A Visit to Pella, Iowa's Dutch Land |  Column Jan Postma

A Visit to Pella, Iowa's Dutch Land | Column Jan Postma

There is a mill in the middle of the village. In addition, a statue of two skaters and a real canal are visible if you walk further. However, in front of the Dutch-style stairs are not bicycles, but large pick-up trucks. The building that looks like a farm is actually a McDonald's. I'm in the Dutch enclave of Bella, Iowa.

I immediately felt at home. It is not because of that plant or those houses. It's because of the faces. All the deep Dutch in America go there. It seems like everyone here eats peanut butter for breakfast and cycles miles into the air every day. I came here to report on the elections, but no one responded to my emails. I wondered if that would be the problem.

The ice was breaking up quickly. First names are actually American, but after Joe or Mary came along Duvrrries or Wierrrsme were pronounced with an American accent. Those names all end in -ma and -stra so it looks familiar. They had left many generations ago, but there was still a clear bond with the 'Old North', as one of them so beautifully put it. I was assured that Frisians and Groningers would get along well at Bella. “There is no competition because nobody follows football here.”

It felt like a family reunion

I miss Postma in Bella. But it still felt like a family reunion. It was fascinating to hear the stories of the families who sometimes came to America with Pastor Shault in 1847. Many more followed with smaller wallets and bigger dreams. It was tough in plain and unforgiving Iowa. Stories are not inferior to what they are Cruel heaven By Heilke Spierstra, however beautiful the emigrants left behind, they found that they still had little to do in the Promised Land.

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A local historian told me that through hard work and entrepreneurship, Bella grew into a wealthy village that was proud of its own identity and language, even though many did not speak Dutch fluently. People in that area looked up to those madmen who set them apart from the rest of the country with admiration and sometimes envy. Bella is a very closed community, he said. If you are accepted, you truly belong. But you can always be an outsider. It reminded me of the 'Old North'.

Everyone was very open about village life

Fortunately, I don't have that problem with my last name. Everyone was very open about village life and how they approach life. In Bella you stumble across churches, all of which are full on Sundays. Almost all are staunchly anti-abortion, highly distrustful of immigrants and in favor of a tougher approach to crime. A large proportion believe Trump fans. In short: the average resident of Bella is more conservative than the average Dutch person.

I often notice that with Dutch Americans, especially if the crossing was a while ago. I also often hear concerns about the Netherlands. I spoke with Jacobus and Geert at the Trump meeting in Washington. Two friendly Canadians with northern roots. They felt that the Netherlands had taken a wrong turn and wondered why the Dutch did not see this. They were surprised by how negatively the Dutch spoke about Trump. They were really fans. But they stopped short of telling the Dutch family that.

The Netherlands of that time no longer exists, of course

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Even as similarities are celebrated, the distance from the old homeland also increases over the years. The Netherlands keeps moving. But when you leave, you keep the last memory of your departure in a time capsule. Meanwhile, the Netherlands of that time no longer exists. I have to say I like the review. It shows that after all these years, and sometimes generations, these Dutch Americans and Canadians still care about that old homeland.

That sense of connection is sometimes only a thin layer. When I saw a huge Frisian flag hanging in the local Jaarsma bakery, my heart skipped a beat. While paying for the 'originally Dutch' filled cookies, I asked the woman in traditional dress if Jaarsma was also from Friesland. She didn't understand what I said. At a local restaurant they serve Frisian fries. With stew, gravy and American cheese slices. What's Frisian about that? The woman behind the counter shrugged. More American than Frisian now, I think.

Onze V/M

Dagblad van het Noorden Inside Leeward Courant Publish an article each week by Our Lady/Man, one of eight media correspondents from another continent.

John Postma (Hardegarib, 1983) is the Washington correspondent for this newspaper and PNR Newsradio. Studied American Studies and Journalism at the University of Groningen.

Next week: Saskia Konniger

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