Journalistic coverage in the Shrimp Fleet: between passion, danger and drag under the moon (+ Photos)

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By Lázaro David Najarro Pujol / Collaborator.

May, 2020.-When Gabino Anselmo Pérez, then Head of Human Resources of the Fishing and Industrial Combine of Santa Cruz del Sur included me in the office for my trips to the fishing areas in the Jardines de la Reina archipelago, I was aware that they would be achieved two objectives: journalistic coverage and reinforcement to crews.

Enrolling as one more crew member, was a procedure of my whole life, long before dedicating myself professionally to what Gabriel García Márquez considered the best job in the world. A teaching I learned in my training as a sponge cultivation specialist at the Fishing School in Eastern Havana and in my childhood.

I don’t like at all to sit with my arms crossed while those men hardened by the sun, the saltpeter and the humidity are engulfed in their tasks in the harsh mornings. I supported them in the selection of shrimp by size. The other species are also used for the manufacture of fishmeal.

Precisely the coverage of the Shrimp Fleet in the south of Camagüey was the most exhausting and complex, the ones with the greatest physical wear and tear and amid the sudden movements of the boat caused by strong waves that can cause dizziness to anyone who is not getting used to riding between the waves.

Four spears in each night to capture the species, between a small cup of light brown in each climb of the chinchorros and conversations with the helmsman on duty. Light coffee so that you can pay the allocation of that aromatic bean that is delivered for the campaign on the high seas.

In times of strong winds, dragging is difficult for shrimp boats. The abrupt movement produced by the waves constantly shakes the ship. To say of José Martí: “From the tamer ship under the cleft keel, and like a fantastic demon in a colossal black cloak covered, stoop to the winds of night before the sublime victor who passes: and in the light of the stars, locked in balloons of crystals, on the bridge. ”

In winter, each set becomes more tiring, without yawning to sleep or hours, braving the waves that rock the solid frame and the cold humidity that soaks the body of these men.

They are all on deck. The skipper is the first to hold the jamo and pull the rope so that its contents fall quickly onto the deck. Jamo full of different species, mostly shrimp, while the güinchero returns the net to the sea. Everyone knows what to do: The fish jumping on the deck.

Of the five crew members, there is only the helmsman who continues to steer the ship that navigates in circles dragging the poles with their vigorous chains that remove the bottom, metallic arms that work on each side of the ship and a chinchorro to port and another to starboard, to the same as the boards that weigh almost half a ton each and are a pair for each net. The maneuver is dangerous.

Shrimp fishermen watch the nights. When the sun goes down the chinchorros sink and at dawn, at the moment when the star King begins to heat the waters of the open and tropical Caribbean sea, they complete their tasks, when the envoys arrive (means of connection between the fleet and the port), who come in search of fresh and high quality catch of the day.

Sometimes, due to broken boats, the shrimp men are forced to return to port, and fishermen and maintenance workers merge into long hours so that the unit again opens its arms in the rough tide.

In addition to this concern to return to the sea, there is the voluntary decision of many crews to remain in the fishing zone at a time when they are due to rest on land in order to recover lost sets, in hard work in the Gulf waters. from Guacanayabo.

That is why it is worth remembering the wise concept: In the battle of life, the strongest, the most prepared or skilled does not always win, sooner or later, the winner is always the man who believes he can do it and who persists.

At every sunset these men who watch the night begin to dig the chinchorros in search of a treasure: the shrimp. They live more at sea than on dry land. Their lives pass, between the saltpeter, the sand and the drag under the moon.

As Pindingo Pereira expresses in his Song of the Shrimp: So many nights of work / they will compensate your fatigue / when you say to the water / your blessing because it brought / to your nets its ears. / The Shrimp song, to your profile of water and dune, / you know how to dress as a moon / and with a star carnation / you look at yourself in the lagoon. (Author’s photos).(Translated by Linet Acuña Quilez)
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