The Fishermen of Marea del Portillo

Every evening just before sunset about 6 boats, with two people each would paddle their way out through the anchorage and into the Caribbean Sea. One man would be paddling and the other man would be holding an oar out the back of the boat using it as a tiller to steer. If there was enough wind the small boats would have a home made sail to use the wind to help propel them through the water. There was also a small kerosene lantern on a metal pole, in the middle of each boat.

In the morning, just after sunrise, as I was drinking my coffee, all the boats rowed back into the anchorage and they would park the boats along the beach. Each morning the beach was lined with the people from the community welcoming their fishermen home and checking out their fresh catch.

But each evening and every morning, there was one boat with an old man who went out alone. I watched and wondered why he was alone and why he didn’t have a second person with him. Each evening and every morning as he rowed by our boat, he gave us a big smile and waved. I wondered what stories this old man had and whether he would even tell them. I also wondered if an old man just like this one, was the fisherman who inspired Earnest Hemingway to write “The Old Man and the Sea,” because each day, I would sit and wait for the old man to pass and wave at us…. and I was thankful each morning when I saw that he returned safely.

I am sure that when I look back and think about Cuba in several years, I will think about this old man and wonder if he has safely returned from his nightly fishing trip.

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