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Caballitos de Tortora

Fishermen in Huanchaco, Peru, bring in their "caballito," an ancient-style fishing boat made from bundles of tortora reeds. Photo courtesy of Manuel Ñique Alvarez and Jorge Vidal Fernandez.

Cristina DiRaimo visited Huanchaco, Peru, in 2002 as a sophomore Anthropology student from Utah State University. She spent many hours with Armando Ucanan Gonzales, a 21-year-old fisherman who fishes just as his ancestors have for nearly two millennia. In her ethnography, she describes a typical day for Armando:
Armando Ucanan Gonzales wakes up at 5 a.m., gathers his fishing line, bait and nets and walks barefoot down to the beach from his small white home in Huanchaco, Peru. His boat, a Caballito de Totora (little reed horse) waits for him leaning against the white breaker wall that divides the town from the Pacific Ocean. Armando lifts the heavy boat onto his right shoulder and walks (slightly hindered) down to the edge of the ocean. He puts his small fishing net, anchor (just a large rock attached to a rope), fishing tackle and bait into the back of his boat. Then he pulls the bow of the boat into the surf...
Christina's ethnography also includes Armando's recollections about learning to fish as a little boy and his realization that, as the last young fisherman in Huanchaco, he will end nearly 2,000 years of tradition when he quits fishing to go to college. It's an interesting read, especially if you've been to the north coast of Peru and have seen the fishermen head out into the icy waters astride these strange little craft.

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