with approximately 3,000 inhabitants, is located midway between
San Ignacio and Belmopan.
The Mennonite are a self-sufficient people who run their own church-based communities and in keeping with their old traditions, live in modest homes, with their clothing reflecting simple and conservative tastes.
Mennonites are easily detected by their way of dress; the men wear denim overalls and straw hats while women wear looses fitting print dresses. The Mennonites speak Plattdeutsch, a low German dialect.
Unlike other Mennonite communities that shun technology, the community at Spanish Lookout is mechanized, and specializes in auto parts and is a major producer of dairy, poultry, vegetables and cattle produce, supplying the majority of the country with these commodities. 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.
The Spanish Lookout Mennonite community is spread out 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, resembling a scene from a rural mid-western town in the United States.
Spanish Lookout has, for the most part, been integrated into the Belizean way of life, and locals visit Spanish Lookout in search of tires, parts for cars or machinery, as prices are some of the most competitive in the country.
Discovery of Oil
Near this small Mennonite town, a farmer dug a shallow water well a few years ago and found a viscous black liquid seeping into the water. Given Belize's disappointing record of oil exploration, stretching back to its years under British rule, nearly everyone shrugged off the story.
Now Belize is the newest exporter of oil to the United States, a development that is starting to upend this small country of 280,000 people.
Their wells, dotting the dairy farms, are producing 5,000 barrels a day of oil similar in quality to the prized low-sulfur crude from the oil fields of West Texas.
In 1958 the first two groups of Mennonite settlers left their farms in northern Mexico and made the migration to Belize, then a strange and unknown land called British Honduras. The settlements planted corn, beans, and other crops, and started raising chicken and dairy cows.
In the 1960's, agriculture made great strides at Spanish Lookout. Unlike the more traditional Mennonite settlement at Barton Creek that does not use mechanized technology, the Spanish Lookout Mennonites brought old, inexpensive machinery to use on the fields. Their economy improved rapidly, and now there are paved roads, feed mills, a dairy, huge stretch of farmland and modern machinery. Spanish Lookout now provides a large portion of the food in the country.
Since the paving of the main access road, the community has evolved into a rapidly expanding, commercial and agricultural center, specializing in furniture making, prefabricated wood houses, tin smith, home and industrial roofing, aggregates and hardware distribution. Spanish Lookout features the largest supermarket in the area and is frequented as a shopping center by Belizean's from the Cayo District area.
The area provides excellent bird watching, as well as an opportunity to witness the unique Mennonite way of life.
Spanish Lookout is accessed by a beautiful drive through rolling hills of mainly farm land. Aguacate Lagoon Reserve, located about 20 minutes beyond the community, features an unexcavated Maya site, crocodile pond and you may see howler monkeys (called Baboons in Belize) here. Poor Joe's trail takes you into the forest surrounding the lake where many native orchid species hang from the trees.
The lake itself attracts water birds such as the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Night Herons, Anhinga's and Neo tropic Cormorants. Look for raptors on the road along the way.