Farms creating a pastoral landscape, families living by lamplight, and men in straw hats—when you think about these scenes, we can easily imagine an ancient age in the American Midwest. Such is the case for the Mennonites, a remote society in Belize located in Central America.

They’re groups of Christians who have disregarded modern technology, and in some cases, including electricity. Belize’s colonies go way back to the 1950s when over 3,000 Canadian Mennonites moved from Mexico. They had an agreement with the Belizean government and were offered land, freedom, and tax exemptions. In return, Mennonites dominate the country’s domestic poultry and dairy markets. Photographer Jake Michaels visited three Mennonite colonies to document their traditional lifestyle. He was surprised by how friendly they are. Spending more time in their family homes, Michaels discovered a world stuck in time, where life is centered on families free from modernity. However, the communities are highly dependent on agriculture and labor, so their literacy rate is low and only 5% of the population completed secondary education.

Although conservative, some possess electronic gadgets such as cellphones and digital cameras. Fortunately, having access to technology isn’t perceived as a threat to their society. “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.”