TikToker living in ‘conscious community’ in Guatemala sparks ‘colonial tourism’ backlash
TikTok/Michelle Rusk

A woman who lives as part of a “conscious community” in a new-age retreat in Guatemala has sparked accusations of “colonial tourism” after sharing a series of TikTok videos promoting her lifestyle.

Michelle Rusk has built an online audience by documenting her life as event coodinator at Tribal Village, an “eco-conscious” riverside community based in the Central American country. Her content explores her predominantly white group’s day-to-day life as they take part in fire ceremonies, full moon gatherings and yoga while living off the land.

The videos haven’t sat well with many people, who have taken issue with the group’s apparent ill-informed adoption of local culture. For some, it looks more like Central American gentrification.

One video in particular has accumulated more than six million views on Twitter due to its holiday brochure-style editing and description of life at the base.

In the video, Michelle’s voiceover tells viewers how the group “work together, play together, sing together”, as well as “connect together”, in what could easily pass as footage from the cutting room floor of a Black Mirror episode.

On its website, Tribal Village describes itself as “a gathering of conscious and passionate co-creators, dedicating their service and talents to collective and personal empowerment”. The retreat offers spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional healing through a range of new age practices, and visitors are asked to adhere to a strictly plant-based diet throughout.

Their mission statement states the community seeks to benefit the local area, but isn’t clear on how this is achieved. Visitors can stay for as little as 90 Quetzales (£8) a night in a shared tent, with premium options such as temple rooms/tipi’s going for 220 Quetzales (£20).

The group also claim to be “adept at Agile Flow Philosophy and of Dynamic Equity”, whatever that might mean.

Here’s what people had to say about the whole thing.

The only person in the video who appears to be local is featured serving food to the Tiktokker, and some people have suggested she doesn’t look too happy to be there.

Some couldn’t help but draw comparisons to one Academy award-winning film in particular.

As well as wincing at some of the other content they have to offer.

Indy100 has contacted the Tribal Village for comment.

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