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In Mexico, a decade of images shows Mennonites' traditions frozen in time

A girl poses for a picture with her horse near an agricultural field in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico December 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The Mennonite community in Chihuahua, Mexico, can trace its roots as far back as a century ago, when the first such settlers came seeking ideal farming land, isolation from the outside world and the preservation of their religion.

Here, their way of life is simple, with virtually no use of electricity or the internet. The community supports itself through its centuries-old tradition of farming: corn, chili peppers, cotton, onions.

Girls play on swings outside a school in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico April 29, 2015. From schools to general stores, almost everything the Mennonites need they have built for themselves within the confines of their own communities. Mennonites generally finish school by the age of 12. Boys and girls sit separately in classrooms, just as men and women do in church pews on Sundays. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

But life can be difficult for them as modern technology creeps closer to their doorstep. It's not as easy to maintain their isolation as it was a hundred years ago.

From low water reserves due to drought worsened by climate change to the rising cost of diesel to run farming pumps, the community has its own set of challenges as it seeks to thrive and grow.

For the last 100 years, Mexico has been home to Mennonite farmers, who migrated from Canada, where many still live.

A woman walks with her two children through an agricultural field in the Mennonite community of El Sabinal, Ascension, Chihuahua, Mexico, April 29, 2015. The community of El Sabinal, Spanish for "The Juniper", was founded nearly 30 years ago in the dry, desert-like terrain of Chihuahua. Today, Mennonite farmers have transformed it into fruitful farmland, often using antique farm equipment. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Descendants of 16th-century Protestant Anabaptist radicals from Germany, the Low Countries and Switzerland, Mennonites rejected military service and the concept of a church hierarchy, suffering years of persecution and making them reliant on the patronage of rulers eager to exploit their belief that agriculture and faith are intertwined.

The community of El Sabinal - Spanish for "The Juniper" - was founded nearly 30 years ago in the dry, desert-like terrain of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. Today, Mennonite farmers have transformed it into fruitful farmland, often using antique farm equipment. They live in simple brick houses they build themselves, usually consisting of one open room.

As the Mennonites expanded their farmland in drought-prone Chihuahua, where they have several communities, the demand for water increased. Over the years, they have faced allegations of sinking illegal wells from local farmers who complain the government gives them preferential treatment.

A father watches his son as he rides a horse outside his home in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico October 22, 2014. Mennonites generally finish school by the age of 12.?It is not uncommon to see a child younger than 10 operating a tractor or driving a horse-drawn buggy on the white, dusty roads within the community. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

"It is very expensive to pump diesel here. There is still water, but they have to sink more wells," said Guillermo Andres, a Mennonite who arrived in El Sabinal as a teenager. His devout family eschews the use of electricity and pumps well water using diesel fuel, an increasingly costly practice.

The Mennonites' native language is typically Plautdietsch, a unique blend of Low German, Prussian dialects and Dutch. Many Mennonites, especially men who interact with local laborers, also speak Spanish.

From schools to general stores, almost everything the Mennonites need they have built for themselves within the confines of their own communities.

Horses tied to carts stand in the snow outside a church in the Mennonite community of El Sabinal, Ascension, Chihuahua, Mexico, December 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Mennonites generally finish school by the age of 12. Boys and girls sit separately in classrooms, just as men and women do in church pews on Sundays.

It is not uncommon to see a child younger than 10 operating a tractor or driving a horse-drawn buggy on the white, dusty roads within the community.

These blue-eyed, blond-haired people marry young and focus on expanding their families. Many farmers said they had more than 10 children.

Girls stand outside a house in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico September 29, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

In this way, they practice their religion through their everyday life. Men tend to the fields while women maintain the gardens at home and care for the children.

The Mennonites' interaction with the outside world is mostly restricted to their relationships with local people who work for them as laborers in the community or to trips into town to buy goods.

"The traditions are living quietly in a neighborhood without trucks, without rubber tires, without electricity," Andres said. "Our traditions come from Russia, from Russia to Canada and from Canada to Mexico.

Children of the Harder family look at the carcass of a cow hanging from a harness outside their home in the Mennonite community of El Sabinal, Ascension, Chihuahua, Mexico October 16, 2018. The community of El Sabinal, Spanish for "The Juniper", was founded nearly 30 years ago in the dry, desert-like terrain of Chihuahua. Today, Mennonite farmers have transformed it into fruitful farmland, often using antique farm equipment. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

"I don't know about it (technology); that's how I was born and that's how I've been all my life; that's how I like to continue," he added.

(Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez in Chihuahua and Cassandra Garrison in Mexico City; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

A girl sits on a tractor in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico September 29, 2012.?Mennonites generally finish school by the age of 12.?It is not uncommon to see a child younger than 10 operating a tractor or driving a horse-drawn buggy on the white, dusty roads within the community. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Community leaders speak in front of a church after celebrating a wedding in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A child from the Friessen family sucks a lollipop outside their home in the Mennonite community of El Sabinal, Ascension, Chihuahua, Mexico September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Women leave church after attending Sunday mass in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico September 30, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Two boys play near their homes in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A woman from a Mennonite community milks a cow in Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico November 9, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Catalina rides a skateboard outside her home in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico February 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A horse and cart ride past an out-of-service fuel dispenser in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico May 1, 2015. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A child waves from a cart travelling through the snow, after attending church with his parents, in the Mennonite community of El Sabinal, Ascension, Chihuahua, Mexico, December 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A man collects chillis in a field in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Chihuahua, Janos, Mexico December 19, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Helena (L) and her sister Lizbeth (R) pose for a photograph outside their home in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico February 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Denim trousers are seen hanging to dry outside a house in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Children from the Mennonite community attend a class at their school in Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico October 12, 2012. From schools to general stores, almost everything the Mennonites need they have built for themselves within the confines of their own communities. Mennonites generally finish school by the age of 12. Boys and girls sit separately in classrooms, just as men and women do in church pews on Sundays. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A cow crosses a snow-covered road in the Mennonite community of El Sabinal, Ascension, Chihuahua, Mexico December 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Young people buy food for their animals in the Mennonite community of El Sabinal, Ascension, Chihuahua, Mexico May 1, 2015. Mennonites generally finish school by the age of 12.?It is not uncommon to see a child younger than 10 operating a tractor or driving a horse-drawn buggy on the white, dusty roads within the community. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A girl walks amid pasture for animals in a field in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico November 6, 2014. Mennonites generally finish school by the age of 12.?It is not uncommon to see a child younger than 10 operating a tractor or driving a horse-drawn buggy on the white, dusty roads within the community. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A girl from a Mennonite community hides between the skirts of Mennonite women during a meeting, El Cuervo, Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Children wait for the bus to school, outside their home in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico April 30, 2015. From schools to general stores, almost everything the Mennonites need they have built for themselves within the confines of their own communities. Mennonites generally finish school by the age of 12. Boys and girls sit separately in classrooms, just as men and women do in church pews on Sundays. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Girls harvest strawberries outside their home in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A community member drives machinery to harvest wheat in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A girl plays on a swing in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico January 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Girls read the Bible at their school in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico December 19, 2012. From schools to general stores, almost everything the Mennonites need they have built for themselves within the confines of their own communities. Mennonites generally finish school by the age of 12. Boys and girls sit separately in classrooms, just as men and women do in church pews on Sundays. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Children of the Friessen family play outside their home in the Mennonite community of El Sabinal, Chihuahua, Ascension, Mexico September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A child plays with a kite outside his home in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico December 19, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Mennonites make their way to a cemetery during the funeral of a member of their community, in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Dresses hang on a line outside a house in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Mexico October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Agatha uses her mobile phone as her sisters Ana, Elena, Catalina and Margarita surround her outside their home in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico February 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A woman fumigates outside her home in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico October 21, 2014. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
Young Mennonites celebrate a wedding in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico September 30, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A Mennonite displays a photograph of his ancestors in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico October 15, 2018. The Mennonite community in Chihuahua can trace its roots as far back as a century ago, when the first such settlers came seeking ideal farming land, isolation from the outside world and the preservation of their religion. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
A girls holds a basket in a supermarket in the Mennonite community of Buenos Aires, Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico September 29, 2012. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez