Je’dult met aundre
Part 2: Potential Property Tax Aggression in Mexico
Recent news items have given ethnic Anabapatists cause to reconsider the definitions and boundaries of thire ethnic-religious cultures and how these cultures are seen by those looking in from the outside.
A tax dispute between Mexico’s Manitoba Colony of Mennonites and local authorities are leaving ethnic Russländer Mennonites wondering if they are being targeted for exploitation. Is Mexico really taking a page from Europe’s Medieval past to pass off its financial excesses onto the backs of “ethnic minority enclaves” or ghettos?
Asked differently, is the Mexican majority losing its ability to tolerate minority cultures (external cultural toleration)?
The Mennonites of (Colonia) Manitoba Kolonie near Cuauhtémoc, Mexico, have seemingly been presented with a municipal tax bill over 18x (1,800%) their present rate of taxation and are concerned that the local authorities are playing the ethnic card to force them to pay.
Manitoba Colony was established in 1921 by Old Colony immigrants from Manitoba, Canada. Exact figures are difficult to estimate. GAMEO indicates that the original colony sat on 150,000 acres. An article posted by Enrique Lomas for Terra TV indicates that there about 20,000 Mennonites impacted by the tax, which may or may not include the population of other nearby Mennonite colonies.
|Manitoba Colony is about an hour west of Chihuahua|
According to the colony’s Postura Oficial de Habitantes, Empresarios y Jefes de Colonia Manitoba, Respecto al Tema del Predial (the Official position of the People and Leaders of the Manitoba Colony Regarding the Property Tax), the colonies property tax bill is set to increase from 6,150,000 pesos (roughly US$476,000.00 or US$3.17 per acre) to 112,000,000 pesos (US$8,667,000.00 or CA$8,659,000.00) or roughly US$58.00 per acre or between US$1,400.00 and US$1,500.00 per household) (Lomas, ibid). To put this into context, ranch-recreation sites near Chihuahua, sell for about $115.00 to $125.00 per acre or roughly twice the proposed annual tax bill (www.landflip.com).
The colony has countered with an offer to pay an 20% increase, which they point out is more than the 8% increase assessed against non-Mennonite citizens of Cuauhtémoc, though well below the 1,800% increase proposed by Cuauhtémoc authorities.
Originally, the Manitoba Colony was modeled after Chortitza Colony and Molotschna Colony in Ukraine, having negotiated a privilegium with the Mexican government wherein the Mennonites could run their own schools and enjoy wide rights of self-government, (not dissimilar to similar rights originally enjoyed in Canada).
Part of the difficulty with the local authorities might be disagreements between commercial and private tax rates. The original colonies were set up as corporations under the names Heide – Neufeld und Reinlander Waisenamt and Rempel – Wall und Reinländer Waisenamt – seemingly similar to social corporate structures maintained by the Hutterite Colonies of the United States and Canadian West, which have also had to negotiate tax structures with the local states and provinces.
According to Lomas, the Mennonite directive also expressed concern at the tone the local government has taken against the Mennonites and with the spreading of false or misinformation indicating that the Mennonite community is evading paying their fair share of local taxes, that the Mennonites are demanding special treatment and that they are not loyal to the local region.
Lomas quotes, “Unfortunately these comments and information are creating a negative view towards the inhabitants of this colony, which are generating division and maybe even hate,” (translation courtesy of Google Translate™.
Similar concerns have often been expressed in the past by other North American communities who have been scapegoated for negative local conditions. Recently, Hutterites in Montana have been accused of generating a regional land shortage due to their consumption and social organization, and Mennonite communities located on prairie Reserves or Native American Reservations have noted a breakdown in communication between the Tribal leadership and non-Native American residents.
Lomas states that the directive reiterates that the local Mennonite community fully supports and respects the municipal authorities and hopes that they will continue to work together in the future as they have in the past.
|Mexican Mennonite Family in Manitoba Colony|
Taken together, incidents between the Mennonite or Anabaptist communities and their surrounding host cultures are still far from fully tolerant (probably on both sides of the dialogue), indicating that difficult matters of assimilation, identity and effective inter-cultural relationship building still have a long ways to go. It would be interesting to see an intercultural body emerge to help the various Mennonite and Anabaptist communities better cooperate with and support each other in secular conflicts with other ethnic communities – similar to bodies within the MC-USA established to deal with inter-faith relations. The pan-Diasporaic or inter-Mennonite groups that currently exist focus primarily on religious and developmental matters, indicating that more inter-cooperation needs to occur on the primarily ethnic and cultural level – more similar to certain groups and organizations maintained by the world-wide Jewish community.
One of the biggest considerations for demonstrating greater leadership in the secular relations of the Mennonite Diaspora is that the Mennonites have long extolled the value of peace making and service – values that could be undermined by a failure to effectively manage their own inter-ethnic secular relationships.
On the other hand, the historic absence of an inter-cooperative ethnic Mennonite cultural group might indicate that its use would limited or that such inter-Mennonite cultural support is not fully desired at this point – a likely if short-sighted perspective if such is the case.
We have the resources, we have the people, we have the need – we should put them to work. A cartoon of a sincere though unaware pastor praying with his eyes turned up to Heaven while about to fall into a manhole, was once captioned something like, “Pastor [Smith], he’s so spiritually minded that he’s no earthly good.”
Note: This essay has been written using trust-worthy on-line resources that have not been independently confirmed with members of the Manitoba Colony. Regarding the contemporary organizational status and structure of the colony(ia), I have been unable to obtain a timely definitive answer to that question.
Krahn, Cornelius and Helen Ens. "Manitoba Colony, Mexico." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 07 March 2012. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/M36505ME.html.
Lomas, Enrique, “Agobia a menonitas aumento en predial,” Terra TV, http://noticias-pe.hlg-vgn76-live-poa.terra.com.br/agobia-a-menonitas-aumento-en-predial,4ec64d04c2e75310VgnVCM2000006b369ac8RCRD.html, 14 Feb 2012, downloaded 07 Mar 2012.
Manitoba Colony, Russländer Mennonites, Mennonitas, Mexican Mennonites, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), ethnic conflict, Taxation, Social Structures, Hutterites, Colonia Manitoba