On a recent trip to Ecuador, Nora and I detoured from traveling down the High Andes to spend a week at the coast. We picked Puerto Lopez, a charming, small fishing town. Our beach-front lodging at the edge of town was surrounded by trees with hammocks and a tree house for guests. It was a quite and idyllic setting that lasted for three days. Early on the fourth, bulldozers showed up and promptly uprooted the vegetation around the house and began flattening the sand on the beach. They shook the ground and spewed exhaust fumes from dawn to dusk, transforming a charming landscape into a large, featureless parking lot. It was just our luck that the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, decided to visit this town the same week we were there, and he chose a spot right next to ours to make a speech.
But seeing the president was not nearly as interesting to me as observing the commotion that occurred every morning along the beach. With first light, around 5:30 am, tired fishermen would beach their wooden skiffs. Fishing almost every day, up to 24 hours at a time, a couple to a dozen fishermen in a skiff, this is not a job for light-hearted. Soon after, wholesale buyers would show up, carrying wads of folded hundred-dollar bills. A good fishing trip can be quite profitable.
In a short time, a quiet beach turns into a pandemonium of sights and sounds. With more fishermen returning, a fish market springs up, catering to individual and wholesale buyers. The air fills with people haggling for prices and fishermen recounting their fishing trips. Onlookers gather, lazily commenting on the quality and quantity of catch. Coffee and breakfast vendors, pushing their carts, soon follow, offering hot drinks and light breakfast to the hungry. The impromptu market peaks around seven or eight and tapers off by late morning.
Have you been to Central or South America and found interesting fishing towns or communities? Please share your experiences in the comments. I would be interested in hearing about them.