Maiken Bjorkan’s blog: Twelve grapes, three kings and a closed season

From November 2013 until March 2014, Maiken, a social anthropologist based in Norway, will be living and working in Spain. Working with fishermen and scientists involved in the Red Shrimp case study, Maiken will be studying how management plans are implemented from a “people perspective”. You can read all her blog posts here.

Happy new year to you all!

We spent Christmas in Spain, and really enjoyed it. It is interesting to spend this holiday abroad, since it is filled with traditions that one may think are shared, at least in the traditionally Christian countries.

Here in Cataluna there are some rather interesting and special traditions. The first one is the pooing farmer, the ‘Caganer’, (and a pooing log – Caga Tio – too) which is related to soil and crop fertility (check out this website for information and an explanation!); the second one is the importance given to the three kings. I cannot remember anybody really talking about them growing up, but here every kid waits eagerly for the 6th January because this is when the Kings (or ‘Reyes) arrive and they get to open their presents.

My favourite tradition – one which I will bring back home – is that of eating 12 grapes at midnight on new year’s eve. You get 12 wishes – one per grape. Why go for a resolution you can’t keep when you could have 12 wishes instead?

Enough said about that: back to the exchange! The first thing that is planned now is to do an entire week in Palamos in order to conduct as many interviews as possible. Since it takes about two hours to get to Palamos, it has been necessary to come up with a strategy that can be efficient for both the fishers and for me.

The fishers go out at around 5-6am and are back in the harbour at about 6pm, and then they have to take care of their catch and the equipment…then doing an interview before they can go home does not seem very tempting! Accordingly, after discussing these issues with Conrad, we decided it would be a good idea to spend a week with the fishers during the closed season, which started on the 8th January. Then, the fishers will be in the area – still busy with the stuff they have postponed according to Conrad – but at least they are not at sea.

The next blog post, therefore, will be directly from the field and (hopefully) more informative and based on the information gathered during my fieldwork. In addition, I can mention that there are some exciting plans developing as well for this case study, involving a film crew…


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