Cachirra

Ark of taste
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Close to Dibulla, Colombia, there are lagoon like depressions that are periodically filled with sea water. Inside these depressions both the Mamavita and Laguna Grande lagoons are found. A series of fish that live at about 20 fathoms (about 37 meters) below sea level arrive in these lagoons. The portion that interests us has a sandy floor and changing levels of water and salinity. In the summer, from February through April, sea water and fish enter the lagoon. Due to the salinity and lack of oxygen that occurs thanks to the decrease in water flow, the fish die and the result is dried, salted fish lying on the sandy floor. Several different kinds of fish are represented here: mullet, bream, seabass or robalito, anchovies, and finally bonefish. The local community calls these fish cachirra. When cooked, the fish release a characteristic scent as their innards come into contact with the open flame. The fish are preserved in long garlands hung from the kitchen ceiling.   The fish are collected with a sack, a basin, and a cane. When the fish are gathered they are already dead and dried out; they are placed into a sack or basin, or are tied onto a long cord. Usually this fish is served cooked, accompanied by arepa (a kind of cornbread), plantains, or rice. A typical dish is also arroz con cachirra, which is a traditional risotto that is eaten during Easter week.   The collecting of this fish is an antique practice that has been passed down from generation to generation. As men, women, and children can participate, the practice has a strong sense of community. The historic production area is the Laguna Grande, a water basin under the jurisdiction of Camarones. A single person can collect an average of about 20 sacks full of cachirra. Some of these fish are used to prepare salpicòn, a typical traditional recipe in which the diced fish are fried in a sauce of tomato, onion, garlic, aji (a type of chili pepper) and other local condiments.   The traditional way of gathering these fish is at risk of disappearing due to the alteration of the marine ecosystem and to changes in the climate. The smaller quantity of fish in the sea has led the fishers to use nets in the lagoons before they are completely dried out, which interrupts the natural process that has been linked to this area for centuries.

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Territory

StateColombia
Region

La Guajira