We spent our day with fishermen and their families in Bluefields, Nicaragua, today. They’re from the Canal Neighborhood, a group of houses so close to the bay that many can take their small, wooden boats up a canal that backs onto their stilt houses.
Without mincing words, things here are grim: the poverty is suffocating; the living conditions are nearly inhumane.
Before dawn everyday, however, the fishermen put on their ponchos and their rubber boots and take a chance on the sea.
The gamble is whether they can catch enough shrimp and fish to offset the cost of the gasoline it takes to get into the bay. Sometimes, it pays off, but most of the time, it doesn’t.
This morning, just as a set of dark clouds gathered overhead and the wind angered the sea, the fishermen we were with decided the shrimp were but a mirage.
They caught half a pound, nowhere near what they should have to pay for gas.
It was a long way back: the thin wooden boat was attacked by the waves; we could hear the roar of thunder in the distance and the fisherman did his best to keep the sea out of the boat.
It’s winter in Bluefields right now. There’s so much rain and the rivers flow so heavily that the bay is churned into a brown color. There’s so much rain that the sea water loses its salty taste.
As we approached his house, the fisherman took a deep breath.
“At least it’s not summer,” he said. “When the water is salty, it stings your eyes.”