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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: May 2019



The Perez family sets sail at dawn. José, Marta, and their three kids aged 6 to 15 paddle in their cayuco (dugout canoe) from their island hut across the Bay of Jiquilisco in search of curiles (a mollusk). The beauty of the dawn on the bay dissipates as they enter into the deep shade of the mangrove swamp. Marcos, the 15-year-old, ties up the cayuco as the rest of the family gather their nets and buckets. The youngest children stay closest to the cayuco but Marcos scrambles across low-lying tree branches until he locates a mud bank deep in the jungle. The five of them labor in the heat and mud, digging out curiles and placing them in hemp bags. They all puff on homemade cigars to ward off the masses of insects. By mid-afternoon, they wash themselves off in the bay, place their catch in the cayuco, and begin the trek across Jiquilisco to Puerto El Triunfo, an hour away. At a cantina by the municipal pier, José haggles with the owner before selling him the day’s catch. The curiles that the family worked so hard to collect do not have much value insofar as they are a boca (snack) to accompany beer. The family earns between US$80 to $120 a month for their arduous labors, 365 days a year. The children cannot attend school, a casualty of their familial struggle for survival.1