December 05, 2018 | Last Updated: December 05, 2018 03:21:13 PM

Retratos Magazine

Riverside jobs still resist in the São Francisco

For those who the São Francisco is "everything", the signs of degradation of the river cause sadness and anguish, yet not enough to hinder the fight for the survival of the Old Chico and its traditions. So are the workers of the Low São Francisco. During the days in this place, the Retratos team learned stories of persons who depend, or already depended, on the river. They are rice producers, boatmen, potters and fishers who, besides loving the Old Chico, share memories from the fulness of the São Francisco.

Stories of fishers

Living in Propriá, Celestino Lima Silva began to work as a fisher when he was 18 years old, following his father. Now a 65-year-old retired man, he does not have any doubt when asked if he misses his job. "If I miss the fishing times? Of course I do!", he promptly speaks.

The fisher says that he retired about five years ago and that he sold all his work tools: net, motor and boat. "I had a pretty new boat", reminds him. Yet, Celestino comments that a fisher´s life is much more difficult today: "We are virtually fishing in a well, because the river has gone. The fishes keep on disappearing after the barrage.

On the other hand, 48-year-old José Nivaldo da Silva still lives from fishing. During a ride in his boat, he showed the Retratos team the situation of the Low São Francisco and talked about the difficulties of his job. "It is possible to make ends meet, but it is not easy at all", stresses him.

Luiz Gonzaga do Nascimento says that the scarce floods changed the way of
planting rice
Retired Celestino Lima Silva reminds the times of
fishing
José Haroldo has been changing rice cropping for fish farming
Isaac Soares is one of the 10 potter brothers who work together in Santana
of the Low São Francisco

Adaptation of spaces and cultures

In the municipality of Telha, which is part of the irrigated perimeter of Propriá, rice cropping is a centennial tradition. After a first look, this activity seems to be still strong there. Alongside the Old Chico, the scenario comprises rice fields, harvesters and many workers involved in these tasks. According to 74-year-old Luiz Gonzaga do Nascimento, the number of persons living from rice cropping was much higher than before the drought.

"Every Monday a lot of people came to work in the meadow. There is virtually no one today, since there are no more jobs here", stresses him. Luiz Gonzaga tells that even those who remained in this job changed the way of planting rice with scarce floods.

Rice-grower Marcelo Novaes also works in this new reality. According to him, technology helps a lot, though the volume of the river remains key. "When the water flow decreases, the pumps do not catch it", explains him.

As he has not another income source, he keeps on working in the rice crop. "I used to plant five lots, now I make only two. I had to grant areas for some friends, otherwise they would lose everything", comments him. Due to the difficulties in the production and even to the market, many producers in the region are replacing rice cropping for fish farming.

Ten potter brothers

In Santana of Low São Francisco, Sergipe, the Retratos team knew the Soares family, comprising ten brothers who worked together in pottery. The oldest brother, 55-year-old Júlio, was the first to join this craft, following the steps of an uncle. He faces the river in his studio:

"The São Francisco is my inspiration. It is my background, my postcard", says him. Júlio tells that the São Francisco River changed a lot since he began to work. The craftsman believes that the water shortage has not affected pottery yet. His brother, Isaac Soares, seems to be less optimistic and believes that as the São Francisco dries, clay gets endangered. "The flood helped to renew the clay, but this river has not flooded for 14 years. Clay is our raw material. One day it can run out", states him.

When they are not working, the Soares like to spend the day in the river, bathing, fishing and admiring the landscape. "River is life", highlights Júlio. And Isaac completes: "It is so much! In spite of being so weak, we have to thank God for it is still here".

See more on the São Francisco onRetratos 13 and on the following links:

São Francisco River enables strategic connection between Major Regions in Brazil

Video reports presents Old Chico, the enduring river


Reporter: Mônica Marli
Image: Licia Rubinstein/Agência IBGE Notícias
Design: Simone Mello