Sommerfeld Colony (Caaguazú Department, Paraguay)
Sommerfeld Colony was one of two colonies (the other was Bergthal) established in 1948 some 50 miles (95 km) east of Villarrica in East Paraguay by Sommerfelder Mennonites from Manitoba (West Reserve). In 1953 it had a population of 644 (119 families) in nine villages, occupying ca. 93,000 acres. It is located some 15 miles (25 km) from Bergthal. In the first two years 75 families with 383 persons returned to Canada. The center of the colony was the village of Sommerfeld, where the elder, Isbrandt Friesen, lived and where the co-operative was located. -- HSB
The Sommerfeld Colony in Paraguay is located 210 km. (130 mi.) east of Asunción along the highway connecting that city with Presidente Stroessner on the Brazilian border. The total land purchased included 31,428 hectares (77,627 acres), inhabited by 1,750 persons (1986) of whom 586 were church members. Two Mennonite villages, Neuhoffnung (Campo 9) and Altona (Campo 8) lie directly along the highway. Bergthal Colony is approximately 20 km. (12 mi.) north of Sommerfeld. The settlers for both colonies came from Canada in 1948, 740 from Manitoba's East Reserve, 764 from the West Reserve, and 140 from Saskatchewan. Those from the East Reserve founded Bergthal Colony. All of them were descendents of the immigrants from Russia to Canada in 1874-1918 (Bergthal Mennonites; Sommerfeld Mennonites).
The reasons given for their leaving Canada are the inroads of secular society into their congregations and the possibility Paraguay offered to live a separated life with closed settlements in which to train their children and young people in their own schools in the German language.
The group boarded the ship Volendam at Quebec City on 25 June 1948, except for a small group which had flown to Paraguay earlier to make preparations. The Volendam had already made two trips with refugees from Europe to Paraguay. In Buenos Aires all their belongings were loaded onto a riverboat on which they traveled to Asunción. From there they traveled by train to Villarica, arriving there on 23 July 1948.
Since there was no road to most of the land they had purchased they began building this themselves, usually through heavy forest. Difficulties were also encountered with the owners of adjoining land. After months of waiting, while the road was being built, approximately one-third of the emigrants returned to Canada. Those who remained, however, succeeded in establishing two flourishing settlements i.e. Sommerfeld and Bergthal. By 1986 Sommerfeld was considered to be one of the most prosperous Mennonite settlements in Paraguay. Its inhabitants' primary sources of income are from wood products, agriculture, and dairy products.
Little change has occurred in congregational life. Sermons are usually read. There is no youth work and no Bible study meetings or prayer meetings are held (social meetings). The ministers have not received special training for their duties. Baptismal instruction is given annually from Easter to Pentecost, at which time the baptism itself occurs. Unbaptized adults are not allowed to live in the settlement.
The congregation has assumed responsibility for the welfare of the settlement. A well-equipped hospital has now been built. Schools continue in the traditional manner, with the teachers receiving no special training for their East. Primary textbooks for the schools are a reader, catechism, hymnbook, and the Bible. Attendance is required to age 14. -- GR
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 576; vol. 5, p. 841. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Bender, Harold S. and Gustav Reimer. "Sommerfeld Colony (Caaguazú Department, Paraguay)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1986. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/S66.html.
APA style: Bender, Harold S. and Gustav Reimer. (1986). Sommerfeld Colony (Caaguazú Department, Paraguay). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/S66.html.