Bolivia, the Menonos by Jordi Ruiz Cirera
Five siblings, Nueva Esperanza, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Mennonite baby, Nueva Esperanza, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Couple, Milagrosa, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Portrait, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Eva Penner, Nueva Esperanza, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Margarita Teichroeb, Swift Current, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Abraham Bergen, Nueva Esperanza, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Maria Knelssen, Milagrosa, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Gerardo Dyck, Milagrosa, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Pedro Banman, Belize, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Catherina Teichroeb, Swift Current, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Maria Klassen, Swift Current, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Portrait © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
Abraham Bergen, Son, Nueva Esperanza, Bolivia © Jordi Ruiz Cicera
The project Menonos depicts the lifestyle and inner struggles of the Mennonite in their colonies in Eastern Bolivia. Mennonites are Christian Anabaptists who left Germany around the XVIth century, and have since been migrating from country to country in order to preserve their lifestyle. Throughout this migration they have always remained apart from the local population, and have preserved their ancestral way of life; refusing to use modern utilities likes cars, telephones or electricity, and maintaining a very humble and hard working existence.
During the fifties the Bolivian government invited them to work and settle the east of the country, the province of Santa Cruz. They came from all over the American continent, mostly from Canada, Mexico and Belize, and started spreading their farms and fields along the vast and dry territory, expecting they would be able to "live the life of theMennonites" in this new country. Today, there are about fifty thousand Mennonites living in Bolivia spread in more than fifty colonies, although the exact number is difficult to know as many of them are unregistered or use foreign passports. They call themselves Menonos, and they want to maintain their traditional and closed communities at any cost.
However the new socialist government is increasing environmental control that prevents the Mennonites from cutting down forests, and the growing “influence of the locals”, means easier access to alcohol, music and cars, big issues for the colonies . Some will eventually decide to leave the colony for a new and more isolated one, where the forest is yet to be cut, and Bolivian towns are tens of dusty kilometers away. But still Mennonites will always be considered a source of income for Bolivians, . Sometimes they have to go to the city, but they don’t drive, they have cattle but no way to sell it. So no matter where they settle again, soon taxi drivers will start driving around, cattle buyers will pass with their trucks, and just a while after a little shop will be placed right at the entrance of the colony. New countries in which to settle are difficult to find, and so is new land in Bolivia, so the feeling of ‘reaching the end’ is felt all around the community.
Jordi Ruiz Cirera was born in Barcelona, he studied the MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the LCC, graduating with distinction on 2011.