Jake Michaels’ pictures doc life in Belize’s secluded Mennonite colonies

Jake Michaels' photographs document life in Belize's secluded Mennonite colonies


Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Homesteads dotting a pastoral landscape, families living by lamplight and men in straw hats riding horse-drawn carriages — the scenes in Jake Michaels’ photographs could easily depict bygone times in the American Midwest. But not only do his pictures hail from the digital age, they were taken hundreds of miles away in Belize.

The tiny Central American country is home to around 12,000 of the world’s most conservative Mennonites, a group of Christians that live in closed communities and shun modern technology including, in some cases, electricity. Dating back to 16th-century Europe, the Protestant sect’s members have since moved around the world in search of isolated farmland, and to escape persecution or attempts to integrate them into wider society.

Belize’s colonies date back to the late 1950s, when a group of over 3,000 Canadian Mennonites immigrated there from Mexico. Their arrival followed an agreement with the Belizean government, which offered them…