The Mennonites of Belize are descended from various groups of European Christians who adopted the Anabaptist (rebaptism) teachings of a Dutch priest named Menno Simons who broke away from the catholic church. Within the wider Mennonite community, there are a number of congregations which are based on how the Bible is interpreted. For example there are Old Colony, Old Order and Kleine Gemeinde Mennonite churches. There are also missionary Mennonites who belong to the United Christian Fellowship.
Because of their religious beliefs, political isolationism and anti-militarism, Mennonites faced many persecutions in Europe. These persecutions were documented in their book, the Martyrs Mirror. As a consequence of their many persecutions in Europe, Mennonites developed strong traditions in self sufficiency in agriculture. They have maintained these values wherever they have immigrated.
Two main waves of Mennonite emigration from Europe to the Americas took place during the last three hundred years. The first migration started in the 1700s when a group left Prussia for the United States. After the first migration to the Americas, a group was invited to Russia by Catherine the Great in 1780. It was in Russia that a group called the Kleine Gemeinde (Small church) was founded in 1812. The second immigration to North America then occured in 1874 when many Kleine Gemeinde Mennonites left Russia for Manitoba Canada and Nebraska in the United States. A subsequent migration of Kleine Gemeinde from Canada to Mexico occurred in 1948. The migration to Belize from Quellen Colony (Mexico) in 1958 was because of drought and some friction with the Mexican government over an intended Social Security scheme.
In terms of technology, three groups of Mennonites are recognized in Belize. First are the conservatives. These are the “buggy” Mennonies from villages such as Barton Creek who cultivate small farms with watermelons, peanuts, fruit trees etc. Next are the traditional Mennonites who reside in settlements such as ShipYard. These Mennonites reject air filled rubber wheels but practice large sale agriculture and allow smoking. The most successful group are the Progressive Mennonites who reside in modern communities like Spanish Lookout and Blue Creek. Progressive Mennonites use rubber wheel tractors, personal vehicles, computers, cell phones, modern dress for men and women etc. Progressive Mennonites cultivate large acreages of corn, rice and beans as well as produce much of the chickens consumed in Belize.