sections of the colony might also be termed line villages, although
they were not as clearly differentiated organizationally as the line vil-
lages in the Witmarsum colony. In both colonies, as noted earlier, the
three line villages are considered as neighborhoods in the colony, which
is properly considered a community, from a sociological perspective.
33See Cornelius Krahn, "Mennonite Community Life in Russia," pp. 174-
34The term "line village" aptly describes this form of settlement.
It was first used as the name for a separate type of settlement pattern
by T. Lynn Smith in Farm Trade Centers in Louisiana, 1901-1931 (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 234, 1933).
35In Witmarsum one of the three line villages had the same name as
the whole colony. The three were: Witmarsum, Waldheim, and Gnadental.
In Auhagen the three were called by the names of the roads on which they
were located: Anna, Uri, and Paca. See "Mitteilungen von Auhagen-Paca,"
Die Bruecke, III, 4 (Juli-August, 1934), 7-8.
The structural aspects of community organization in the two colonies
bore a modified resemblance to that in Russia. Each village had an as-
sembly composed of the heads of households, and an elected village magis-
trate (Schulze) who was responsible for coordinating the group activities
of the village and its assembly. Since the villages were actually neighbor-
hoods, the work of the assembly and the magistrate was limited to tasks
such as supervising the school (Dorfschule) and maintaining the road in
their area. All the heads of families also were members of the colony
assembly. This assembly elected a general manager given the title of
Siedlungsleiter, who, along with his assistants, was responsible for the
effective administration of the entire colony.
Inasmuch as Brazilian law did not grant civil autonomy to the colony
organization, the effectiveness of the system depended upon the voluntary
cooperation of the inhabitants. In Russia the elected colony president or
superintendent (Obrschulze) was given extensive powers, and personally
exercised the functions of mayor, tax collector, Judge, and chief of police.
His word was law, and frequently such men were virtual dictators. In
Brazil such an autocratic system was impossible, due to the lack of civil
36For a description of the system of community organization and
government in the Mennonite colonies in Russia, see Rempel, op. cit.,
chapters II and VII. Brief descriptions may be found in Francis, Utopia,
pp. 20-22, and in E.K. Francis, "Mennonite Institutions in Early Manitoba:
A Study of their Origins," Agricultural History, XXII, 3 (July, 1948), 144-
autonomy. Although the community organization resembled that used in
Russia, it lacked the ability to be effective as soon as there was any
The colonies in Santa Catarina also were organized economically.
The representative of the German government helped them establish a co-
operative to coordinate the business activities of the colony. All heads
of households were members of the cooperative, which in effect amounted
to a community-wide economic organization which paralleled the community
organization itself. The cooperative was very effective in protecting
the colonists from private merchants who exploited individual farmers and
often bound them in "debt peonage." Without the benefit of the coordinated
efforts of the cooperative, it is difficult to imagine how they could have
avoided the economic fate of many of the non-Mennonite families in the
The establishment of a cooperative with a community-wide membership
was certainly an innovation for the Mennonites. Although they had had
many mutual-aid organizations in Russia, there was no commercial coopera-
tive with an obligatory, community-wide membership. After the first
years, when such close economic cooperation was probably necessary for
survival, many Mennonites became dissatisfied with the situation. Although
the cooperative technically was an independent organization, its business
manager came to figure as a subordinate member of the community-leadership
hierarchy. In time the two organizations experienced a fusion of functions
and anyone who wished to establish a private business, against the wishes
37Klassen, op. cit., p. 110.
of the cooperative, found himself boycotted by the community organization
The fact that the colony leaders from 1930 to 1949 were all ministers
led to a mixing of church, community, and cooperative affairs. Also, the
first leaders were members of the minority religious group in the com-
munity. Dissatisfaction with any part of the situation could be interpreted
as unrest with other aspects of the system, and it is little wonder that
the conflicts which arose over the development of such an interwoven social-
economic-religious leadership often were tinged with denominational over-
tones. Finally, a colony leader who was a member of the majority denomina-
tion joined the minority church. Shortly thereafter (1949), the former
group withdrew from the community-wide Commission for Church Affairs (EKfK),
and within a year families began to move to new settlements in Parana and
Rio Grande do Sul. Most of those who moved were members of the majority
church, and they carefully avoided the establishment of cooperatives in
the new settlements. Before they left, their leader repeatedly criticized
the Cooperative-Community Organization which had developed in the colonies,
and asserted that its leaders had imposed a dictatorship on the colonists
which was patterned on European models.38 By 1950 Witmarsum was split
between those who wanted to maintain a strong colony organization, and
those who desired that individual, free enterprise be the new order in
38See, for example, the minutes of the executive committee of the
Witmarsum colony, January 6, 1949, p. 2. (In the files of the Cooperativa
Agro-Pecuaria Witmarsum, Ltda., Witmarsum, Parana.)
39For a commentary on the situation at that time see J. Schellenberg,
"Brasilien," Der Bote, XXVI, 39 (28. September, 1949), 6-7.
Although many persons who left Witmarsum at that time gave economic
reasons for their move, the present writer was impressed by the large
number of informants who mentioned their disagreement with the develop-
ment of the Cooperative-Community leadership into an all-encompassing power
which governed the community with only a facade of democracy. This
reaction, whether well founded or not, was an important factor in the
breakup of the colony in the Krauel Valley, 1949-1952.
In 1950 about half of the families moved out of Witmarsun, and thus
it became impossible for those who remained to maintain a closed Mennonite
community. They virtually were forced to sell their land to non-Mennonites.
who had gained possession of the properties vacated earlier by the dis-
satisfied colonists. The official community resolution.which contains the
reasons for their decision to move to "New Witmarsum" in ParanS clearly
states that this move was forced on them when the migrating colonists
sold their land to whomever would buy it. This resulted in the collapse
of the community structure and organizations.40
A brief review of the developments in the colonies in Santa Catarina
has convinced the present writer that the Mennonites in Brazil were certain
to lose much of their traditional social organization for the following
reasons: (1) Brazilian law did not permit sufficient civil autonoeW to
ensure the required community-wide participation on which traditional
40"Gemeindespruch der Siedlerversammlung," Witmarsum, Santa Catarina,
March 27, 1951. Article I. (In the files of the Cooperativa Mista Agro-
Pecugria Witr.mrsum, Ltda., Witmarsum, ParanA.)
Mennonite social organization is based; (2) many of the younger generation
never were convinced that in a democratic country the communal type of
community organization was superior; and (3) the numerous conflicts which
developed were almost inevitable in a small group of people--with varied
regional backgrounds, abilities, and interests--which was thrust into an
isolated and extremely difficult physical situation. This third factor
caused many persons to reject the whole system. The fact that the colony
survived as long as it did is eloquent testimony to the importance of
their common language, religion, and ethnicity. It was difficult for the
older members of the colony to convince the younger ones that the system
was actually workable, for after 1914 it had been in a state of increasing
disintegration in Russia itself. The result was that many of the colonists
had an urge to get away from it all.
Even if the Mennonites had settled in a region more suitable for
scientific farming, the breakdown in the traditional social organization
still would have taken place. Only geographical isolation, coupled with
considerable civil autonomy, makes possible a self-sufficient, communal
type of life such as that which existed in Russia, and still prevails in
the Mennonite colonies in Paraguay, Bolivia, Mexico, and British Honduras.
The Brazilian Mennonites have entered the twentieth century socially and
politically, and this has meant the end of the way of life known in Russia.
A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
During most of the Mennonites' denominational existence, published
materials concerning them were written by their theological and ecclesi-
astical enemies. The results were understandably less than favorable to
the nonconformist sect. Most of these materials are polemical in nature,
and do not approach the subject in an objective manner. The orientation
has been anecdotal, or, in Windelband's terms, ideographic. Only since
the latter part of the 19th century have scholars undertaken a serious
study of the social and cultural features of the Mennonites, or Anabap-
tists, as their spiritual and social ancestors were called. The early
foundations of Anabaptist-Mennonite research were completed by Ernst
Troeltsch and Max Weber, who saw the Anabaptists as an example of the
Mennonite and non-Mennonite scholars recently have given consid-
erable impetus to the study of Mennonite history. The leader of this
movement was Professor Harold S. Bender. He established the Mennonite
Historical Society and its organ, The Mennonite Quarterly Review, which
1See Don Martindale, The Nature and Types of Sociological Theory
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1960), p. 18.
See, for example, Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the
Christian Churches (trans. Olive Wyon; New York: The Macmillan Co.,
1931), pp. 694-699, and 705-706; and Max Weber, The Sociology of Re-
ligion (trans. Ephraim Fischoff; Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), pp. 65
and 93. For a review of the historiographical literature, see Guy F.
Hershberger (ed.), The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision: A Sixtieth
Anniversary Tribute to Harold S. Bender (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald
Press, 1957), pp. 1-10.
has published historical materials concerning the Anabaptists, as well as
current Mennonite research.
Although most of the work has been focused on their religious be-
liefs, organization, and behavior, some has been done on other aspects
of Mennonite social organization, especially the family. This latter
research, however, has emphasized the study of family names and the
history of particular families, and most of it has been concerned with
the Mennonites of Europe and North America.
Research among the Mennonites who lived in Russia has involved, to
a certain degree, a sociological approach. This is true of the work on
the Mennonites of Russia, per se, as well as that done in recent years
among the Russian Mennonites in North and South America. Although the
dissertations of Ehrt and Rempel may be considered historical studies,
they include some analysis of social institutions. As a result there is
some documented information on the demographic situation, education and
schools, religion and church, government and politics, economics, and
3For a review of Anabaptist-Mennonite research, see Ernst H.
Correll, "Harold S. Bender and Anabaptist Research," in The Recovery
of the Anabaptist Vision, Hershberger (ed.), pp. 13-28.
4See Kurt Kauenhoven, "Familienkundliche Fragen der Mennoniten-
forschung," in Jahrbuch der Mennoniten in Suedamerika, 1961, Henrique Ens
and Gustav E. Reimer (eds.) (Curitiba: Tipografia Santa Cruz, Ltda.,
1961), pp. 31-42, 72.
5Adolf Ehrt, Das Mennonitentum in Russland von seiner Einwande-
rung bis zur Gegenwart (LAngensalza: Julius Beltz Verlag, 1932).
6David G. Rempel, "The Mennonite Colonies in New Russia: A Study
of their Settlements and Economic Development from 1789 to 1914"
(Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, Stanford University, 1933).
commununity organizations and services of the Russian Mennonites.
The Ethnic Group Perspective
North American Mennonitcs are members of several divisions of a
religious minority group; and the Russian Memnnonites properly may be
considered an ethnic group. This fact has made them the subject of
sociological, anthropological, and geographical studies. Their successful
colonization efforts in Mexico, British Honduras, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil,
and especially Paraguay, has attracted the attention of several social
Perhaps the most detailed analysis of the Mennonites as an ethnic
group has been that of E.K. Francis. His study of the Russian Mennonites
in Manitoba reflects his interest in the analysis of ethnic groups as a
social type. Francis noted that the ethnic group shares a common culture,
language, descent (or assumed descent), history, political organization,
7This term is used to distinguish the Mennonites who came to the
western hemisphere from Russia from the rest of their brethren in the
Americas. Their sociocultural characteristics are distinct from those
who came to the New World from Germany and Switzerland. The majority
of the Mennonites in North America are descendents of immigrants who
began arriving in 1683 and now reside principally in Pennsylvania,
Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa,
Oregon, and Ontario, Canada. The Russian Mennonites arrived in 1873-1884,
1921-1927, 1929-1930, and a few after World War II. They are found mainly
in Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, California, and Manitoba
and Saskatchewan, Canada. See C.F. Klassen, "Canada," in The Mennonite
Encyclopedia, Harold S. Bender et al. (eds.) (4 vols.; Scottdale, Pa.:
Mennonite Publishing House, 1955-1959), I, 501-505; and Harold S. Bender,
"United States of America," Mennonite Encyclopedia, IV, 776-782.
See E.K. Francis, "The Nature of the Ethnic Group," American
Journal of Sociology, LII, 5 (March, 1947), 393-400.
value-orientation, and a tendency toward residential exclusiveness. These
factors produce a strong "we-feeling" among the members of the group. He
also observed that once the ethnic group has reached a certain maturity,
"the elements which have conditioned it in the beginning may disappear,
change, or be supplanted by others, without affecting its coherence and
the 'coiimunaut6 de conscience' [we-feeling] of its members."
In terms of this frame of reference, Francis analyzed the Russian
Mennonites who established colonies in Manitoba. lie demonstrated that
this group, which began as a religious sect, became an ethnic group during
its years of residence in West Prussia and Russia. As it developed into
an ethnic group, its members came to view their entire culture as part of
their application of the Scriptures to daily life. Neither they nor the
out-group recognized that many of their cultural traits actually were
modifications of their Dutch and Prussian heritage. Francis demonstrated
that the Mennonites' culture and value-orientations were those of the
peasant type. But their particular way of life was so distinctive that
they even considered themselves different from other Mennonites. The
latter group also concurs with this opinion. Perhaps Francis' greatest
contribution to an understanding of the Russian Mennonites was his lucid
9Ibid., p. 400.
1See E.K. Francis, "The Russian Mennonites: From Religious to
Ethnic Group," American Journal of Sociology, LIV, 2 (September, 1948),
1See E.K. Francis, "Mennonite Institutions in Early Manitoba: A
Study of their Origins," Agricultural History, XXII, 3 (July, 1948), 144-155.
Sue E.K. Francis, "The Adjustment of a Peasant Group to a
Capitalistic Economy: The Manitoba Mennonites," Rural Sociology, XVII,
3 (September, 1954), 218-228.
analysis of the dilemma which developed as a result of the autonomy given
to their colonies in Russia. He clearly shows that the Mennonites adopted
many of the techniques of the "world" to maintain social control when they
had to deal with the imperfect humans within their own group. This secular-
ization and institutionalization of the Mennonite faith and life produced
internal conflicts and, finally, religious schism. More important, from
a sociological viewpoint, was the development of the Mennonites in Russia
into an ethnic group which resembles closely the pure form of the theo-
The Colonization and Settlement Perspective
Several studies have been made of the Russian Mennonites in Paraguay,
and the tendency has been to give a general description of the way of life
in their colonies. Krause's dissertation describes the climate, land-use
patterns, agricultural and industrial activities, and community services
such as the cooperatives, schools, and hospitals. 14
Joseph Winfield Fretz, a Mennonite sociologist, has made significant
contributions to the growing literature concerning Mennonite social
organization in Paraguay and Mexico. His work combines historical and
sociological approaches in an admirable way, and he presents in tabular
form the statistical data which the Mennonites in Paraguay have gathered
13See E.K. Francis, "The Mennonite Commonwealth in Russia, 1789-
1914: A Sociological Interpretation," Mennonite Quarterly Review, XXV,
3 (July, 1951), 173-182; and Francis, In Search of Utopia: The Men-
nonites in Manitoba (Glencoe: The Free Press, 1955), passim.
14See Annemarie E. Krause, Mennonite Settlement in the Paraguayan
Chaco, Department of Geography Research Paper No. 25, University of
Chicago (Chicago: By the author, 1952).
on a regular basis. He describes the society and culture in the follow-
ing terms: home and family, education and school, religion and church,
government and social welfare, manners and customs, health and medical
facilities, agriculture and farming, and economics and industry. 15 The
book was written for general readers, which probably explains the lack of
precision in the classification of his material. This fact may also ex-
plain the lack of a demographic analysis. Fretz was interested in dis-
covering the characteristics of successful colonization efforts, and the
Paraguayan Mennonites are one of the best examples of such success. His
work demonstrates that the Russian Mennonites are indeed an ethnic group,
and that this fact, plus their substantial use of cooperative and mutual-
aid efforts, have made them successful colonists in areas where others
have failed. 16
Fretz notes that the Mennonites in Paraguay have continued most of
the mutual-aid organizations and activities which they developed in Rus-
sia. These include community schools, the Waisenamt (mutual trust organ-
ization for orphaned minors), land purchase fund, stock association (a
type of cooperative breeders' association), fire insurance and fire
brigades, old folks' homes, orphanages, hospitals, voluntary midwifery,
village "work bees," and numerous other activities. The Russian Mennonite
15Joseph Winfield Fretz, Pilgrims in Paraguay (Scottdale, Pa.:
Herald Press, 1957).
16See Joseph Winfield Fretz, Immigrant Group Settlements in Para-
guay (North Newton, Kansas: By the author, 1962); Fretz, 'Factors
Contributing to Success and Failure in Mennonite Colonization," Mennonite
Quarterly Review, XXIV, 2 (April, 1950), 130-135; and Fretz, "Mutual Aid
among Mennonites, I," Mennonite Quarterly Review, XIII, 1 (January, 1939),
colonists in Mexico also continue such group-oriented programs. Fretz
concludes that successful Mennonite colonization requires favorable laws
and concessions (such as was the case in Russia, and continues today in
Mexico, British Honduras, and Paraguay), the traditional emphasis on
discipleship and suffering, the practice of mutual aid, and the belief
and practice of the doctrine of nonconformity. Factors which have con-
tributed to the failure of Mennonite colonization include the loss of the
"we-feeling" (a form of secularization), sharp internal conflicts, lack
of adequate leadership, and overwhelming economic difficulties (poor
soil, lack of markets, and credit facilities). Among the Mennonites,
says Fretz, "colonization efforts are largely successful or unsuccessful
to the degree to which the colonists in question as individuals and as a
group are committed to an unqualified following of Christ."18
Hack's recent analysis of the Mennonites in the Paraguayan Chaco is
a happy combination of sociology, anthropology, geography, and econom-
ics. He also was interested in the colonization efforts of the Men-
nonites. His earlier investigation of the Dutch colonies in Brazil has
led him to conclusions concerning the success and failure of foreign
colonization which were similar to those of Fretz. Hack was impressed
17See Joseph Winfield Fretz, Mennonite Colonization in Mexico
(Akron, Pa.: Mennonite Central Committee, 1945), passim.
18Fretz, "Factors," p. 135; see also Fretz, Mennonite Colonization:
Lessons from the Past for the Future (Akron, Pa.: Mennonite Central Com-
mittee, 1944), passim.
19H. Hack, Die Kolonisation der Mennoniten iA Paraguayischen Chaco
(Amsterdam: Koenigliches Tropeninstitut, Abteilung fuer kulturelle und
physische Anthropologie, Nr. 65 ).
20See H. Hack, Dutch Group Settlement in Brazil (Amsterdam: Royal
with the importance of a favorable age composition of the population, the
need for good leadership, the importance of choosing a suitable site, the
effect of the economic organization on the success or failure of the col-
ony, and the problems which are associated with the "closed colony.
He analyzed the Mennonite colonization efforts in the Paraguayan Chaco in
the light of his conclusions concerning successful Dutch colonization,
and in terms of the anthropological concepts of "ethos" and "cultural
focus." His principal hypothesis was that the perseverance and success
of the Mennonite colonies in the Chaco would be directly proportionate to
the extent to which the concept of nonconformity to the world served as
the cultural focus of each one. The analysis of the age composition of
the population is the first instance of published research on the Menno-
nites which includes age-sex pyramids and fertility ratios. The descrip-
tion of the colonization site involves considerable geographic material,
and the treatment of the economic organization in the colonies was made
possible by the statistical records kept by the Mennonites.
Hack's analysis of the role of the doctrine of nonconformity in the
three Chaco colonies demonstrates that the ultraconservative Mennonites
of the Menno colony (who migrated from Canada to avoid English influence)
are in fact the most persevering; but they are not the most success-
ful in terms of economic gain, or in providing educational, medical, and
recreational services. The hypothesis is sustained in terms of greater
Tropical Institute, Department of Cultural and Physical Anthropology,
Nr. 61, 1959).
21Ibid., pp. 53-67.
22Hack, Die Kolonisation, p. 8.
loyalty to the values of the peasant culture of the Russian Mennonites,
and in the lower rate of migration from the colony. This important
Work is the first about Mennonites to orient the entire study toward the
testing of a scientific hypothesis in such a clear-cut way.
The Social System Perspective
As noted earlier, most of the materials concerning Mennonites have
been of an anecdotal nature. Mennonites' interest in history has always
been considerable. The efforts of Horsch, Bender, Bainton, Crous, Correll,
and numerous others have produced an objective and reliable history, but
their work was not oriented to a theoretical or sociological perspective.
Francis' approach, of course, is sociological, and involves the concept
of the ethnic group. In most of his writings he refers occasionally to
the "societal system" or the "social system" of the Mennonites; but this
perspective is definitely secondary to his analysis.
Ever since the 1920's the concept of the social system has been
gaining acceptance as a theoretical orientation for sociological research.
Credit for this is due largely to P.A. Sorokin.24 The concept of the
23Ibid., pp. 220-225. It should be noted, however, that the con-
struction of the Pan-American highway through the colonies is causing a
new wave of migration from the Menno Colony.
24Sorokin utilized this concept in various of his early works
published in English during the late 1920's. He says he developed the
concept of social systems in his 1920 Russian work, Systems of Sociology.
See P.A. Sorokin, A Long Journey: The Autobiography of Pitirim A. Soro-
kin (Boston: College and University Press, 1963), p. 96.
social system has been utilized in a variety of ways by later sociologists,
most of whom are students of Sorokin. Perhaps the most involved model of
"social system" as a tool for the analysis of specific social groups and
social institutions is that of Charles P. Loomis. It is used by Fretz
to describe the Fernheim colony located in the Paraguayan Chaco.26
Loomis himself analyzed the Old Order Amish, a religious group
historically related to the Mennonites, in terms of his Processually
Articulated Structural Model. Although this model emphasizes the
importance of patterned social behavior, social interaction, and the
complex relationship of the component parts of a social system--all of
which function interdependently--the present writer is convinced that
the model is more a pedagogical device than an acceptable outline for
the description of a previously unstudied social group. For this reason
he adopts the concept of "social system" used by T. Lynn Smith.28 The
concept of "social system" in this sense includes not only patterned
social interaction, but also the cultural traits, skills and techniques
involved in the functioning of the system. In other words, this
25Charles P. Loomis, Social Systems: Essays on their Persistence
and Change (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1960), pp. 4-47.
26Fretz, Immigrant Group Settlements, pp. 107-125.
27Loomis, op. cit., pp. 212-248.
28Smith utilizes the concept in his analysis of "systems of agri-
culture." See T. Lynn Smith, The Sociology of Rural Life (3rd ed.; New
York: Harper & Bros., 1953), pp. 324-362; and Smith, Brazil: People
and Institutions (3rd ed.; Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Press, 1963), pp. 357-390.
29See Smith, Rural Life, p. 324.
perspective recognizes that the organized way of life of the group under
consideration is composed of a complex series of social and cultural
components which are interdependent upon one another and affect one another
in such a manner as to make possible a coordinated functioning of the
This concept is a more accurate representation of the sociocultural
reality with which an investigator is confronted, and is the perspective
adopted by the present writer. This frame of reference is used by Smith
to analyze the highly integrated components of two rural social systems;
specifically, the entities which have as their cores the large, landed
estate and the family-sized farm.30
The Brazilian Background
Southern Brazil received numerous German immigrants after 1850,31
and considerable material exists concerning the acculturation and as-
similation of Germans in Brazilian culture and society. The effect
of their presence in southern Brazil has been quite remarkable. As
one Brazilian anthropologist noted, "the German element was the principal
reason for the transformation of the cultural landscape of southern
30See T. Lynn Smith, "Aportaciones para el studio de los dos
sistemas sociales rurales," in Memoria del VII Congreso Latinoamericano
de Sociologia, Sociologia y sociedad en Latinoamnrica: studios sobre
su desarrollo (Bogota: Asociaci6n Colombiana de Sociologia, 1965), 1,
190-210; also Smith (ed.), Agrarian Reform in Latin America (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), pp. 15-17.
31See Smith, Brazil, pp. 406-408.
32Emilio Willems has been quite active in this study. See especial-
ly A aculturaco dos alemaes no Brasil (Sao Paulo: Companhia Editors
Brazil .. This immigration, as well as the transformation men-
tioned above, took place long before the Mennonites arrived in Brazil
in 1930. It is noteworthy, however, that their manner of life in Santa
Catarina was considerably more similar to that of the Teuto-Brazilians
than it was to that which existed in their colonies in Russia. This was
especially true of settlement forms and systems of agriculture. In
general the processes of acculturation and assimilation among the Men-
nonites are not as advanced as those of other German-speaking colonists
described in the extant literature. This is due, of course, to their
relatively recent arrival, and to the fact that they. are an ethnic group,
rather than a national group.
The background for an understanding of the social situation in Pa-
rang may be found in a variety of available publications. Perhaps the
most helpful synthesis is found in the book by Wilson Martins. The
"cultural landscape" in southern Brazil, says Martins, is so different
from that of tropical Brazil duo to the presence of considerable numbers
of European immigrants, and to the absence of the Portuguese. This
permitted the establishment of family-sized farms, rather than fazendas,
with their accompanying system of slavery. The beneficent results of
these differences are easily seen today.
33Arthur Ramos, Introducao antropologia brasileira (Rio de Ja-
neiro: Livraria Editora da Casa do Estudante do Brasil, 1947), II, 219.
Wilson Martins, Um Brasil diferente: ensaio sobre fen6menos de
aculturagao no ParanA (Sao Paulo: Editora Anhembt Ltda., 1955).
35For an analysis of the great difference in the effects of the
social systems of the family-sized farm, when compared with those of
the large-estate system, see T. Lynn Smith, "Algumas consideraZoes
sobre o Estatuto da Lavoura Canavieira," Juridica, XXVIII, 82 (julho-
setembro de 1963), 297-308.
The Mennonites in Parana have repeated some of the experiences of
earlier immigrants in the state, including the attempt to grow wheat,
and the combination of fire agriculture and advanced plow culture.36
The Mennonites in Brazil
Until the present time no serious study of the Mennonites of Brazil
has been published. The most helpful description of the first 20 years
in Brazil is given by J. Winfield Fretz.37 The treatment, of course, is
quite brief, and there is no analysis of the social or demographic situ-
ation. A Brazilian Mennonite leader, Peter Klassen, has written several
articles of great value for an understanding of the difficult situation
in which the Mennonites found themselves in the Santa Catarina settle-
ments. Klassen notes the important role of the cooperatives in aiding
the Mennonites achieve some degree of financial stability. He indicates
the difficulty of maintaining their culture in such an inhospitable
geographical environment, and the inability to teach their own children
in school and church during the period of Vargas' nationalization program.
References to the Mennonites in Parana are sparse. Waibel visited
the Boqueirao community, located on the edge of Curitiba, in the late
1940's. He says the Mennonites there were unaware of the Dutch settle-
ment in Carambei (settled in 1911), "and they did not understand my
36Martins, op. cit., pp. 56-59, 185.
37J. Winfield Fretz, "Mennonites in Brazil," in Pilgrims in
Paraguay, pp. 169-186.
38See Peter Klassen, "The Mennonites of Brazil," Mennonite
Quarterly Review, XI, 2 (April, 1937), 107-118; and Klassen, "Men-
nonites in Brazil," Mennonite Life, II, 1 (January, 1947), 37-43.
question about the origin of their agricultural system. Various writ-
ers have noted the Mennonites' rational system of agriculture.40 A brief
description of the Witmarsum colony gives a general picture of its geo-
graphical setting, the pattern of settlement and economic organization.41
The colony also has attracted the attention of various journalists.42
The Research Council of the University of Parana is currently en-
gaged in a study of the Campos Gerais region of the state. The Witmarsum
colony is located in this region, and it was chosen as the site of the
Council's first interdisciplinary project. At the time of writing (Fall,
1965) the geological and geographical work has been done, and the economic
and social research is in progress. Some excellent historical material
has already been published by two historians involved in the project.43
39Leo Waibel, "European Colonization in Southern Brazil," Geogra-
phical Review, XL, 4 (October, 1950), 541.
40See, for example, Werner Aulich, 0 Parana e os alemaes: estudo
caractorol6gico sobre os imigrantes germanicos (Curitiba: Grupo Etnico
Germanico do Paran", 1953), pp. 47-48.
41Heloisa Barthelmess, "Witmarsum," Revista do Instituto Hist6rico,
Geografico e Etnografico Paranaense, VIII, 1, 2, 3 (janeiro-setembro de
42See, for example, Adolfo Soethe e Peter Dahlke, "Leite pure para
Curitiba," Panorama, XV, 153 (fevereiro de 1965), 54-58.
A recent article describing the dairy industry near Curitiba--of
which the Mennonites form an important part, is Jorge Bierrenbach de
Castro, "A pecuaria de leite na region de Curitiba," Estado de Sao Paulo,
10 de margo de 1965, Suplemento Agrfcola (Ano XI, No. 517), pp. 8-9.
43Brasil Pinheiro Machado, "Formateo da estrutura agraria tradi-
cional dos Campos Gerais," Boletim da Universidade do Parana, Conselho
de Pesquisas, Departamento de Hist6ria, No. 3 (junho de 1963), pp. 4-27;
and Altiva Pilatti Balhana, "Mudanga na estrutura agraria dos Campos
Gerais," Boletim da Universidade do Parana, Conselho de Pesquisas, De-
partamento deo Hist6ria, No. 3 (JunhIo de 1963), pp. 28-52.
Valuable historical materials concerning the Mennonites in Brazil
during the first years are found in Die Bruecke (Witmarsum, Santa Cata-
rina), published 1932-1937, and its short-lived successor, Die Neue
Bruecke (Witmarsum, Santa Catarina), 1938. Since 1954 Bibel und Pflug
(Curitiba) has been published; it includes valuable data on topics of
deroar.LJJliic and sociological interest. The German-language weeklies of
the North American Mennonites, Der Bote (Rosthern, Saskatchewan) and Die
Mnbixanitische Rundschau (Winnipeg, Manitoba) carry occasional news
articles on the Brazilian Mennonites, but these materials are usually
of little aid to the scholar due to their generality and personal nature.
The present research is an attempt to begin the sociological study
of the Mennonites of Brazil. Although it is limited to those who reside
in Parana, the results of the analysis of the social organization and
the trends in social and cultural change probably are applicable to the
German-sijcuhKing Mennonites in other parts of Brazil.
THE DEMOGRAPHIC SITUATION
THE NUMBER, DISTRIBUTION, AND CHARACTERISTICS
OF THE POPULATION
This chapter is concerned with some of the topics generally included
in a demographic analysis of population. Inasmuch as the size of the
population being considered here is relatively small, some techniques of
demographic analysis are inappropriate. Much valuable information may
be gained, however, by such a study, especially that with respect to the
demographic trends in the group.
During the course of his research, the present writer found 2,585
persons who were considered, in one sense or another, to be Parana Men-
nonites. Ninety-four of these have moved away from their home communities,
or have gone to work in neighboring states, and probably will not return.
Another group which is absent consists of students and unmarried persons
who are studying or working in various cities in Brazil. Some of these
will return to their home communities; many of them will not. The 32
such persons who were over 19 years of age were dropped from the calcu-
lations. The exclusion of these 126 persons partially explains certain
discrepancies between the data in the present writer's tabulations and
those of a particular Mennonite organization. A case in point is that
1See, for example, T. Lynn Smith, Fundamentals of Population Study
(Chicago: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1960), passim.
of the number of church members computed from the census data, and the of-
ficial membership figures of the church records. (See Chapter IX.)
This exclusion leaves a total of 2,459 persons who may be defined
as Parana Mennonites as the term is used in this dissertation. The
present writer also eliminated 47 persons (ten families) from the above
total in accordance with their specific requests. Thus, except for the
notation of their existence in their respective communities, these persons
are not included in any of the tabulations given in this manuscript. For
the purposes of the present analysis, therefore, the number of persons
in the population in January, 1965, was 2,412.
The Mennonites of Parana are located in four communities, as indicated
in Chapter I. One of these, urban in nature, is situated in a section of
Curitiba known as Vila Guaira. Another, a rurban locality group called
Boqueirao, is six miles south of the city limits, but it rapidly is being
engulfed by one of Curitiba's expanding, working-class, residential areas.
A third Mennonite settlement, ten miles southeast of the city, is Guari-
tuba, a small, disintegrating community, as far as the Mennonites are
concerned. It is intermediate in many of its characteristics between the
rurban settlement of Boqueirao and the rural colony of Witmarsum, and it
is considered to be rurban. The fourth community, Witmarsum, is located
about 38 miles west of Curitiba, midway between the capital and the city
of Ponta Grossa.
This community was begun in 1933 by migrants from the Mennonite
colonies in Santa Catarina. At that time the area was a suburb of Curi-
tiba, and was devoted largely to truck gardens and summer homes of German-
speaking people. During the early years, the Mennonites who settled here
kept dairy cows. As the area was transformed into a residential section
of the city, the growing number of Mennonites who lived there increasing-
ly turned to urban occupations. As early as 1935 some of those who
desired to continue their agricultural pursuits moved out of this section.
That year about 14 families resided in Vila Guaira.
In 1965 there were 107 households of Mennonites in this section and
18 more were scattered about in other parts of the city. The persons in
these widely scattered Mennonite households participate intensively in
the social life of one or more of the three nearby, compactly settled
communities. These data include seven persons (two families) who re-
quested omission. For the purposes of the study, therefore, the popula-
tion consists of 123 households with 519 persons (21.5 per cent of the
Boquc ira o
In 1935, 18 Mennonite families bought small plots of land, usually
about five hectares, on a recently subdivided fazenda (ranch) about six
2See Franz Goertz, "Der Anfang in Boqueirao," in Jahrbuch der Men-
noniten in Suedamerika, 1961, Henrique Ens and Gustav E. Reimer (eds.)
(Curitiba: Tipografia Santa Cruz, Ltda., 1961), pp. 75-77.
3See Henrique H. Loewen, Jr., "Die Memnnoniten in Brasilien" (term
paper, Seminario Teol6gico Evang6lico, Montevideo, Uruguay, 1957), p. 10.
miles south of Curitiba. They named their settlement Boqueirao I. In
1936 another group of Mennonites from Santa Catarina established small
farms in the Xaxim area, about a mile west of the first group. The fol-
lowing year an additional 16 families bought land a mile southeast of the
original group and took the name of Boqueirao II. Since that time the
three settlements have expanded and now they are practically contiguous.
Their residents now consider them to be neighborhoods of the BoqueirAo-
Xaxim community, which for brevity is shortened to Boqueirao in this
study. Our enumeration showed that there were 1,150 persons (238 house-
holds) in this locality group, but 40 persons (eight households) re-
quested exclusion, leaving a study population of 1,110 (46.0 per cent of
This settlement was founded in 1948 by farmers from the Boqueirio
community who were seeking larger properties and cheaper land. They also
wished to live farther away from the rapidly expanding city, which was
seen as a threat to their values and the continuance of their rural way
of life. In 1950 and 1951 settlers also arrived from Paraguay and from
Santa Catarina. Many of the families left the settlement in the mid-
fifties, and in 1960 there were 34 families, with 174 persons, living in
Guarituba. People continue to leave this community. Those who wish to
4See Loewen, op. cit., pp. 10-12.
5The residents have a humorous way of distinguishing the three
neighborhoods: Boqueoirao I has money, Boqueirao II has children, and
Xaxim has debts. Stated by Professor Abram Dueck, Xaxim.
See "Guarituba," in Ens and Reimer, op. cit., p. 127.
continue farming go to Witmarsum, and the others settle in Curitiba or in
Boqueirao. In 1965 only 25 households with 128 persons remained (5.3 per
cent of the study total).
This colony was established in 1951 after the Mennonites in Witmarsum,
Santa Catarina, decided they could not maintain a viable community there.
(See Chapter II.) Most of the families moved to Parana in 1952 or 1953,
and they decided to use the same name as that of their original colony in
Santa Catarina. In 1954 the move was completed and the new colony
consisted of 73 families with a population of 439. In 1965 there were
127 households with 655 persons (27.2 per cent of the study total).
Characteristics of the Population
The analyses in this section are based on the data secured in inter-
views with the heads of the 505 resident households. Mennonite students
from areas outside Parana, who temporarily are residing in Curitiba are
not included, and the same is true of children of the Parang Mennonites
who are over 19 years of age, single, and not residing in their parental
homes. In several instances in this section, reference is made to the
Fernheim colony in Paraguay. The older inhabitants of that settlement
and the original settlers who came to Brazil from Russia were part of
the same refugee group. For this reason the colonists of Fernheim are
an excellent comparative group. Inasmuch as they have more complete
records for the early years in South America than do the Brazilian
7Data secured from Peter Pauls, Jr., Director, Escola Fritz
Kliewer, Witmarsum, Paranr.
Mennonites, the present writer resorted to making certain comparisons on
the assumption that the two groups were quite similar during their first
several years in the New World.
Age and Sex Composition
Table I presents the proportions of the population in the three
broad age groups. The figures are very similar to those of the world
average. When the proportions are compared with those of the Mennonite
population in Russia in 1897, it is apparent that there are much larger
proportions of older persons among the present Mennonite population in
Parana. In 1897 the percentage of males who were 60 years of age and
over was 4.8; and of females, 4.4; now the corresponding proportions in
ParanA are 7.5 and 8.0, respectively. The percentage of persons aged 65
and over among the Parand Mennonites is 4.9, which is more than double
that for the Brazilian population as a whole (2.4) in 1950. The large
proportion of elderly Mennonites appears to be due to their low level of
mortality, coupled with a substantial recent decline in their birth rate.
(See Chapter V.)
The residential variations of the proportions of persons in the
broad age groups correspond to expected rural-urban differentials. This
is especially the case for persons under fifteen, and for those aged 15
8See Smith, op. cit., pp. 164-166.
See Adolf Ehrt, Das Mennonitentum in Russland von seiner Einwan-
derung bis zur Gegenwart (Langensalza: Julius Beltz, Verlag, 1932),
10 h, op. it., p. 165.
Smith, op. cit., p. 165.
Table I. The Relative Importance of the Three Large Age Groups in
the Four Parana Mennonite Communities, 1965
Locality group Per cent of the population aged
Under 15 15-64 65-over
Witmarsum 40.9 55.4 3.7
Guarituba 36.7 57.8 5.5
Boqueirao 39.4 54.8 5.8
Vila Guaira 31.0 64.2 4.8
Parana Mennonites, 1965 37.9 57.2 4.9
to 64. The present writer attributes the low proportion of elderly persons
in the rural community to chance occurrence, because of the small number
of persons involved.
The sex ratio for the total population (95.8) is relatively low.
When the data are analyzed for the various age groups, the usual dif-
ferentials are found, that is, the sex ratio drops as age increases. The
expected residential differentials do not characterize the four com-
munities. The ratios for the urban and rural communities are almost the
same (96.6 and 96.1 respectively). The lack of a rural-urban difference
may be due to the fact that most of the females who leave the rural and
rurban communities go to Sao Paulo.11 The very high sex ratio (124.6)
for Guarituba is considered to be due to the small number involved. The
lowest sex ratio is that of the Boqueirao community (92.4). This is due
principally to the loss of males from the middle age-group (15-64 years).
Part of this loss is due to movement to other areas, but much of it is
due to the marriage of males to non-Mennonite spouses. Although these
persons continue to live in the community, they have joined other
churches and, by definition, are excluded from the study population.
In general these persons are not active in Mennonite society, and do not
wish to be identified with it.
Age-sex pyramids are useful for additional analysis of the age
and sex composition of the population. Figure 2 presents the pyramids
for the total study population, the large rurban (Boqueirao) settlement,
11In July, 1965, of 71 unmarried Mennonites who worked in Sao
Paulo, 63 (89 per cent) were females. Data secured from Henrique Loewen,
Director, Mennonite Home, Sao Paulo, July, 1965.
Figure 2. Age-Sex Pyramids for the Total, Boqueirao, Vila Guafra, and
Witmarsum Mennonite Populations in Parana, Brazil, 1965.
and the urban (Vila Guaira) and rural (Witmarsum) communities. Due to
the small number of people in the two latter communities, the variations
in the proportions of persons in thile several age groups must be inter-
preted with caution. Guarituba is too small for the configuration of
its age-sex pyramid to have any significance.
Two important characteristics are evident in the pyramid for the
total population. The first is the scarcity of persons in the productive
ages, especially those 20 to 49 years of age. An inspection of the
pyramids of the three principal communities reveals that most of this
effect is due to the situation in Witmarsum, and secondarily to that
in Boqueirao. The second important feature is the evidence of a recent
decline in the number of births, indicated by the truncated base of the
pyramid. Most of this is due to the situation in Boqueirao, and only
slightly to that in Witmarsum. In Vila Guaira the number of births
has increased slightly in recent years, probably due to the rise during
the past decade in the number of young married couples living there.
A feature of historical interest of the pyramid for the total
population is the low proportion of persons aged 45 to 49. This reflects
the effects of the period of war, revolution, civil war, and famine in
Russia from 1915 to 1920, when births were relatively low and deaths
relatively high. A second such period (1925-1930), which was not as
severe in its effects, is reflected in the group aged 35 to 39. During
this period the Mennonites fled as refugees from Russia to the New World,
and again births were low and deaths high.
The median age of the population is relatively low. About half of
the group is under 21 years of age. The median age of the males is 20.1;
that of the females is 20.7. It varies from a low of 18.0 for the males
in Witmarsum to 25.8 for those of Vila Gualra. The higher age in the
urban community is due largely to the greater proportion of persons in
the early productive ages, rather than to a disproportionate number of
elderly persons. The low median age in Witmarsum is due to the loss of
persons from the productive ages who move to non-Mennonite areas, and to
a high level of fertility, rather than to a high level of mortality.
The four locality groups involved in this analysis may be clas-
sified as rural (Witmarsum), urban (Guarituba and BoquelrZo), and
urban (Vila Guaira). The rural and urban communities appear to be stable
in terms of this classification, whereas the two rurban communities are
changing rapidly. Guarituba is losing many of its inhabitants, and may
soon cease to be a Mennonite community. Boqueirao is changing into an
increasingly urbanized area because it is becoming the home of many of
Curitiba's working-class families. This is forcing the young men to
seek nonagricultural occupations, if they wish to remain in this area.
12The effect of the difficulties of this period is clearly evident
in the truncated base of the age-sex pyramid for the Fernheim population
in 1932. See H. Hack, Die Kolonisation der Mennoniten im Paraguayiachen
Chaco (Amsterdam: Koenigliches Tropeninstitut, Abteilung fuer kulturelle
und j rsische Anthropologie, Nr. 65 [ 1961],X p. 55.
Table II presents data which indicate that many of the rural-urban
differences characteristic of other groups also are found in the Mennonite
communities. In general Guarituba must be excluded from any meaningful
comparison of residential differences because of its smallness and its
atypical, disintegrating condition. The three principal communities form
a rural-rurban-urban progression with its expected differences. Thus
the level of educational attainment and the proportion of adults with
no religious affiliation rise in the rural-urban progression, whereas
the proportion of persons engaged in agriculture, and the mean number of
children per family decline.
In spite of these expected rural-urban differences, the present
writer noted various times in his field work that Vila Guaira often was
more similar to Witmarsum than it was like the intermediate urban com-
munities. This is true in terms of general attitudes, as measured by
instruments administered by the present writer. (See Chapter IX.) In
addition, there is a higher proportion of foreign-born stateless persons
in Vila Guaira than in Boqueirao. It seemed possible that many of the
numerous deviations from expected rural-urban differences found in
Boqucirao were the result of differing proportions in the four Parana
communities of persons from the more advanced colonies of South Russia.
This problem is considered in the next section.
Ethnic Stock and Nativity
Various investigators have demonstrated that most of the Russian
Mennonites are descendents of the Dutch Anabaptists. Their predominant
Selected Characteristics of the Populations of Four Parana
Mennonite Communities, by Residential Category, 1965
lHeads of Mean Median years without
Community households in number of of formal religious
agriculture children schooling affiliation
Per cent per family Males Females Per cent
Rural (Witmarsum) 80 4.9 6.3 6.0 22
Rurban (Gd.aritLIba) 48 5.9 5.0 5.0 28
RlU'ban (I3quqcirao) 38 4.6 6.9 6.1 24
Urbun (Vili Guaira) -- 3.8 7.3 6.2 33
physical characteristics and family names, and their dialect used in
daily discourse, all point to such an origin. The acquisition of a
German culture in Prussia, and its maintenance in Russia, never erased
completely their Dutch ethnic origins. The two-fold nature of their
ethnocultural frame of reference has been preserved by their insistence
on a bilingual solution to the problem. Their traditional dialect is
used in the home and in informal conversation; High German is the language
of church, school, and formal discourse. One investigator, in speaking
of this, noted that "most people think of the Mennonites as ethnically
German, however, they are ethnically Dutch and culturally German. ,14
Approximately a third (34.5 per cent) of the Mennonites in ParanA
are foreign-born. This proportion, of course, is dropping with each
passing year due to the lack of continued immigration. More than three-
fourths of the foreign-born came from Russia, 13.6 per cent from Para-
guay, and less than 5 per cent from Germany. (See Table III.) Those
born in Poland are from the Mennonite community of Wymysle. They came
to Brazil in the 1950's after a residence of more thai 20 years in
Paraguay. The rest of the foreign-born are from a variety of countries
in which their parents usually were temporary residents, except for
the missionary families from Canada.
13See Johan Sjouke Postma, Das niederlaendische Erbe der preussisch-
russlaendischen Mennoniten in Europa, Asien, und Amerika (Leeuwarden:
Drukkerij A. Jongbloed, 1959), pp. 105-106. About 90 per cent of the
family names of the Russian Mennonites are of Low German origin; see
Ehrt, op. cit., p. 5.
14Joseph Winfield Fretz, Immigrant Group Settlements in Paraguay
(North Newton, Kansas: By the author, 1962), p. 112.
Table III. Percentages of the Immigrant Population, Born in Stated
Countries, for Four Parana Mennonite Communities, 1965
origin population Witmarsum Guarituba Boqueirao Vila Guaira
Russia 77.0 72.0 77 80.6 74.5
Paraguay 13.6 14.5 18 12.4 14.3
Germany 4.2 3.0 5 4.3 5.1
Poland 1.3 5.0 -- 0.3 --
Uruguay 1.1 2.0 0.7 1.0
China 0.8 0.5 0.5 2.0
Canadaa 1.8 3.0 -- 0.7 3.1
Others b 0.2 -- -- 0.5 --
Totals 100.0 100.0 100 100.0 100.0
Numbers (832) (200) (39) (397) (196)
aConsists of missionary families residing in ParanA.
bOne person from Holland, and one from the United States.
The citizenship classification of the refugee, foreign-born pop-
ulation merits attention because it may be assumed that those persons
who remain stateless will tend to be the less progressive of the foreign-
born group. The refugees who fled from Russia in the period from 1929
to 1932 lost their citizenship. Those who came to Brazil received
temporary travel documents from the German government and, after their
arrival, were considered stateless by the Brazilian authorities. The
present writer expected that in the two oldest Mennonite communities
in Paran6 (Vila Guaira and Boqueirao) there would be lower proportions
of stateless persons than in the ones established more recently, and such
is the case. (See Table IV.) The fact that the rurban community (Bo-
queirao) has a much lower proportion than the urban one (Vila Guaira)
suggests that a factor other than residence is involved.
If residence were the most important factor in explaining these
differences, the persons in the urban community might be expected to
be at least as likely to become naturalized as those in the urban one.
Both of these communities are near enough to governmental offices to
eliminate any problems of communication or transportation. It is to
be expected, of course, that those persons who remained in Santa Cata-
rina for more than 20 years would tend to remain stateless to a much
greater degree than the early migrants to Parana. Even the late-comers,
however, have been living near Curitiba for more than a decade, and the
present writer concludes that the lack of naturalization on the part
of stateless persons is not caused by inability to contact the proper
Percentages of the Refugee, Foreign-Born Having Stated
Citizenship Status, in Four Paranh Mennonite Communities,
status population Witmarsum Guarituba Boqueirao Vila GuaLra
Stateless 60.7 76.8 77 51.4 60.7
Brazilians 20.8 8.4 17 24.2 27.3
Germans 13.2 10.3 3 18.2 7.3
Paraguayans 5.3 4.5 3 6.2 4.7
Totals 100.0 100.0 100 100.0 0.0
Numbersa (658) (155) (30) (323) (150)
aThe difference in the totals in this table and those in Table III
is because the latter includes the foreign-born with natal citizenship.
Table IV indicates that a relatively large number of persons in
Boqueirao are naturalized Germans. This naturalization process was
facilitated by a Mennonite who lives in that community and is employed
by the German consulate in Curitiba. There is no reason, however, why
persons in Vila Guaira, or in the other communities, could not have
sought German citizenship through the same man, had they so desired.
The question thus remains as to why the refugee, foreign-born population
in Boqueir'ao has been the most progressive in becoming naturalized.
The regional background of the Russian-born population offers the
most significant clue to the solution of the above problem. On several
occasions the present writer received the suggestion from Mennonite
leaders tLat the differences in the several communities may be traced to
the differing proportions of persons from the southern colonies in Russia.
The oldest and most highly developed of the Mennonite colonies were all
located in southern Russia; whereas those in Siberia were less devel-
oped, less progressive, and usually quite simple in their social, cul-
tural, and economic organization. In general the colonies in middle
Russia (near Orenburg) were intermediate in their characteristics, as
compared with those in the first two regions. The Siberian colonies were
established at the turn of the century, and those in the Amur region as
late as the 1920's. Consequently their inhabitants were accustomed to
life in pioneer conditions, which usually involved much cooperative, group-
oriented activities. In addition, the Siberian colonists were usually
poorer, had less formal schooling, and were more conservative than their
southern brethren. In short, they were the less-favored class of the
Mennonite population in Russia, and had a reputation for being satisfied
with a lower level of living than that of the colonists in middle and
In the light of these suggestions the present writer hypothesized
that the communities in Parana with the larger proportions of persons
from northern Russia would be the ones with the larger proportions of
the stateless. The data in Table V show the regions in which the Russian-
born immigrants spent most of their time in their country of birth. More
than 70 persons who were born in southern Russia grew up and were carriedd
in Siberia; they are included in the northern population.
A comparison of the rank order of the four communities in terms
of the proportions of stateless persons and that of persons from northern
Russia, reveals a perfect rank-order correlation. (Due to rounding of
the Guarituba data in Table IV, this community erroneously appears to
rank highest.) As the proportion of individuals from northern Russia
declines, so does that of the stateless. The rank order of the com-
munities is: Witmarsum, Guarituba, Vila Guaira, and Boqueirao. It seems
reasonable to conclude, therefore, that the regional background of the
refugee, foreign-born population is related in a significant manner to
the tendency to seek naturalized status. This tendency, in turn, appears
to be related to other factors such as a willingness to adapt more
completely to the refugee's adopted country.
The varying proportions of persons from southern Russia in the
four communities also appears to be the answer to the question as to
Table V. Percentages of the Russian-Born Population Having Stated
Regional Backgrounds, for Four Parana Mennonite Communities,
background group Witmarsum Guarituba Boqueirao Vila Guaira
Northa 38.0 55.6 53 24.7 46.6
Middle 13.9 23.6 27 13.4 2.7
South 48.1 20.8 20 61.9 50.7
Totals 100.0 100.0 100 100.0 100.0
Numbers (640) (144) (30) (320) (146)
aConsists of persona from younger, less-developed, pioneer colonies.
Consists of persons from colonies intermediate in age and level of
Consists of persons from older, most highly developed colonies.
what type of person was more likely to abandon the colonies in Santa
Catarina during the 1930's. Almost half of the Russian-born population
in Parana lived in the colonies in southern Russia. The two oldest com-
munities have more than their share of such persons, especially Boqueirao,
whereas Witmarsum and Guarituba have very low proportions. (See Table V.)
The relationship of a high proportion of persons from southern Russia in
the older communities and a low percentage in the younger ones is highly
significant from the statistical standpoint. These data strongly sup-
port the hypothesis that the Mennonites from southern Russia were much
more prone to leave Santa Catarina and move to Curitiba than were those
from elsewhere in Russia.
This tendency for people to leave the struggling colonies in an
isolated, primitive area in Santa Catarina for an area with better pos-
sibilities should not be difficult to understand. The Mennonite colonies
in southern Russia were models of economic development. Their school
systems, medical and social services, and technological achievements were
the most advanced of all the colonies in Russia. In the 1900's their
inhabitants knew nothing of the pioneer conditions and privations
endured by the first colonists in that region. Many persons were involved
in nonagricultural occupations and some had experience as independent
businessmen. They had more formal education, and more experience with
an affluent way of life than did their brethren from the other regions
of Russia. As a result of their life in the colonies with the highest
15Chi-square = 70.548, p <.001; Q= .686.
level of living, their expectations probably were higher than those of
the colonists from the less-developed communities. It is probable,
therefore, that the colonists from southern Russia were more frustrated
with the primitive conditions in Santa Catarina than were those from
middle and northern Russia.
Although the refugees from the younger, less-developed colonies
were hardly happy with the situation in Santa Catarina, their way of life
in Russia was not as different from that in Brazil as was that of the
southern colonists. They were more accustomed to pioneer conditions,
had less experience with private enterprise, and probably were less
confident of their ability to succeed as individuals in a non-Mennonite
environiient. In general they were dedicated more profoundly to the
belief that Mennonite communities should maintain a geographical separa-
tion from the world.
It appears, therefore, that the numerous differences in past
experience, and in present expectations, which resulted from the great
regional variations in the colonies in Russia, provide the sociocultural
explanation for the fact that a disproportionate number of persons from
southern Russia left the colonies in Santa Catarina during the 1930's.
They moved in spite of great social pressure against such "desertions,"
and in full knowledge of the fact that such a migration out of the
young colonies was a serious threat to their ultimate success.
It is clear that the differences discussed here, arising from a
social and cultural nature, are not those of innate ability or intel-
ligence. The differences are the result of socialization in colonies
of varying levels of economic, social, and cultural development. There
are numerous persons from northern Russia who live in Vila Guaira, and
some of them are successful businessmen. The notable progress which
has been made in the young Witmarsum colony is evidence that the
characteristics involved are not fixed, unchanging ones. The differences
discussed here, which are related to conditions in the various colonies
in Russia, appear to explain why persons from southern Russia were much
more willing to change from the group-dominated way of life to a less-
organized, individual one which was established by the early settlers
An unusually large proportion of the ParanA Mennonites contract
formal marriage. In general only those males who are unqualified
physically or mentally for marriage remain single throughout life. The
two main reasons for the presence of single females in the adult pop-
ulation are: (1) the low sex ratio, which means that there are not
enough males to permit a spouse for each eligible female; and (2) the
fact that most of the marriages with non-Mennonites involve Mennonite
Figure 3 demonstrates graphically the sex differential referred
to above, and also indicates the disproportionate rise in the widowed
population for females. Only after age 70 is there a noteworthy
increase in the proportion of widowers; in most cases a man remarries
within a year of the death of his spouse. The opportunities for
I % t. 0 *.4
1% .c-.^sN / .
4/ V ) 0
0 / bf l
\ I\ S
\ \ s
/ to o
s l / ; +
., \, fe ^
S 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
remarriages of widows decrease rapidly as age increases, for demographic
and also for esthetic reasons. Due to the small number of cases involved
in the five-year age groups, no significance is attached to the variations
of the single or widowed categories in the upper age levels.
In comparison with the Brazilian population, or even the population
of the United States, Mennonite males and females are more likely to
contract formal marriage. The exclusion from the study population of
unmarried persons over 19 who do not reside in their parental homes causes
the percentage of single persons to drop more rapidly than otherwise
would be the case, but since most of these persons are under 30 years of
.age, this would not affect the percentages in the older age levels.
There are no divorced persons in the population, and the present
writer found only one legally separated (desquitada) female. Two males
were involved in consensual unions, but these persons are considered
marginal Mennonites both by themselves and by others. It can safely be
said that marriage among the Mennonites of Parand continues to display
its traditional stability.
The median age at first marriage is of interest to the present
writer in terms of any observable change which may have occurred in the
population during the past several decades. Table VI presents the median
ages at first marriage for both sexes. The males marry from two to three
years later than the females. It appears that the age at first marriage
16See the data in Smith, Fundamentals, p. 215; and T. Lynn Smith,
Brazil: People and Institutions (3rd ed.; Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1963), pp. 469-471.
Table VI. Median Age at First Marriage of Parana Mennonites, by Sex,
Selected Ages, and Community, 1965
Group Male Female
Total population 24.4 21.9
Persons aged 50 and over 25.0 22.7
Persons aged 30 to 49 24.4 22.0
Witmarsum 24.5 21.3
Guarituba 22.5 21.1
Boqueirao 23.4 22.0
Vila Guafra 24.3 21.7
of this population is much lower than that of the Brazilian population in
general. This index was computed in 1963 for a sample of members of the
so-called Old Mennonite Church in North America; it was 23.6 years for
males and 22.0 for females. In comparison with their northern co-
religionists, the Parana males are almost a year older, whereas the fe-
males are slightly younger.
A slight trend toward a younger age at marriage appears to character-
ize the Mennonites in Parana. The median age of persons 50 years and
over is somewhat higher for both males and females than is that of
persons aged 30 to 49. A similar situation was found in the Mennonite
population in North America, and of course it is true generally of the
people in the United States. Scattergrams of age at first marriage
by five-year age groups reveal two opposite tendencies. First, in recent
decades a greater proportion of males have been getting married at a
younger age, usually in the lower twenties; also, from 1940 to 1960 many
females, especially those in BoqueirAo, were married before 20 years of
age. As a result, the median age at marriage for both sexes declined
during the past several decades. Second, the opposite tendency is that
during the last five years there is a significant decline in the marriage
o teen-age girls. Of all married persons (936), 11.7 per cent were
17See Melvin Gingerich, "The Mennonite Family Census of 1963"
(paper read before the meeting of the Religious Research Association,
Chicago, Ill., June, 1965), Section 2, pp. 6-8. (Mimeographed.)
Although this sample is not composed of Russian Mennonites, it is note-
worthy that the two groups are very similar in many of their character-
married before 20 years of age; and 90 per cent of these are females.
In 1965, however, there was only one married person among the 278 people
aged 15 to 19. This tact is evidence of a significant shift away from
"teen-age marriage" among the Mennonites in Parana. Both of the above-
mentioned factors have tended to reduce the age range at first marriage,
and the index being considered here probably will remain stable in the
An analysis of the occupational distribution of the Parana Men-
nonites indicates clearly the shift from a rural to an urban way of life
by a great part of the group. In the 1930's most of the male labor force
was engaged in agriculture; in 1965, 41 per Cent remained in that industry.
Table VII presents the percentage distribution of the male labor force
by occupation and community. The percentage of persons in agriculture
ranges from a high of 85 in Witmarsum to 36 in Boqueirao, Most males
who are in nonagricultural occupations are engaged in the skilled and
semiskilled trades and crafts. Very few Mennonites are involved in sales
and service, or unskilled labor. It is noteworthy that they seldom work
as paid farm laborers.
Most persons classified as professionals are teachers, although a
medical doctor, a lawyer, and several dentists are included. Those
classified as semiskilled operatives generally are truck or taxi drivers
and milk deliverymen. Most of them are under 40 years of age. Many of
Percentages of Employed Parana Mennonite Males Aged 14 and
Over, by Occupation and Community, 1965
Occupation Totala Witmarsum Guarituba BoqueirAo Vila Guaira
Paid farm laborers 0.3
Craftsmen, skilled 14.7
laborers, unskilled 7.0
Sales and service 2.6
Clerical and kindred
aThe labor force of 603 persons comprises 82.7 per cent
of the 729 males
aged 14 years and over. Of this total population, the percentages who
are not in the labor force are: students, 13.4; retired, 3.4; and not
the managers and proprietors are involved in woodworking industries or
The shift to nonagricultural occupations is most notable in the
Boqueirao settlement. Of a total of 83 farmers in this community,
only four are under 30 years of age (less than 5 per cent); whereas 59
per cent of the semiskilled operatives are less than 30 years old. This
rapid shift to nonagricultural occupations is due in part to a lack of
interest in farming by many of the younger men, and to the paucity of
available land in the area which is needed for pasture. Very few
families move to another area in order to farm.
The female labor force consists principally of unmarried or widowed
persons. Approximately 12 per cent of the 794 females aged 14 years and
over are gainfully employed. The 97 women in this group are classified
as follows: agriculture (widows who manage their own farms), 7 per cent;
semiskilled operatives (largely seamstresses), 16 per cent; factory
laborers, 8 per cent; sales and service, 2 per cent; and about 22 per
cent in each of the following: professionals (teachers and nurses);
clerical; and private household workers (maids and governesses). Nursing
appears to be the most desirable and prestigious occupation for Men-
nonite females. There are many more nurses than the above data indicate,
inasmuch as those who are married cease to practice, and many of those
who are unmarried have gone to work in Sao Paulo.
19In June, 1965, the present writer counted 40 business establish-
ments in the area of Curitiba which were owned by Mennonites. They
included 18 wood-related industries (principally plywood or furniture
factories), seven machine shops and garages, four stores, and eleven
Most of the females (697 or 87.8 per cent of those aged 14 and
over) are not in the labor force. Homemakers or unmarried children who
work at home number 566. Students, who total 106, comprise the same
percentage (13.4) of this group as do their male counterparts. The
remainder, or 3 per cent of the total, are elderly persons who may be
considered to be retired.
A second occupation is relatively frequent among the male heads
of households interviewed by the present writer. Almost 40 per cent
claimed to have a second occupation. Unfortunately the wording of the
question did not distinguish clearly those persons who are gainfully
employed on a regular basis from those who may work little or not at all
in their second occupation. Some of these persons are ministers.
Technically, they are not gainfully employed because they receive no
remuneration for their services, although they dedicate a great amount
of time to this work. It is the present writer's impression that
perhaps half of all those who claim to have a second occupation may be
considered as gainfully employed. If this is correct, the proportion
is still relatively high. In 1963 24 per cent of male Mennonite heads
of households in North America had second occupations.
Of the 94 male heads of households who were interviewed, seven
had wives who worked at least ten hours a week outside the home. Only
two worked as much as half-time (24 hours). Inasmuch as these women's
20Gingerich, op. cit., p. 13.
main occupation is that of homemaker, their outside work may be considered
a second occupation. More than half of them reside in Vila Guaira.
A comparison of the occupational distribution of the Mennonites in
Paran6 with those in North America reveals numerous similarities. In
both groups there is a rapid shift from farming into the skilled and
semiskilled occupations. The proportions of tales engaged in sales
and service, and business and managerial occupations also are very similar.
Trends in occupational choices by the younger males seem to be clear.
The majority is entering the skilled and semiskilled crafts and trades,
and avoiding agriculture. If the students who are currently enrolled in
the universities remain in the Parana communities after graduation, there
will be an increase in the proportion of persons engaged in the profes-
sions. Females continue to work in the occupations traditionally chosen
by unmarried Mennonite women (private household work, and nursing).
There has been an increase in the proportions of clerical workers, due to
the proximity of urban centers, but there is no indication that profes-
sional careers are competing with homemaking as the preferred status of
most young women. Neither is there any indication of an acceptance of
the idea that women may continue to practice their profession after
marriage, except in an emergency.
21Gingerich, op. cit., p. 12. The data for North American Men-
nonites include only male heads of households, but the differences
would be very few even if unmarried males were included, since the
great majority of gainfully employed Mennonites are heads of households.
The level of educational attainment of the Mennonite population
reflects the fact that the group has been a rural one, and that primary
school generally has been considered sufficient academic training. Al-
though the group is not characterized by a high level of educational
attainment, it is noteworthy that illiteracy practically is nonexistent.22
Tie median years of schooling for the population over 14 years of
age is 6.6 for males and 6.0 for females. Table VIII presents the data
for the four communities. It appears that many persons aged 30 to 54 had
little opportunity to acquire even a primary-school education. The un-
settled conditions in Russia from 1914 to 1925 hindered school attendance
of children of that period. The lowest levels of schooling for both
sexes are found in the group aged 35 to 39. This is due to the closing
of the Lmnnonite schools in the colonies in Santa Catarina during the
late 1930's and early 1940's. The nationalization program of the
Brazilian government prohibited the use of the German language, which
made it impossible for the Mennonite teachers to conduct the schools.
The young Brazilian teachers who were sent to tlhe colonies were often
ill-prepared, and frequently did not remain for the entire term. As a
result, many children of school age during that period received as little
as two years of training.
22The same may be said of the Mennonites in Russia, even among the
pioneer colonies. See P.M. Friesen, Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitisehe
Bruederschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitisehen
Gesamnitgeschichte (Halbstadt, Ukraine: Verlagsgesellschaft Raduga, 1911),
23Numerous respondents told the present writer that the little
schooling which they did receive at that time was practically useless.
Many were taught to read at home, or in informal classes.
Level of Educational Attainment of Paran6 Mennonites
Aged 15 and Over, by Sex, Residence, and Age, 1965
Median years of school completed
Total population 6.60 6.00
Witinarsum 6.26 5.97
Guarituba 5.06 4.95
Boqueirao 6.85 6.06
Vila Guaira 7.26 6.20
15-19 7.11 6.61
20-24 7.60 7.17
25-29 6.56 5.83
30-34 5.43 5.72
35-39 4.94 4.66
40-44 6.21 5.57
45-49 5.30 5.14
50-54 5.91 5.71
55-59 7.68 6.37
60-64 6.80 6.32
65 and over 7.08 5.54
The age differential in the median years of schooling is caused,
therefore, by historical circumstances. It is noteworthy that the level
has risen for persons in the two youngest age groups. This trend
probably will continue as an increasing number of youth attend institu-
tions of secondary and college or university level. The index for the
group aged 20 to 24 would be even higher if the students of that age
who are not residing at home had been included in the calculations.
The higher level of educational attainment for persons 55 years of age
and over reflects the general situation in the colonies in Russia where
boys usually attended school for six or seven years, and girls for four
Residential differences in the amount of schooling, as expected,
indicate less schooling in the nonurban communities that in the urban
one. The lowest level is that of the small Guarituba settlement, fol-
lowed by Witmarsum, Boqueirao, and Vila Guaira, in that order (see Table
VIII for the exact data). The level varies from about five to seven
years in the four communities. The index being considered here is an
excellent indicator of the general quality of the population in each
of the four communities. Their rank order in terms of the level of
schooling is the same as that which any observer would give them when
asked to rank them in terms of general level of living.
The sex differential persists in all the residence and age catego-
ries. The males consistently have a slightly higher level of educational
24See Peter Braun, "The Educational System of the Mennonite
Colonies in South Russia," Mennonite Quarterly Review, III, 3 (July,
1929), 169-182, esp. p. 178.
attainrmont, with the exception of those aged 30-34. It is noteworthy,
however, that the difference is never large. Most of the persons who
have more than 12 years of formal schooling are males, which tends to
raise the L.edian fur this sex. For both sexes the mode is four years
of schooling; and over three-fourths (75.5 per cent) attended school
less than eight years.
Mennonites in Brazil have less formal schooling than those in North
America. For the latter the median in 1963 was 8.9 for heads of house-
holds; for housewives it was 9.2.25 Those in North America rank below
the general populations of Canada and the United States but they display
similar sex differentials.
The Parana population only partially conforms to the traditional
Russian Meinonite pattern, in which males generally acquired an additional
year or two of schooling beyond that considered necessary for females.
In Brazil the difference has been narrowed.
The trend toward higher levels of educational attainment may be
expected to continue. The implications of this fact are numerous; but
in terns of the present writer's interest in social and cultural change,
the most important one involves the age groups which are presently in
the middle of the distribution. During the next several decades the
better-educated, older generation will pass off the scene, and will
be replaced by the group whose level of formal schooling is relatively
low. This will take place at a time when the younger age groups
25Gingerich, op. cit., pp. 22-23.
increasingly are acquiring more education in Brazilian schools. The
result probably will be a broadening gap in perspectives, interests,
and values between the older and younger groups. It would appear that
such a situation will increase the cleavage which already exists between
young and old, and may induce greater conflict between them. The
probability of accelerated change in such a situation also appears
greater. As more young people have contact with the better-educated
elements of Brazilian society, they may be expected to develop increasingly
favorable attitudes toward Brazilians in general.
A demographic analysis of the characteristics of the Mennonites in
Parana indicates that many changes have taken place in the population.
During the 35 years in which the Mennonites have lived in Brazil, there
has been a trend in the population toward lower proportions of children,
and higher percentages of the elderly. The two older communities have
significantly lower proportions of persons from the colonies in middle
and northern Russia. It was demonstrated that a disproportional number
of persons from the more advanced colonies of southern Russia were
among the first to leave the young, struggling colonies in Santa Cata-
rina during the 1930's; and reasons for this tendency were suggested.
The median age at first marriage has declined during the past
several decades. An analysis, however, revealed two opposite tendencies:
(1) more people are marrying in the lower rather than the upper twenties;
and (2) teen-age marriages, once contracted by more than 10 per cent of
the married population, have disappeared almost completely in recent years.
The population, which was completely rural 35 years ago, is
increasingly urban in residence and occupation. Most of the employed
males who are in nonagricultural occupations are concentrated in the
skilled and semiskilled categories. Whereas about 83 per cent of the
male population aged 14 and over is gainfully employed, about 88 per
cent of the female population is not in the labor force.
The median level of educational attainment varies by age groups.
The older members of the population received an average of six to seven
years of formal schooling in Russia; those who grew up in Santa Catari-
na, as little as four to five years. The level has risen sharply in
the groups under 30 years of age, and it appears that it will continue
to rise in the future.
VITAL PROCESSES, MIGRATION, AND
GROWTH OF THE POPULATION
The purpose of this chapter is to analyze the factors which affect
the growth of the population, and to note their results. Specifically,
this chapter seeks to indicate what has been the net result of fertility,
mortality, and migration of the Mennonite population on its present size
and rate of growth.
The two vital processes which affect the rate of growth of popula-
tion are fertility and mortality. They are considered in that order in
The Russian Mennonites have been known as a group with consistently
high fertility levels. During most of their history families with seven
to eight members have been average. During the past several decades,
however, there has been a notable drop in the level of fertility of the
group in both North and South America.
The crude birth rate of the Mennonites has declined precipitously
during the 35 years they have resided in Brazil. From 1930 to 1936 it
was approximately 46. During a similar period (1931-1938) the sister
Peter Klassen, "The Mennonites of Brazil," Mennonite Quarterly
Review, XI, 2 (April, 1937), 116.
group of refugees, who established the Fernheim colony in the Paraguayan
Chaco, had a crude birth rate of 48.2. In 1964 the birth rate of the
Mennonites in Parana had dropped into the low 20's, and in the large rurban
community of Boqueirao it was 17.1. By way of comparison, the rate in the
Fernheim colony had dropped to 33.8 during the period 1948 to 1956.
The residential differences in Paranr are unexpected. (See Table
IX.) That is, the relatively high birth rate in the urban community and
the low one in the rurban settlement are not in accordance with the usual
rural-urban differences. The high incidence of births in Vila Guaira
probably is due to a noteworthy increase in the number of young families
in this community. The unusually low incidence of births in Boqueirao
has persisted for several years and appears to indicate a trend toward
smaller famlilies. Probably it is an indication of a conscious attempt
on the part of many parents to limit the size of their families.
The fertility ratio is a more standardized measure than the birth
rate. A comparison of the four Parana communities in terms of this ratio
indicates that the rural community, as expected, has the highest level
of fertility. Boqueirao, however, ranks below Vila Guaira. The low
211. iHack, Die Kolonisation der Mennoniten im Paraguayischen Chaco
(Amsterdam: Koenigliches Tropeninstitut, Abteilung fuer kulturelle und
physische Anthropologie, Nr. 65 1 p. 178.
The fertility ratio was computed by means of the following formula:
Children under 5
Females aged 15 to 44
for the rationale on which this formula is based, see T. Lynn Smith,
Fundamentals of Population Study (Chicago: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1960),
Table IX. Indexes of Fertility of Paranh Mennonites, by Community, 1964
Community Crude birth rate Fertility ratio
Witmarsum 24 56.4
Guarituba 23 54.8
Boqueirao 17 44.3
Vila Guaira 31 48.5
Total population 23 49.1
aThe fertility ratio was computed by means of the following
Children under five
Females aged 15 to 44
number of children under five years in Boqueirao, when compared with that
in the other communities, is highly significant from the statistical stand-
point. Although many factors may be involved in this situation, the most
important single one appears to be the presence of a highly respected
nurse in the community. This woman was born and trained in the United
States, and numerous women have sought information from her about birth
control. Evidently some couples have decided to limit the size of their
families; and the presence of a respected member of the in-group in the
community, who is both technically competent and a female, probably has
facilitated the impressive drop in the level of fertility. This change
in attitude concerning family planning is found in the other communities,
but to a lesser degree, if the present writer's conversations with some of
the younger couples are representative. Thus, the low fertility ratio
not only is statistically significant, but it has great social signifi-
cance as well.
A comparison of the fertility ratio of the Mennonites in Parand
(49.1) with that of the Brazilian population in 1950 (70.5) indicates
that thile index is much lower in the former group. The population of
Chi-square = 11.529, p <.001; Q .217.
6The traditional view on conscious control of family size was expres-
sed to the present writer by one of the middle-aged mothers in Witmarsum
in the following words: "We do not try to keep children from being born
into the world. We accept each one as a gift from God." Interview,
The ratio for the Brazilian population is calculated according to
the same formula as that used for the Mennonite population. The ratios
in Parana in 1950, computed by using women aged 15 to 49 in the denomina-
tor, are: total population, 72.9; Curitiba, 39.4; and the rest of the
state, 77.1. All data for Brazil and Parana compiled from J.V.D. Saunders,
Differential Fertility in Brazil (Gainesville: University of Florida
Press, 1958), pp. 10, 32, and 64.