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The Maya Tropical Forest

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The Maya Tropical Forest. People, Parks, and Ancient Cities. By James D. Nations. (University of Texas Press, Austin: 2006. Pg. xviii, 323. Illustrations, Maps, Tables.) ISBN: 0-292-71318-5.

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - July 28, 2006

Part travelogue and part natural history guidebook; The Maya Tropical Forest: People, Parks, and Ancient Cities by James D. Nations is an important book on the state and future of the Maya Tropical Forest and it offers readers an engrossing overview of the Maya Tropical Forest's natural and political history. Covering a region that encompasses the lowlands of southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, the Maya Tropical Forest is a natural wonderland full of diverse plant and animal life. It is also the traditional home of the Mayan people. While this book was written primarily for physical and armchair travelers, as well as for conservationists, it will fascinate anyone with a general or academic interest in the Maya, rainforests, or who are simply interested in exploring a fascinating and unique and important area in the world.

The text is divided into three main parts. Throughout this text the reader will discover tantalizing tidbits of information that range from the text of songs to detailed descriptions of the plants and fauna, from insects to wild plants, found in the Maya forest. In addition, ancient sites, and modern day tourist attractions, such as Palenque, Yaxchilán, Xunantunich, Tikal, Uaxactún, and Caracol are also covered, as is a discussion on how both ancient and modern Maya have used the forest.

The Maya Tropical Forest is both an informative and engrossing book that is enhanced by Nations personal experiences in the region and by a host of fascinating illustrations and maps that expand upon the basic text. The text is infused with his personal stories and his in-depth knowledge of the region and the problems that it faces. He also uses his experiences to offer solid and valid solutions to many of the problems that plague the region in regard to conserving the forest. Nations spent more than 25-years of conservation field work in the Maya Tropical Forest and he is the former vice-president for Mexico and Central America at Conservation International. Currently he directs the Center for State of the Parks at the National Parks Conservation Association in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of several articles and books biocultural diversity, the Maya Tropical Forest, and Biosphere Reserves.

Related Reviews:

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Chewing Gum: The Fortunes of Taste, by Michael Redclift.
A social, political, ecological, economic, and cultural history of chicle-based chewing gum, with a particular emphasis on the impact that it has had on the Yucatan region and its Mayan natives.

Historical Atlas of Central America, by Carolyn Hall and Héctor Pérez Brignoli.
A superbly illustrated atlas of Central American covering the 16th century to the present. Includes a detailed overview of the history and culture of the region, and includes 405 color maps.

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