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Fishermen of Sosua

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I saw a two men winding fishing rope along a side street of Sosua in the Dominican Republic. I wanted to talk with them. So I walked up and asked, “What are you doing?”

The men initially looked big and moderately menacing, but, as soon as I began expressing curiosity in their handiwork, they opened up, smiled, and began explaining exactly what they were doing.

Fisherman in Sosua

One of the men told me that they were fisherman, and that they were making a rope for his boat. He was large and bald and was without a t-shirt on. He told me his name was Ernesto.

I jumped to the conclusion that the man who was standing next to him was his son. If he wasn’t, he looked like he should have been.

The two men were stretching out long lengths of plastic twine around the trunk of a tree and then setting it down on the side of the street in neat loops to be later interspersed with other types of line to make mooring ropes for boats.

Making fishing rope

I asked Ernesto what the final product would look like, and he walked into the shop across the street and brought out a think, long, and mangled mooring rope. He then proceeded to tell me that the tourist curio and t-shirt shop that he had just walked into was his own, and that he lived upstairs. He then pointed to the upstairs window.

Ernesto, apparently, was a very successful fisherman.

“How long does it take you to make the rope?” I asked.

Ernesto answered that he could make 200 meters in an hour. I got the feeling that something may have gotten lost somewhere in my askance brand of traveler Spanish, and I had to conclude that he must have thought that I was asking him how long it took him to stretch out the individual pieces of twine rather than how long to weave it together into the finished rope.

“That is very fast,” I replied anyway.

Ernesto agreed.

Plastic twine to make fishing rope

Ernesto then told me that the rope he was making was actually 12 strands of different kinds of smaller ropes wooven together. He pointed to the rope he was currently working with and told me that it was made of “plastico,” and then he pointed to another pile of rope laying on the side walked and designated it as “nylon.” He then showed me how it all would be put together in one large rope that could harness his fishing boat.

The finished rope is to look something like this

The materials that he was working with looked as if they were previously used before in another capacity. I tried to ask if the rope was recycled — used before — but I did not clearly make my question understood. So I backed out and asked how long the rope he was making would last for.

“Ten years,” Ernesto replied, and then added that the rope that is made in China only lasts for two or three years.

He then pointed up in a tree above our heads at some yards of plastico rope tied between the branches. “That is 5 years old,” Ernesto made his point. The rope in the branches looked as fresh as the rope by our feet. Or at least I could not tell the difference.

“When you go fishing, do you go way out to sea?” I basically asked.

Ernesto answered in the affirmative.

“Can I go with you?”

Ernesto then cocked his head to the side, and paused for a moment in thought. He asked me how much longer I was staying in Sosua. I answered that I would be here for twenty more days. He nodded his head.

It is possible.

Wade with Fisherman in Sosua

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Filed under: Caribbean, Culture and Society, Dominican Republic, Work

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3135 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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