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Cockle Pickers

Luiz Santos | Ilha de Mare/Bahia, Brazil

Praia Grande is located twenty minutes by boat from Salvador - the third largest Brazilian city. However, the island feels very isolated indeed. There are no schools, post offices, police stations or even pharmacies. Prices are quite high as everything has to be shipped from the continent. Nobody really knows how many people there are in the island as young men usually leave the village in search of jobs.

Cockle Pickers was produced in Praia Grande, a small village in Brazil’s Northeast, in the state of Bahia. The main economic activity in Praia Grande is cockle and crab picking. Nobody knows for certain how many people live there because many young men and women alike leave the island for irregular periods of time for the cities in search of job opportunities.

Cockle picking is very popular because it can be done by almost anyone, including children. In fact, they play an important role in the local economy. Many of them don’t go to school in order to support their families.

There is no medical service or even a reliable transport system in the island, which is twenty minutes by boat from a major city. The infrastructure is very poor.

Since this essay was produced, in February 2007, 50 tons of fish have mysteriously perished leaving thousands of people without ways to feed for themselves as the authorities have imposed serious restrictions on their activities.

I spent about a week with D. Nira, Senhor Luizinho and their large family in Praia Grande. I truly appreciated the time I spent with them as they showed me how dignified, proud, honest and hard working they are and how they keep their family together regardless of facing tremendous difficulties.

Praia Grande is beginning to show sights of environmental decay and rise in criminality. The island, a potential touristic destination could, if well managed, offer job alternatives for the locals, alleviating the consequences of poverty








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