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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Costa Rica’s Sea Witches: The Art of Making Fishing Lure While Changing Lives

Las Brujas del Mar (Witches of the Sea) was born as a start-up to mitigate the effects of the closure of the shrimp trawl fishery in the Puntarenas province. These women relied on this activity to provide for their families, and with the sudden closure, they were forced to reinvent themselves in other to subsist.

How it all began

The project started in 2018 when a group of women who worked as shrimp peelers realized they had to find a new job. Among them was Flor Rivera, now the leader of ‘Brujas del Mar.’

“When they prohibited shrimp trawl fishery, it was very hard for us. We were all women who had worked all our lives in the business; that’s all we ever knew. Our families also relied on our job, and, suddenly, we couldn’t peel shrimp,” Flor Rivera said.

The industry’s closure deeply impacted approximately four hundred and fifty women.

“We didn’t have a job, we had no idea what else we could do, and we wanted to make sure our voices were heard. We asked INCOPESCA for help, and they suggested we formed associations so the government would take us into a count,” she further explained.

Then, this group of women decided to follow the advice and formally organize themselves as an association.

“We did as we were told, and afterward, INCOPESCA introduced us to the people of FECOP, who had a project for us. We then received training to make fishing lures, which changed our lives,” Rivera expressed.

Eight women completed the training process facilitated by a team of experts from the U.S., brought to Costa Rica by FECOP. Then, these women received follow-up training and supervision, which led to the creation of this magnificent association. 

Sea Witches

‘Las Brujas del Mar’ is now comprised of twelve women and one man, who relied on Costa Rican Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INCOPESCA), the Costa Rican Fishing Federation (FECOP), and the National Learning Institute (INA) to learn how to create the lures.

Flor Rivera mentioned that, at first, it was very tough because she knew nothing about it and was used to her old routine. However, she fell in love with it and knew it was something that could help her transform her life.

Like every beginning, it was not easy. The women faced many challenges since it was still an unknown territory for many.

“It was a dream come true. We formed ‘Las Brujas del Mar’ and began learning more and more about the process. Nevertheless, it was a callous process; we had no idea how to paint, we weren’t too crafty and failed at first,” Flor Rivera explicated.

Now they manufacture poppers and long lures, lures for rivers, estuaries, and the sea. They use cedar, pine, Melina wood, polyurethane, weights, paint, resin, and other materials.

“We’ve learned so much along the way. We’ve been able to share, work hard and improve every day. We know that, through our work, we must demonstrate our quality and what we’re capable of,” declared Rivera.

The group has impacted the community, as they got requests to join their association. They were surprised to see that even people from different areas of the country wanted to learn about their work and replicate it.

Even though the road has had many bumps, seeing their products for sale at stores and having companies order their merchandise was incredible.

“The first time I saw them at the store, I was in tears. I wanted to cry because, after everything we had been through, our dream was finally becoming a reality. I couldn’t believe our products were at Marina Los SueƱos!” she said eagerly.

FECOP and the Sea Witches

Flor Rivera and the women who keep this project alive wouldn’t be here without FECOP’s help, as they have expressed.

The organization has been helping these groups since 2018 after they realized the women of Puntarenas needed training and tools to grow and support themselves and their families.

FECOP decided to contact lure designer Larry Dahlberg, MakeLure President Mike Faupel, and Brad Roberts and invite them to Costa Rica. They spent five days in the Puntarenas Province, teaching these women the art of fishing lure making.

“I’m so thankful for their help. They’ve been with us since day one and always support us. We’ve worked hard, but their help has been unbelievable,” noted Flor Rivera.

She believes that with FECOP’s help, ‘Las Brujas del Mar’ will keep developing and helping more women achieve economic stability.

The future looks bright for these unstoppable dreamers from Puntarenas. They hope that soon, their production will peak, companies will want their products, and people who love fishing will buy them. They also expect this to create more job opportunities for women in the area and help revitalize the community of Puntarenas.

“I would like to let everyone know that every time they buy one of our products, they’re helping women like me. They’re helping our dreams come true, allowing us to provide for our families, and giving us life-changing opportunities. Anyone who wants to join, or help is more than welcome,” Flor Rivera affirmed. 

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