Afro indigenous fisherwomen from Oaxaca, the guardians of the mangrove; they have rescued three km

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In recent years, fish and shrimp have decreased, as a result of the natural closure of the Bocabarra Cerro Hermoso and pollution, which prevents the Pastoría lagoon from being oxygenated.

Tututepec.— The corridor of the La Flor del Manglar restaurant is pink dotted with drawings of sea animals; When food is not offered there to groups and tourists, it is a meeting place for the 12 Afro-descendant and indigenous women (Chatinas and Mixtecs) who make up the Cooperativa de Mujeres Pescadoras del Manglar, in El Zapotalito, an agency from Tututepec, in the Lagunas National Park of Chacahua.

Virginia García Barrio and Cirila Martínez regularly fished with their husbands in Laguna Pastoría, but in recent years fish and shrimp have decreased as a result of the natural closure of Bocabarra Cerro Hermoso, which prevents the lagoon from being oxygenated.

In addition to the contamination from the waste that the lemon oil company of San José del Progreso dumps into the lagoon and the residues of agrochemicals used in papaya crops in Irrigation District 23.


Despite the bad outlook, Virginia, Cirila and Brígida Martínez feel hopeful about the work that the cooperative does in favor of environmental conservation, as it benefits the community. 

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Photo: Roselia Chaca

They are also satisfied to contribute to the repair of a part of the lagoon system: three years ago they recovered three kilometers of the Canal Palmarito, a strip of mangrove connected to its lagoon.

Rescuing the mangrove

The silting of this channel affected the fishing and production of tichinda, a kind of mussels that in their adult phase are fixed in the roots of the mangroves and purify the water, so they are bioindicators, that is, they indicate the level of contamination. of the space they inhabit.

Tichindas are a food source due to their great production of Omega 3, they give identity to the culture of the black towns of the Costa Chica and contribute to the local economy, since the women of the area usually harvest them. 

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Photo: Roselia Chaca

They observed the environmental deterioration of the Canal Palmerito, they organized themselves, they sought support, they obtained the sponsorship of the Semilla organization and with shovels and machetes they cleaned and rescued the mangrove swamp.

Three years later, fish and tichinda reproduce again; Twice a fortnight there is community cleaning of the mangrove area, whose roots are a good place for the growth of various species of fish and species of resident and migratory birds, such as the white pelican, reproduce in its branches. In addition, the mangrove fulfills the function of protecting from hurricanes.

No attention, no fishing 

Virginia García is 46 years old and 25 years ago she started going out in pangas (canoes) to fish with her husband. Until 2000, fishing was very good in the area: they obtained harvests of up to 60 kilos of fish. Today she manages only six copies for family consumption, so she also sells chicken and tortillas.

Sitting next to him is Cirila Martínez, 62, who started fishing at 30, also with her husband. Before the fishing crisis, they went out to the lagoon up to twice a day: they went from seven in the morning until noon, they ate and returned in the afternoon. 

The production was so great that with that they gave their children studies. She says that this year she goes out less and less due to the decrease in the product, since she spends more on gasoline than what she earns fishing.

“We worked a lot on fishing because we had the need to give my children studies, in the end we managed it. Afterward we continued in the lagoon, but when the decrease in fish began, my husband is the only one who goes; for example, yesterday he only caught six little fish and spent five liters of gasoline, 30 pesos a liter, he was more expensive, I prefer to buy than to fish”, he refers.

The concern is shared by Brígida Martínez, who does not consider herself a fisherwoman, but an authentic marketer of everything that is fished in the Chacahua-Pastoría Lagoon System ; Before, she says, she used to go out almost every day to sell her products in the neighboring towns of Zapotalito, now, although she goes, she does it twice a week.

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Photo: Roselia Chaca

“The situation is critical, fishing is low, the sale is not even said, it takes days to collect a good amount to go out and sell. We urgently need the mouthpiece that is in Cerro Hermoso to open, so that there are fish, so that we can go back to fishing. This situation is forcing many people to migrate north, to look for better jobs, fishing no longer works”, he explains.

The cooperative asks the federal and state authorities to take care of the Chacahua-Pastoría Lagoon System, which covers some 3,200 hectares, and resume the work of opening the mouth of the bar, which is naturally closed by sand, so that the water from the Pacific Ocean again enters the lagoon and oxygenates it.

The Oaxaca Post