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Synopsis: This American author has spent thirty years in the rainforests of Costa Rica documenting the challenges and triumphs of his attempts to make an environmentally conscious sustainable living in this paradise. Jon Maranon offers a unique first-person account of nature and persons in conflict and the difficulties of meshing human existence into the once pristine rainforests of Costa Rica. His work promotes reader awareness of the natural environment, wildlife, ecosystems, and socioculture of this remote area of Costa Rica. Ecology and spirituality intertwine as he describes his journey in a mix of naturalist and lyrical prose that, along with humor and introspection, mark the style of The Gringo's Hawk.

From the Inside Flap: Jon Marañón (a nom de plume) has lived a remarkable life against which many readers will find themselves measuring their own lives. He came of age in America during the turbulent ‘60s of Civil Rights marches and opposition to the Vietnam War. He had always felt himself to be a poor fit for the consumerism/materialism, conformity, racism, and environmental destructiveness of his own country. A college psychologist told him he’d have to learn to adjust. Yet, he persisted in seeking a place where, and people with whom, he might fit.

One beautiful day in the early ‘70s, he set off on horseback for a leisurely exploration of a strip of land on the southwest coast of Costa Rica. He describes the day in a mix of naturalist and lyrical prose that, along with humor and introspection, marks the style of The Gringo’s Hawk. By the end of the day, he had fallen in love with this paradise.

Here were ocean and offshore islands and riparian, rainforest, and mountain environments to satisfy his soul. And, miraculously, a year or so later, he learned that he could buy this site and be its steward. He seized the opportunity.

This young, blond, blue-eyed college dropout, this sensitive, idealistic, born naturalist and new-minted environmentalist, would become a Latin American landowner and patrón, roles for which he was profoundly unfit. He tried numerous schemes to make a living off the land – agriculture, cattle raising, growing fruit trees, ecotourism, and tree farming. He toiled valiantly in a “paradise” of tropical heat and humidity, of exotic critters that ravaged crops, of a hawk that stole chickens, of termites that destroyed fenceposts and the foundations of cabins, and of insects that colonized and bred orgiastically inside his portable radio. The struggle was typified by crises of conscience such as considering which vile poison might kill those damned termites.

As a patrón, he inherited cultural norms and expectations he found . . . “un-American.” He found his workers to be warm, generous, kind, and hard working. But he found his duty to haggle with them over the quality of their work and the wages due them, very stressful. He found himself forced to informally adjudicate their infidelities, quarrels, drunken outbursts, sicknesses, and occasional rampages of machete violence . . . situations that were seriously at odds with this ideal of establishing a harmonious community. Some of his fellow patróns let it be known that he was being way too chummy with the peasants and paying his workers way too much.

Marañón became a significant observer of both the environmental and social changes in Costa Rica. He was one who stayed in one place, “a witness to something amazing,” and has earned the right to tell us what he saw. The last of the hunter-gatherer indigenous people faded deeply into the rainforest and perhaps into extinction. Marañón listened to local elders tell tales about them, and he passes on some of these and other tales to readers. In barely a quarter century, the agrarian people who were his neighbors and workers began to desert the land and move to the big cities. Refugees from wars in nearby countries poured in, along with squatters lacking any cultural or religious roots and having no interest save brute survival.

So, too, did the industrial world close in on this paradise, roadbuilders especially, showing a complete lack of respect for the environment and bringing powerful machines of destruction to tear away at the beautiful landscape Marañón had struggled to preserve.

Marañón fought to halt and turn back the degradation of the environment. For many years, he traveled regularly to the capital, San Jose, and badgered bureaucrats and government officials to take action. He endured long, tedious, often unproductive meetings and dealt with uncomprehending, indifferent, sometimes venal and mean-spirited officials. Often there was in the background the menacing presence of powerful people, such as owners of fishing fleets, who felt their personal interests threatened by what Marañón proposed.

To be effective, Marañón had to tone down his fervor and not be one of those gringos who seem on the verge of exploding whenever faced by “Latin inefficiencies.” He played a significant role in establishing protected marine and coastal marine areas. Additionally, he has served on a number of government committees and was declared by presidential decree an honorary member of the National Parks Service.

Marañón, almost as a sideline, has had a long-time fascination with whales and worked with scientists and researchers to establish an entirely new understanding of the migratory habits of Northern and Southern hemisphere humpback whales. At the time of publication of The Gringo’s Hawk, this research is ongoing.

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Jon Maranon
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Book Description Kenneth Group Publishing, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: Very Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Good+ dust jacket. First Edition. First Printing with full number line. Very good hardcover in good+ dust jacket. Binding is tight, sturdy, and square; boards and text also very good. Dust/dirt spotting to dust jacket reverse and interior end pages. Light shelfwear to edges of dust jacket. Gift inscription on front end page. NOT an ex-library copy, NO remainder mark, NOT a book club. Ships from Dinkytown in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Seller Inventory # 234792

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Book Description Kenneth Group Publishing. Hardcover. Condition: Very Good. 0967778700 Eugene, 2001; gray cloth covered boards; mild corner and spine edge wear; no jacket; 8vo - over 7 3/4" to 9 3/4" tall; several pages dog-eared; top corner of pages 255 through rear end paper wavy; interior clean and unmarked; 317 pages. Seller Inventory # SKU1108433

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Book Description Kenneth Group October 2001, 2001. Hardcover. Condition: Good - Cash. 'Publisher: Kenneth Group PubDate of Publication: 2001Binding: Cloth Hard CoverEdition: 1st PrintingCondition: Very Good/No JacketDescription: 0967778700 Charcoal gray hardboards, gold lettering face and spine. Modest wear, bottom corner slightly bent. Some soiling to page ends. No DJ. Seller Inventory # 20080714122681

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