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So what is arte xávega?
Imagine that you are at the beach in Costa da Caparica in between 6pm 8pm ,having your sun tan, and all of a sudden you start seeing fishermans coming in, driving two big tractors and, a couple of wooden small coloured fisherman boats coming to shore.
You also might see that there’s a couple of floaters on the water , normally orange color, on which a big cable is attached to . On the first half of the cable there is a big net or XALAVAR with a conical shape that is connected to a small wooden boat canoe called traineira.
Xalavar or xávega derive from the arab referring to xábaka or net.
So basically as THE TRAINEIRAS are coming back to shore, the big net starts closing in the siege for the fish.
The end of the cable coming from the floater, is attached to one of the tractors using a drawing machine , and the other end , the one in the boat,is also attached to the second tractor with another drawing machine.
As the net gets to beach, the mystery is unveiled, voilá, lots of fish jumping on a frenetic rhythm with a lot of people coming in to see, and eventually buy some fresh fish to eat home. So basically you get your sun tan and 1kg of sardines.Not bad at all!!
Sardines are not the only fish caught in the net…..As a matter of a fact, it is a blind fishing…No one knows what’s coming…
Back in the 70s instead of tractors it was still common to use animal power , bulls, or even manpower with lot of arms at the same time pulling the ropes.
It is worth to mention that this kind of fishing is characterized mostly for the type of nets they use, and specific boat characteristics. For example in the northern beaches it is more common to use very narrow and pointy boats so that hey can cross over the big waves more easily. This fishing art has been used since the 14 hundreds mostly starting at the southern coast, and, nowadays it only serves small communities to feed the families within. Its a very dangerous profession whereas you can be alive in the morning and not returning back in the night…..It is known that the boats that are still in use in the southern coast ,come from the old islamic boats used in Andaluzia back in the medieval times.Unlike the boats from the north with more of a Gallega influence.Meaning…..Galiza a provence from our spanish brothers.
It is known that these communities that progressively settled in along the portuguese coast were,and still are, very devotees to their saints like Sao Pedro, São João Batista ,Sao Benedito, you name it….
Also following some sort of tradition, when the fishermans husbands were in danger at the sea, their wifes wood throw stones to the saints trying to humiliate them,or, they wood even bury them in case of bad weather with no working conditions to feed the family.