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Juan Rafael "Chanel" Mora, Farmer and Millonaire
"Don't give your efforts working for another person"

By Arianna McKinney
Photos by Pinar Istek

  Juan Rafael Mora Madrigal, known as Chanel (as in the perfume, Chanel No. 5), is 81 years old. Still he leaves his house at 6 a.m. to work on his twenty-seven fincas. He says he wishes night would never come so he could keep right on working outside. Although he had very little education, he has made his millions, raised 10 sons and two daughters, been married 64 years to the same woman and still enjoys good health.

It's not that life was always easy for him. He was born March 24, 1930, in Maraton de Esparza. He attended school only through first grade. When he was fourteen, a bank repossessed everything his father had and Mora left home to work at whatever he could find, earning about four colones a day. For a little while he lived on bananas and water. Then a woman noticed what he was eating and took pity on him, offering him food at her soda and a place to sleep in her home. In turn, he helped wash the dishes and chop wood. She also helped him find better paying work. He started making eighteen colones a day, and of that was able to save ten.

At that young age, he was also picking up vices, already starting to drink and to play dice with "very good friends who weren't good friends at all." After a while, he realized these friends were taking advantage of him since they saw that he had more money than they did. They never advised him well and led him to losses. "Where there's money, there are friends," he quipped. In time, he decided to distance himself from those friends and eventually gave up his vices too.

At 18, Mora bought his first piece of land, 4 ½ hectares in Montezuma, for all of 770 colones. He planted rice, beans and corn and built a small rancho. Mora was a quiet young man and was afraid of women (he says he still is) because of bad experiences. However, he started noticing Paula Maria Ledezma. who lived on the neighboring property, and he married her. After two years in Montezuma, Mora gave his land there to his father and moved to Los Esterones of Samara. At that time, land was freely available and Mora started farming seventy-one hectares. At 20, Mora decided to go to school and study mathematics for ninety days. He decided he needed to know math so others couldn't take advantage of him when he was conducting business. "It wasn't hard for me because it was what I wanted," he said of his studies.

  Hard Work Yields Prosperity
One unforgettable night strong rains forced Mora and Paula to abandon their rancho. It was 1954, and they had two young sons. Mora was out at a neighbor's as the flood began. Paula, who couldn't swim, put a plank up high in the rancho and climbed up with her two boys and some food. By the time Mora arrived, the water was about two meters deep (6 feet). They managed to get to safety "swinging from tree to tree" and decided to never return to that home.

He sold the property for 10,000 colones. Then they went to live in Buena Vista. There, after a good harvest, despite the fact that Paula didn't know how to read or write, she opened a pulperia and did very well with the business. After four years, Mora bought a small finca in Barco Quebrado.

Over the years, Mora has continued buying properties for good prices and occasionally selling. About 10 years ago, he sold three hectares in Barco Quebrado for $1,700,000, freeing himself from dealing with banks. He says one of his delights is to go to sleep without thinking about what he owes. And in 2004, he sold another 19 hectares between Garza and Guiones for almost $3 million.

  Now Mora has ownership in 27 fincas in Barco Quebrada, Hojancha, Nandayure, Piedras Amarillas, El Silencio, San Fernando, Naranjal, Guiones and Los Angeles de Nosara. Five are in his name and others he has divided among his children. His wife also owns a finca. He describes his family as ants, all working hard. "Don't give your efforts working for another person" are words he has lived by and instilled in his family. All of his children have studied and all of them are professionals with their own businesses, he boasts. Two of his children live in Italy, one is in the United States and the others are here.

Mora says the pleasures in his life include his livestock, especially the white cows, seeing his fincas clean, arriving home and being well cared for by his wife, and sleeping debt-free. His favorite foods are rice and beans, milk and cheese, and well cooked meat. In his life, he calculates that he has made $17,400,000, but he's content with 5,000 colones a day in his pocket. "I feel good as I am," he affirmed. Mora's father and grandmother both lived to 106. A long, healthy life seems to run in the family. Mora says he hopes to die working, something he truly enjoys.

When asked if he would change anything in his life, he simply replied: NO!


More Entertainment News

Cañas Seniors Visit Nosara
Fifteen Again

On Friday, June 17, Nosara's David Kitson Library Senior Club hosted a group of sixty seniors from Cañas. More than eighty people in all enjoyed a day of activities that included a morning dance–exercise, a walk at Pelada Beach, lunch, games and a dance show at Rancho Tico.

D Ray Brings California Sounds Back to Nosara

Singer-guitarist Danny Ray (D Ray) has returned to the Nosara music scene, where he has been a regular since 2006, and you can catch him Saturday night at Marlin Bill’s restaurant. The smooth voiced D Ray mixes the flavor of classic folk and country rock with a blues and early surf rock that shaped his formative years from his perch in Southern California. 

Two Days, 40 Bikinis: The Annual Bikini Show of Nosara

On Friday, June 10th 2011, Honali Beachhouse hosted the annual bikini show of Nosara. It featured 40 pieces from the local bikini designer, Desi Morffe. The event, that more than 150 guests attended, started at 7:00 p.m. The same venue also held an after party. (with video)

New Horizons for Ballerinas of Guanacaste

Five-year-old Alana Peuker Neukirch hurried out of their rehearsal space to greet her instructor, Patricia Vargas Gonzales, in anticipation of her weekly ballet class on Sunday morning, May 15, at Carrillo Beach. Excited and ready to dance, Alana in her pink tutu gave a quick hug to Gonzales and ran back inside.

Intercultura Samara School book fair and film festival
"The Crazyness of Life" In Between Book Pages and Movies Screens

From Monday, July 4, to Friday, July 8, Intercultura in Samara will be hosting free movies each night at 7 p.m. The theme of the fair is La Locura de Vivir (the Craziness of Life).

Stuff To Do Besides Surfing and Yoga

If you are a surfer or a yoga practitioner, Guanacaste, especially Nosara, is a good destination for you to visit. In fact, for an outsider, Nosara and surrounding areas might even look like it is all about nothing but those two activities. Surely, there are other things to do such as zip lining, stand up paddling, horseback riding or kayaking.

June Astrology Report

When Mercury enters Gemini on the 3rd, our thoughts quicken and we become surrounded by a multitude of options and variables. Take a moment to listen to your deepest truths before jumping headfirst. Get distracted by the sights and sounds; spend time appreciating this colorful world. Flirt a little, allowing curiosity to lead you towards new discoveries and opportunities for growth.

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