This is jr. Middleweight Mexican boxing sensation Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez:

That’s right, that guy’s Mexican. A very Northern  European-looking Mexican, isn’t he.

I grew up in a town with a prominent minority of light-skinned, light-haired Mexican people. I have no evidence that Canelo Alvarez is of the same tribe, but the likeness is vivid.

These were a branch of Mennonites (who speak a strange hybrid language*) that originally fled the borderland between the Netherlands and Germany to Russia when they were going to be forced to enter the draft. They redoubled their exodus when Revolutionary Russia’s political climate threatened some of the privileges they negotiated (in exchange for populating farmland) and took off again.

Some, like those that run this awesome awesome restaurant, wound up in colonies in Bolivia. Many went to the Canadian prairie. Many went to Mexico.

And many of those that went to Central/South America wound up moving to my home town in Canada. Always looking for farm work, always looking to be left alone.

They dress a bit funny (yes, they brought and kept this fashion sense with them into Canada)

I mostly went to school in another town so I didn’t have any of these kids in my classes at first. By the time I went to high school back in town I was 16 and many/most of my Mennonite contemporaries had dropped out to, presumably, start on the farms their families moved there to work.

Of those that were left, some were later-generation products whose families had assimilated. The others, though, had more in common with the other small minorities (SE Asians, Middle-Easterners, other Central Americans – a very diverse town of 25,000, Leamington) than they did with the local kids, physical appearances aside (and this is a powerful lesson: race and  discrimination have nothing to do with skin color).

Now, given that Mexicans are huge boxing fans, maybe Canelo IS a mennonite?

So I asked the patrons of the restaurant I linked to above whether they had heard of him. Blank stares. Hm. You sure?  (holding my hands up like an idiot, mimicking a boxer) Boxing? Nope.

So is Canelo a Mexican Mennonite? I doubt it, I suppose, much as I’d relish the coincidence with my past. When you’re a people that keeps apart (and farmers always have this inclination, in my experience) you aren’t about to send your kids to the boxing camps.

* I remember this language from my childhood. I never spoke it, but noticed all these strange-looking people speaking it. My dad mentioned that it was called ‘low German’, which to my young ears meant ‘low-class German’. Not even close. It turns out that ‘low German’ is ‘low’ in the sense of literally lower altitude, as in the ‘Low Countries’ (Netherlands) and this language is from the area between Holland and Germany. During my last trip back home (for Thanksgiving) my more mature and worldly ear overheard a bit of conversation in Low German and I definitely picked up on the German part but also a serious whiff of something that wasn’t German, English, Russian or Polish (and definitely not any Latin-based language). It almos sounded Swedish. Turns out what I was hearing was the Flemish influence.

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