The Mennonites descend from the 16th century Anabaptist movement in Switzerland. During the Reformation, the Anabaptists wanted stronger reforms than the Protestants. When a Dutch priest named Menno Simons latched onto the group, his differing interpretation of the scriptures catapulted him into leadership. The name Mennonite literally means Followers of Menno.
Many of the Mennonites then came to America at the end of the 17th century with William Penn, settling in the states of Pennsylvania and Ohio as well as in Canada. When friction arose with the Canadian government in the 1920s over strict Mennonite beliefs (no education past sixth grade, no military service, etc.), the Canadian Mennonites immigrated to Mexico where the government was looking for farmers. The Mennonites purchased a plot of land that was previously owned by William Randolph Hearst (who was expelled from Mexico at the end of the revolution in 1921) and in return, they were freed from military service and Mexico's educational laws.
Today, over 80,000 Mennonites live in Northern Mexico and many still speak the medieval German dialect, Plautdietsch.