When we think about homesteads creating a pastoral landscape, families living by candlelight, and men in straw hats, we can readily imagine a bygone era in the American Midwest. The Mennonites, a secluded community in Belize, Central America, is one example.

They’re Christian sects who have shunned modern technology, including electricity in certain situations. The colonies of Belize date back to the 1950s when nearly 3,000 Canadian Mennonites immigrated from Mexico. The Belizean government gave them land, freedom, and tax benefits in exchange for signing an agreement for their stay. The Mennonites then control the domestic poultry and dairy markets in the country. Photographer Jake Michaels traveled to three Mennonite settlements to capture their way of life. He was taken aback by how receptive they were. In a phone call, Michaels said, “People were lot more hospitable than I expected, and everyone was really understanding.” Michaels discovered a world frozen in time, where life is concentrated on families free of modern distractions. However, because the communities are reliant on agriculture and labor, their literacy rate is low, with only 5% of the population having completed secondary school.

Despite their conservatism, some people own technology devices like cellphones and digital cameras. Having access to technology, fortunately, is not seen as a danger to their civilization. “It definitely impacted the way that I shoot going forward,” Michaels said. “It made me more interactive and more social with people rather, than just taking photos.”