Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Tainha Time in Florianopolis

One surprising fact about Brazil that doesn’t fit with our lazy Latin stereotypes is the amount that people work. Not only does everybody in Brazil do something, from those selling doces on the buses and beaches to Paulista high-rise office workers, but they do it for long hours. At home, being a student means staying in bed smoking maconha all day and not being capable of making your two hours of Art History or Theology lectures a week. In Brazil, even students work full days then study another four hours at night, 5 nights a week.

Nobody works harder throughout the country than the fishermen of the southern coasts during Tainha Time. In the late autumn and winter months of May, June and July, the coastal waters of Santa Catarina are inundated with huge shoals of tainha, a type of mullet. Following tradition that has been maintained since the very first Azorean settlers arrived on the island, the local fishermen take to the open seas in their wooden boats day after day to make hay as the sun shines.

While the boats may have motors, the nets don’t. With no winches, all the catches are landed by hand. The nets are large to allow the young tainha to escape, while the adults are taken in great numbers into the boat. The typical Floripa Fisherman is short and stocky, with a deep tan and arms that make Popeye look like me. While out at sea, it is impossible to appreciate the amount of work that goes into pulling a net with perhaps dozens and dozens of 3-5kg fish.

Boat after boat arrives on the beach or at the dock to unload huge catches. Enormous nets are also spread out from the beaches, and the whole male half of the community, kids and adults, joins in the pull. The sands are soon piled full of hundreds of tainha, glistening and flopping around in the winter sun. One single cast into the waves with a personal net can bring in three or four at once.

As an insight into the traditional lifestyles that still form a big part of Florianopolis life, a trip to see the daily tainha catch arrive is very worthwhile. A helping hand may also result in you being one of the many people walking the streets of Floripa carrying a large fish as thank you for your help.

Clean it, gut it, fill it with fresh coriander and garlic, wrap it in aluminium, then put in the oven or the churrasco for 30 minutes. Leave the foil off for another 10 minutes or so and you can eat your catch.

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