A glimpse at artisanal fishermen in Valparaiso




Carlos – Charlie – fist pumps me. His only two scraggly teeth are decaying but still his smile to could light up a city. He fears shaking my hand for he has been working with murky water and slime since before the sun rose. I ask him about his life as a fisherman – or, as I was corrected, un pescador artesanal.
Soy el primer y ultima,” he says. His eyes are deadlocked with mine and just to make sure I understand, he repeats slowly. “El primer y ultima.” The forefinger shakes for emphasis.

I ask him about the future of the fishing industry in the once prosperous port. He’s not hopefully. Within the next five years, the outlook is grave. Overfishing is a large problem across the planet: there is a high demand for pescado.

Enter Andrés Silvia. his skin leathered from years of daily hard work: In the sea, on the port, under the sun. Around his eyes, harsh wrinkles turn soften into laugh lines. He is an old soul, he understands that despite the hardships (syn) this life presents him, everything will be okay in the end. His eyes are kind. It is with him that I learn the term pescadores artesanales.

Chile, is the number one exporter of salmon, and according to some of the fishermen at the mercado, there is unfair competition (of sorts) between the artisanal fishermen.

This partially fueled a protest on the July 2.



I walked, slipped down the hill and the man — Juan Urrea, 32 — grabbed my hand to help me. He motioned me to watched my step. “Caliente, it’s hot there,” he said. There was still steam rising up from the broken china plates. I looked around, taken aback by the charred hills, asked him how he was effected.

We were standing where his house once stood.

Valparaiso fire victims return to destroyed homes, fire

You could feel the heat rising, melting your soles. The Urrea Family stands in what was once their home, they pick through the destruction. There is a small box where they have been collecting peso coins found in the rubble. One of the men used a hose to rinse off most of the area — steam was still rising from the area.  “Es terrible…terrible,” Juan Orrea Sr. said. He looked at me straight in the eye. He described the night, hand-gestures starting low then rising up to the sky. His pupils dialated – “todos los partes, acá” – the fire was everywhere.  According to El Mercurio, a Chilean news source, over 10,000 were evacuated. 11 people died.

Devastating fire in cerros of Valparaiso destroys 100 houses, rages on

The smoke billow can be seen from neighboring city, Viña del Mar. Valparaiso’s fire, is strong and running rampant at the moment. Like California in the United States, Valparaiso and Viña del Mar have a dry climate that raise the risk for forest fires.
According to BioBioChile (, the fire spread quickly due to strong winds. The fire has been raging for more than 36 hours, and over 100 houses have been destroyed. Every minute, homes are evacuated. Over 4,000 are currently displaced.
On a personal note, I live in Viña del Mar, around the city center. It is a 20-minute bus ride to Valparaiso. All day and night I’ve heard bomberos – firefighters – rushing to the fire in Valparaiso.
According to many locals, this is one of the worst fires the area has ever seen.
Chilean president Michele Bachelet confirmed a state of emergency for the city of Valparaiso around midnight-1 a.m. as well.

Street performers here in Chile are common. Actually, plain impromptu performers are common. Last night at a bar, an amateur magician came up to our table and proceeded to mesmerize us with his tricks. At the end, we all tipped him 500-1000 pesos. Performers are often seen at traffic lights, performing in between lines of stopped cars for small tips. Here, on a popular and busy street, Calle Valparaiso, a mime performs and actually directs the traffic. The degree to which he interacts would be, in my opinion, inappropriate back in the states. But here, it’s just a part of the performance and everyone is gathered to watch what happens next.