Like clockwork on the 4th
day after the last lunar quarter, arriving from somewhere in
the Caribbean sea, titiwi,
a translucent, tiny, guppy-sized fish (gobi family) appear
by the multiple hundreds of millions, at the mouths of the
island’s fresh water rivers. So many, comparatively, there
might be fewer grains of sand in a bucket. Their appearance
occurs near the end of a pilgrimage that takes them from sea, up
the rivers to a possible fate of spawning, followed by death
or perhaps a journey back out to sea.
This occurrence electrifies
local fishermen, villagers, fish buyers, restaurant owners, old, young,
children, dogs, larger fish and sea birds of all types as, at
daybreak, all are clustering and clamoring along the shore
and into the river mouth and sea to partake, share and
assist in the catch... a delicacy soon to be steamed,
boiled, fried as cakes or ackra... destined for cook stoves and table
tops across the island.
Arriving by boat at the mouth
of the Layou River, the largest on Dominica, (located along
the west coast), Tony has brought me along to experience the
phenomena. Already, as the sun breaks over the mountains to
the east, dozens of small boats, men, boys and women of all
ages are waist to neck deep in the surf helping to control
large, 100 feet or more in length, nets that are being used
to capture the titiwi in their instinctive, unstoppable
surge up the river.
is a clutter of
shouting of orders, excitement and bargaining as everyone helps the
other in heaving and controlling the nets or… in lugging 40
gallon barrels, tubs, buckets, pots, pans and plastic sacks,
all teaming with the tiny fish, to shore. Small boys help
where they can. Women and their young daughters and sons,
grandmothers and grandfathers, and host of other spectators,
watch from along the sandy shore, waiting to purchase a
pound or two or 10 or more.
The momentum of the catch
lasts for hours into the duskiness of evening until, for
both man & tiny fish, all are finished... until the next
4th day after the last lunar quarter when the
titiwi return, again.
Rivers Day / Titiwi Festival
Rivers are more than water!
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