Spanish Lookout is Belize’s most modern Mennonite community located in the Cayo District. Mennonites (founded in sixteenth century Holland) run their own church-based communities, with self-sufficient people, and strict traditions. In keeping with their old traditions, they live in reserved communities, maintaining the use of their dialect, and living simplistic lifestyles as can be seen in their style of dress, and their homes.
Spanish Lookout has, for the most part, been integrated into the Belizean way of life, and this community coexists with other ethnic groups. They are the major producers of dairy, poultry, vegetables and cattle produce, and supply the entire country with these commodities. Belize’s most popular chicken, Quality Chicken, is located in Spanish Lookout. Western Dairy, Belize’s only commercial production of milk is also located here. Furniture manufacturing and house construction are two other important economic activities for this community. Also, people visit Spanish Lookout in search of tires, parts for cars or machinery, as the prices are some of the most competitive in the country.
Spanish Lookout is accessible via several roads, going north off the Western Highway. The main access is near Central Farm. The Central Farm entrance takes you across a river, via one of Belize’s two hand-cranked ferries equipped to transport vehicles. The ferry conductor is stationed on the side of the ferry on a shaded elevated platform, where the huge winch is located. The conductor will not move the ferry until all passengers are out of the vehicles. Two or three cars can fit on the ferry at once, while larger trucks may pass one or two at a time. The driver is the only person allowed in the vehicle when driving onto and off of the ferry. If you are a passenger, be sure to get out the vehicle. On our trip over, I jumped into the car, and tried sneaking off the ferry as a passenger, when the conductor noticed, he did not allow the vehicle to drive off, and moved the ferry just far enough from the riverbank until I got out of the vehicle.
The Spanish Lookout Mennonite community is spread over open fields, with large trees that have been around for centuries. Small houses with zinc roofs, as well as some modern ones dot a countryside that resembles a scene from a rural town in the Midwestern United States. Cornfields and cattle pastures can be seen for miles.
Part of the main road is paved, but most are good gravel roads. The main road is lined with gas stations; tire supply stores, farm centers and mills. Children and adults, men and women are all busy at work, and the community seems to focus on “production”. They are hard working people, but are always friendly and willing to help.