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Processing and Invisibility

Risiane was born in Taboquinhas, a rural area near the village of Serra Grande. She has lived in Serra Grande for over 20 years; ever since she married Rubem. Risiane used to fish in the river with her family, but when she moved to Serra Grande she learned to catch shellfish in the mangroves with Rubem and his family. A nativo fisherman from Serra Grande, Rubem belongs to Seu Badu's family, which is one of the oldest in the village and which is widely recognized as a great family of fishermen. Seu Badu was the first president of the association of fishermen and shellfish gatherers, and Rui, his son, is currently the vice-president of the association.

The Badu family lived on the banks of the Tijuípe River until the recent socio-spatial transformations imposed by real estate speculation in the region. About 20 years ago, the land around the mouth of the Tijuípe River was bought by big businessmen from fishermen who moved to areas further away from the mangroves and the coastal strip.The Badu Family moved to about 5 km from the estuary of the river, where it is currently called Vila Badu.But they maintains some shacks in the mangrove at Foz do Rio, where the current owner still allows traditional fishermen to remain. Rubem told us that his parents sometimes spend more than a month there.

Família Badu

Risi and Rubem usually go to Barra every week. They would spend between one and five days there, often accompanied by other fishermen and fisherwomen. Rubem often goes with his brother Rui, his fishing partner both at Foz do Rio and in the open sea when they leave by boat. Risi likes to go to Barra with Dona Paula, a former fisherwoman from the village, and Risi's neighbor. The two go down to Barra together and spend days together catching small fish, jereré shrimp, siripóia crabs, aratus and hand crabs.

Risiane - Pescadora/ Siripóia - Armadilha de pegar Siri

Risi also helps her husband, who usually catches large fish in the open sea, and tainha at Barra, which she cleans, promotes and sells. In Serra Grande, such cooperative work is part of the fishing way of life. It is common for men to fish and their partners or mothers to process and sell the product in their homes. She tells me that the work of fishing is shared between the couple. In general, Rubem goes fishing almost every day, and Risi splits her time between fishing and preparatory work. One day she goes fishing with him. She doesn't cast a net, but fishes with a molinete in the sea, catches crabs and accompanies him throughout the day. The next day he goes fishing again, but she stays at home to clean the fish caught the day before, pack them, weigh them and sell them. This includes market price research and promotion on social media.

Risi e Rubem limpando peixe

I had the opportunity to accompany Risi and Rubem on several fishing trips. Visits to Barra always take place when Rubem is not going to sea, since for Barra it is not necessary to have a moon or a specific tide. In general, the tainhas are more accessible when the tide is rising and the sea is entering the river, but as the trips generally take place during a whole day or more than once a day, it is just a matter of waiting for the best time for the tainhas.Meanwhile, the couple takes advantage of the dry tide to catch crabs. When they spend several days in the “shack”, as Risi calls the canvas house located in the mangrove, they only take salt, flour and dendê to complement their diet. They get water from the river itself, a few kilometers upstream, which they travel to by speedboat. The speedboat is already parked right there in the mangrove, so they have a complete structure for their stay. Among the canvas shacks, there are tables, benches, and barrels of fresh water, all covered with canvas,providing a comfortable living environment amidst the sun and the mangroves. Separated from this main room there are two other rooms, one with the wood stove that has a table on which the stove is resting, separate wood to make a fire, salt, and dendê, a grill to put the fish on the fire and a pan to boil the crabs.

Fogão a lenha no acampamento

The third room is the shower, surrounded by canvas, with planks on the floor and a ladder leading to a higher platform. Rubem explained to us that his mother puts a barrel of water on top of that platform, fits the shower head and then uses it as a shower. For fishing in Barra, there is a certain spontaneity. With time available, it is possible to go and catch whatever is out there. Thus, fishing in the mangrove becomes more accessible for Risi, who goes whenever she can and stays as long as possible - depending on her household chores, taking care of her daughter, and the need to process, store and sell the fish.

Peixe assado no acampamento

Sea fishing requires more organization and availability. To go to sea, it is necessary for Rubem and Rui to have 2 or 3 days, and favorable weather. They leave for the sea at dawn, taking flour, dendê, ice and water to support their two to three day trip 18 kilometers from the coast. They currently fish exclusively by boat, since jangada fishing has become unfeasible due to environmental restrictions. Going out with the boat involves a greater investment, requiring money for fuel. This is part of the reason why, as Risi told me, fishing has become increasingly difficult. There are also industrial fishing boats equipped with better technology that catch huge amounts of fish, forcing a drop in the prices for the artisan fisherman. Therefore, the enormous physical effort of many days without sleep, eating little food and with the uncertainty of not fishing enough to cover the costs of going out, causes fewer people to go fishing, opting instead for what they perceive to be more secure forms of income.

Risi limpando peixe

Arrival home from from a fishing trip

The arrival of the boat was a moment shared by the whole family. Risi was waiting on the sand, assisting the boat on arrival, taking the next steps to start to sell the fish. All of this, she told me, she did out of love, to help them in their work, which is very hard. We pushed the boat weighing approximately 500 kg, between 8 people, with just our arms and the help of a hand-pulled towing cart, Rubem told me: “And there are still people, after all that, who will say that the fish is expensive, that I didn't do anything to work for it, I just took what was already there.”

Rubem e Rui

The spirit of solidarity and companionship shared not only between fishermen but also between family members, indicates the overcoming of the activity as strictly commercial. Being an artisanal fisherman implies a sociability of its own. This solidarity extends to the women, who work hard, accompanying their partners, supporting them when the boats arrive, unloading the boats, processing the fish, marketing, and taking care of their companions and children when they arrive exhausted from the sea.

Risiane - Ajudando o marido na chegada do mar

After parking the boats,. Reuben began to divide the fish by three, and Risi, beside him, helped him divide them fairly:


“That big guaiúba there had to go there, because there are only little ones there….”

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Dona Paula com peixe

I asked Risi about the division and how much she received as part of it, to which she explained: “I do it to help, not for the money.” Like it is with the women of Barra Grande, women's participation in fishing is not directly related to market forces. Rather, it is associated with family care, whether bringing food home or supporting her husband in his work. When fishing is plentiful, these women can receive some financial benefit from their participation, either by selling the extra fish/octopus in the case of Barra Grande, or taking part of the profit from sales for themselves, in the case of Risi, but in both cases, the primary objective is not money, but family care.

“I always set aside R$80.00-R$100.00 for the next fishing trip. It's already put away, but I don't take anything for myself. Look at this fishing today, which was bad– average to bad. Each boy there [Rubem, Rui and Rubenilson], will leave with about R$300.00, I don't have the courage to ask for something for myself.  One time, they caught more than 80Kg, so I took R$250.00 for myself. I took a little bit from each one, but in general I don’t take anything, because it’s already too little.”

Risiane - Pescadora/ Preparo do peixe

Dona Paula
Dona Maria
Dona Nane
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