Out to sea, away from the Peruvian tourist town of Huanchaco, fishermen tend nets in small reed boats with pointed bows that are known as caballitos de totora, or little reed horses.
They have done so for thousands of years, their boats built from the totora reed that grows along the shore. A handful of fishermen continue the tradition today, growing and harvesting the reeds and forming them into boats.
Changing times are threatening their way of life, the New York Times reports. Marshy beds where fishermen grow the reeds are being destroyed as the shoreline erodes. The small reserve set aside for the plants is also under threat, increasingly hemmed in by houses and real estate speculators.
This video from the Discovery Channel’s “Ultimate Journeys” program offers a look at one Huanchaco fisherman and his boat.
Going to sea in small reed boats has become almost entirely an old man’s occupation. Sons and grandsons of local fishermen are becoming surfing instructors, construction workers and policemen, taking jobs on larger fishing boats or going abroad in search of better pay.
“It seems like we’re the last generation,” Luis Urcia, who at 30 is one of the youngest of the fishermen to go out regularly on the caballitos, told the Times.
“A fisherman’s life is tough,” he said. “That’s why the young people don’t want to do it. They’d rather have a profession and health insurance and a bank account.”