Reed boats in Huanchaco, Peru

Peru’s Traditional Fishing Culture Undergoes Change

Reed boats in Huanchaco, Peru
Reed boats in Huanchaco, Peru

HUANCHACO, Peru — A culture shift is occurring amid the reed-boat fishing culture of northern Peru.

The handmade reed boats, called “caballitos de tortora,” had been in use for an estimated 3,500 years, according to a New York Times video titled “In Peru, Trading Boats for Boards.”

“When the fisherman refers to a ‘caballito de tortora,’ he talks as (if) he was talking about his wife or his daughter,” Peruvian archaeologist Gabriel Prieto says. “He tells us it’s not only a fishing device but is also something that is part of the culture of the fisherman.”

But an increasingly mobile global population — which has inspired such adventures as mountain biking Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash — has also affected the younger residents of Huanchaco, who say in the video that they plan on pursuing academic paths rather than following in the traditional footsteps of their forebears, whose culture predates that of the Incas.

In my most recent trip to my family’s homeland of Peru, I experienced a bit of day-to-day life in far-flung places where my relatives lived — from the tiny fishing village of Pucusana to the dusty mountain streets of San Bartolomé. Already, they had changed significantly from my previous visit 16 years earlier, and change has remained the only constant.

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