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The sea is swallowing this Mexican town

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An abandoned boat in the fishing community of Las Barrancas Mexico

“That’s why my husband hardly goes out anymore. We have to go out to sea,” says Florencia Hernández, 81, grandmother of Otsoa and Ramón, known locally as Pola. In a wheelchair surrounded by memories – black and white portraits, lead hooks, the fishing line she holds in her hands – she is the oldest witness to the transformation her land has undergone. He learned the fishing trade in his youth.

“My father taught me. Like my grandfather, he was a fisherman. He had a little wooden boat and he took me when I was a child,” says Hernández while showing a photo album. “Later I fished with my brother Salvador. I was the one who drove the engine. We went out at night. When I got married, I accompanied my husband. I got up very early in the morning, left the clothes washed and prepared for when we returned from work that day. , in a short time we would fill baskets with fish that we would sell in the afternoon,” he says.

An abandoned boat in the fishing community of Las Barrancas, Mexico.Photography: Seila Montes

Hernández and her husband raised their children with what they earned at sea. “The sea that has given me everything and now takes everything away from me,” she says with a broken voice. In Las Barrancas they live every day in fear of the arrival of a hurricane like Roxanne, which made landfall in 1995. “I was only 8 years old but I remember it very well. That one hit very hard. It took away many houses.” “says Ramon.

Climate change and poorly planned projects

Between storm surges, sea level continues to gradually rise. In the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, that increase is about three times faster than the global average, according to a 2023 study published in Nature. “This could be due to the loss of important habitats, such as seagrasses and reefs, natural barriers that protect the coast,” says Patricia Moreno-Casasola, a biologist at the Institute of Ecology.

“Here 100 meters of beach have already been occupied,” says Otsoa. “The impact has not only been environmental and on fishing, from which we live, but it has also had a great social impact. The beach was our means of communication with the other neighboring communities,” explains the fisherwoman. The tourism that the city used to attract has also decreased.

“My mother had a small food stall on the beach that was packed at Easter, a business that sold snacks. We lived on that income almost all year round,” says Ramón. Horse races were even organized on the beach.”

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