At dusk, on the roundabout of G and Malecon, fishermen start to show up on the wall. After a couple of hours it becomes interesting that no one takes t but small fishes out of the sea. Then they begin to inflate balloons that happen to be transparent … condoms.
Arthur is 24 years old and has been fishing for 4. They call him The Minor, even though in time others even younger have joined him. He explains that the “Balloon fishing ” is the result of the inventiveness of Havana fishermen for over ten years. When fishing in rafts and truck´s inner tires was banned, someone came up with the idea that the combination of ocean currents and winds could get a hook to deeper waters. Waters where they could no longer get to in small boats, and where obviously the “big fish” swim.
“This fishing is done in the section from the Malecon and G Street to the Hotel Riviera. It is only there where the balloon always goes far into the sea, “he explains. In fact, it is the northernmost point of the Malecon. The coast current drags the package to the west and the breeze at night blowing from inland takes it north.
The launch site is G and Malecon, but as other fishermen arrive, these are displaced with their lines west. Each line is individually owned, but their preparation is a team effort: Victor Hugo had prepared a small hook with crab meat as bait with which Cristian tries to catch a “stinger”, a fish from shore about 15 inches long that will serve in turn as bait for larger individuals. “The Minor” tied together four inflated condoms and puts them together Victor Hugo´s line. Just when they finish preparing the line, Cristian comes running with a stinger he just caught. “Move, move, hurry before it dies …” Quickly, the fish is impaled on a hook, and thrown back into the sea. Tied to five condoms that float two fathoms apart, it will be dragged against his will to over four hundred meters from the coast, in the spotlight of any larger fish.
“We fish to eat, although we have no money and if someone offers us some, we sell some fish. But really we do it to take them home. “Here they catch snapper, tarpon, barracuda … Cristian, a couple of nights ago, caught a sawfish of about thirty pounds.
At first, light boats, then spearfishing, and eventually bathing in the Malecon were banned –the latter a tradition of Havana for centuries.
“Here the first hindering fishing is the ban on doing it on a raft, which was what took us to balloon fishing. Then comes the run of the snappers which occurs twice a year, and the Malecon gets full of fishermen using lead and their lines are entangled with ours. At that time we decided not to fish and leave them the wall. “
The first fishing tackles that were used were available in the domestic market, but the expansion of this type of fishing, plus search for information led its practitioners to find new suppliers. Currently, the fishing tackles are imported from the United States through orders to “mules”. The Minor speaks of Miamians stores like Bass Pro Shop and The Captain, as if he visits them often. “Internet,” Arthur answered me with a smile.
“Today is a bad day, says The Minor. I do not know why, if the last few days they have been bitten right. “For a moment he is still evaluating the strength of the wind, and after a final puff he throws away his cigarette. Standing on the wall, holding balloon tied to the line of his fishing rod waiting for a good gust. He lets go, finally. The almost transparent star floats away into the dark sea and night.
Some noisy kids walking by see the boxes of condoms that remain on the sidewalk.
– Wow!, one screams, you really did it!