Published December 6, 2019 | Version v1
Journal article Open

The "displaced of the sea". The case of fishing community "Don Jaca", Santa Marta, Colombia (in Spanish)

  • 1. Sergio Arboleda University, Santa Marta, Colombia


This publication belongs to the WATERLAT-GOBACIT Network Working Papers Series Volume 6, No 1, “Artisanal fishing and cultural heritage: territorial conflicts, resistances, and social transformation in Colombia, Mexico and Spain” (in Spanish). (



This article addresses the case of the community of artisanal maritime fishermen “Don Jaca”, located in Santa Marta, Department of Magdalena, in the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The community denounced a decrease in local fisheries due to the marine pollution generated by the transportation of coal through new port facilities developed in the region since 1992. The research looked at how and to what extent the environmental impacts have affected the cultural identity of this ancestral community. The findings show that, although it is not possible to determine with certainty that the ports have caused the decline of the fisheries, because there are different positions in this regard, the evidence shows that he port activities and the transportation of coal are responsible for marine pollution in the area. The impact of this problem on the fishing community of Don Jaca caused a definite transformation marked by the loss of different aspects of the community’s cultural identity historically related to fishing. The methodology applied included the identification of key elements of the identity of artisanal fishermen, based on the contributions of maritime anthropology, supporting the arguments with documentary analysis, secondary data, and interviews with the local actors.




This issue is part of the activities of the WATERLAT-GOBACIT Network’s Thematic Area 6 (TA6), Hydrosocial Basins, Territories, and Spaces ( TA6 carries out studies on the configuration of the hydrosocial space looking at different aspects and their transformations over time. These variables include, for example, political institutions, water infrastructure and technology, changes in the forms of ownership of land and water, beliefs and behaviours around the use of surface and underground waters, water commodification, and the pollution, care, and conservation of the water cycle. To understand this complexity we focus on exploring the historical transformations that have an impact on hydrosocial spaces. This includes changes in traditional productive activities, the difficulties they face to compete with the emergence of new activities driven by social groups with rival interests, changes in economic models and their subsystems, the changing flux inputs and products, the development of new water infrastructures, changes in the use of water and land, and transformations in the production of knowledge about these processes.


This issue addresses artisanal fishing as an ancestral cultural heritage that has become a territory of conflict and rapid social transformation. Artisanal fishing is one of the oldest trades in the world, a small-scale activity involving families and local communities, and developed in intimate interaction with marine or freshwater bodies. Artisanal fishermen and women depend on the activity for their family sustenance, both as a source of income to acquire necessary goods, but also because fish are a nutritious source of food that they can secure at a low cost. Artisanal fishing is also significant as an ancestral heritage that constitutes a way of life centered around the relationship between humans, water, and nature more generally, expressed in a range of maritime, riverine, lacustrine and other forms of hydrosocial identities.



Files (1.8 MB)

Name Size Download all
1.8 MB Preview Download