By Dawn Pier
Unlike the gear-laden visitors who come here to the East Cape from all over the world to fish from expensive cruisers, most local Mexicans use hand lines to fish. It’s just fishing line, a weight and a hook, with or without bait. In my caretaker Felipe’s case, he keeps the line organized and under control by wrapping it around a 4”x3” piece of plywood. The weight is often makeshift, a stainless steel nut or other piece of heavy metal. Casting is a technique that takes some skill. He swings the line in a circle over his head as if it were a lariat and then throws it into the surf. The casting is critically timed with the surf action, so that the out-flowing water takes the line into deeper water rather than pushing it back to shore.
Yesterday Felipe caught several fish that he calls pescado blanco (white fish). They are white mullet or what the locals call “lisa.” I asked him if there were any Huachinango (red snapper) that I might share with my father who is visiting. He looked at me confidently and said, “I saw some in the waves today. I will catch one for you tomorrow.” I was taken back by his confident proclamation and didn’t put much faith in it.
The next morning there was a knock at the door. It was Felipe holding out a Huachinango, the perfect size for three people to share. And we just happened to be going to a friend’s for dinner that night.
If you know anything about fishing – in Baja or anywhere – you know that this was a virtual miracle. My friend that night said it speaks to my ability to dictate my desires to the Universe, but I think it says more about Felipe’s ability as a fisherman. The local ranchers have often commented to me, “Felipe is a good fisherman. He catches fish even when others come home empty-handed.”
I never put much stock in what they said and figured it had more to do with how often he fished than the results. I guessed they were making assumptions about his abilities. How could they know how good a fisher he was? Felipe is not one given to boasting. What I didn’t realize was that their knowledge came firsthand.
Yesterday, Felipe came to the house and told me he was going to walk the three miles to his friend Trino’s ranch. When I asked “What for?” he said he was taking the extra fish he caught that day to the rancher and his family. When I offered to drive him, in characteristic humility he suggested I deliver the fish myself.
At the ranch, when I asked her, Trino’s wife Luisa confirmed that Felipe often gives them his catch. I asked around and discovered that Felipe gives away a great deal of the fish he catches. To families who live in ramshackle houses with dirt floors, no electricity, no plumbing and often not much in the way of food—families who define “dirt poor.”
They are right. He does have a gift.
It has been my experience that generosity runs deep in Mexico despite its status as a country where so many people have so very little. Do you have a first-hand Baja experience illustrating people’s generosity? I’d love to hear your story. Post them in the comments section below.
Read Dawn’s personal blog at Dawn Revealed.
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