Catch of the Day

Fascinating piece on a native village in Nicaragua that's been the serendipitous beneficiary of the confluence of ocean currents, geography, and the U.S. drug war. Seems that when drug runners' boats get accosted by the U.S. Coast Guard and they pitch their contraband overboard, it tends to wash up on the beaches of this village. Floating bales of "white lobster" wash ashore at the rate of one or more per week.

"We know there are small shop owners who do this," says Yorlene Orozco, the local judge. "We are talking about people without a profession, no home, no job. One day later they have a new car, go to the casino and are building a home that costs I don't know how many thousands of dollars."

Law enforcement in Bluefields is practically invisible "I just had a Swiss tourist tell me that when she went to the supermarket they tried to sell her cocaine," says Orozco.

The police and Navy have few resources and less trust from the local public. Bluefields is effectively an anarchist nation - no Government, no organised institutions and the rules are made by community groups.

Given the massive amount of cocaine in town, violence is surprisingly rare. Gunfights are nearly unheard of and most of the town seems to lounge around or play baseball all day and then erupt into a frenzy of energy by late afternoon, fuelled by Flor de Cana, a Nicaraguan rum, fresh fish, an endless supply of native oysters, and "the white lobster".

The "catch" has made the town enormously wealthy.

At a local price of $3500 per kg, the typical 35kg sack nets a cash sale price of $122,500, which by all accounts is spent immediately.

"Last time bags and bags washed up, everyone [felt like] a millionaire, but that money does not last." explains Helen, who runs a university research institute in Bluefields. Asked how the locals unload their cash, she said: "Beer, beer, beer. You should see the amount they drink here. Go to the pier and see how much alcohol goes out to the islands."

"When the drugs come in, everyone is happy, the banks, the stores, everyone has cash."

Arana, the former mayor, recalled one month when the village bought 28,000 cases of beer.

Actually, it doesn't all go for beer...

The cocaine business is reshaping the face of these Indian communities. Tasbapauni Beach is now nicknamed "Little Miami", because so much cocaine washes up on its long shoreline that it has fuelled a construction boom. Luxurious oceanfront condos protected by security guards now sit side by side with wooden fishing shacks.

"If shit washes up on your shore it belongs to that family. Every family owns their turf," said a Miskito fisherman.

But when a fisherman finds white lobster the entire village shares the treasure, with a percentage going to the community, a smaller percentage to the church and the majority split among the crew of the small boat that found the loot.

"It is like a municipal tax," says Sergio Leon, a local reporter who has been writing about the drug situation in Bluefields for many years. "The schools and churches are not built by the Government, that money comes from the fishermen and their finds."

Drug money has been used to build a school and replace the church roof. "The pastors here get mad when they don't get their cut from the find," says Francisco a court official. "If a member of the congregation has found 15kg, the church calculates 15 times $3500, that's $52,500, and at 10 per cent they are saying: where's the $5250?"

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  • Mith||

    Quote: "It is like a municipal tax," says Sergio Leon

    So is he just hanging out there these days? Too bad he's not still making movies.

  • ||

    At least someone is profiting from the drug war.

  • Plant Immigration Rights Suppo||

    "The pastors here get mad when they don't get their cut from the find,"

    I wonder what the mother chruch thinks about this.

  • ||

    book me a flight to bluefields. Lay on the beach drinking beer, party with stunning 1.8m local girls, and sober up long enough to pick up powdered money (just add water!) as it washes ashore. sounds like the good life to me.

  • ||

    no Government, no organised institutions and the rules are made by community groups.

    Does anyone else feel a preemptive strike coming on?

  • PLant Immigration Rights Suppo||

    "At least someone is profiting from the drug war."

    DOn't forget about governments, they also profit.

  • Wally||

    Libertopia! I gotta find my passport and brush up on my Spanish.

  • Brewster||

  • ||

    Now we know where DONDEROOOOOOOOOO has disappeared to...

  • ||

    This seems like a good enough pretext for another link here and really, can we ever get enough 'lobster'?

  • ||

    "This seems like a good enough pretext for another link here and really, can we ever get enough 'lobster'?"

    That reeks of fish, but in a good, sexy way!

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Warren, if I even kissed that hottie after she kissed that lobster I'd have lips the size of Angela Jolie's.

    I am one of the unfortunates that is deathly allergic to the high concentrations of iodine found in lobster. And, I do mean deathly. And in answer to the obvious question, yes, I like lobster.

    Therefore, in the spirit of peanut butter bans in public schools, I decree that from here forth, lobster consumption in public places is banned.

  • ||

    Sounds like something straight out of reply to this

  • ||

    (tips hat)

    Good morning girls.

  • tepid||

    Many a clam connoisseur here.

  • Episiarch||

    If I lived in Bluefields my serotonin levels would be very fucked up. In a good way.

  • drawnasunder||

    Sounds too good to be true. Like something Stephen Glass might write.

  • ||

    I'm going to snort this long line of white lobster.

  • Kolohe||

    This reads like a real life version of HBO's version of Deadwood, and a similar metastable state.

  • ||

    really interesting

  • ||

    "The pastors here get mad when they don't get their cut from the find,"

    I wonder what the mother chruch thinks about this.



    I don't think Rome cares where the money originates, just that it is contributed.

  • LarryA||

    "If a member of the congregation has found 15kg, the church calculates 15 times $3500, that's $52,500, and at 10 per cent they are saying: where's the $5250?"

    Sin tax?

  • Sam Grove||

    Dammit, i keep looking for the Snorg t-shirt ad and it's just not there.

  • ||

    "It is like a municipal tax," says Sergio Leon, a local reporter who has been writing about the drug situation in Bluefields for many years. "The schools and churches are not built by the Government, that money comes from the fishermen and their finds."

    Wait, I thought that all drug money always went to prostitutes, guns, rap music, and other unsavory things.

  • ||

    Reinmoose,

    No, it goes to terrorists. Get it straight!!!!

  • Adam||

    Wait, I thought that all drug money always went to prostitutes, guns, rap music, and other unsavory things.

    No, it goes to terrorists. Get it straight!!!!

    More proof that anti-drug commercials don't work.

  • Mermaid Katia||

    Wow....

    just, wow..... hahahahaha....

  • Joe Allen||

    This story has a Shangri-La too good to be true flavor to it, but I wanna hear more.

  • Tsu Dho Nihm||

    Am I the only one who is surprised about their fondness for the US dollar?

  • ||

    The dollar is a good solid currency that the people further down the supply chain have plenty of, so no, not really surprised.

  • ||

    The dollar has long been a favorite for saving money in countries where the local currency isn't so stable. Those people have been badly burnt in the last few months though so I think a lot of people in many countries will think twice about it in the future. In Eastern Europe, the trend is towards Francs now, which has paid off handsomely for many people. Euro cycles come and go, it's pricey now but it was popular 3-4 months ago.

  • ||

    And just this morning the sis and I were looking at buying this.

  • ||

    See? Legalize coke, save a small, Nicaraguan village from itself...

  • Tsu Dho Nihm||

    Yes, of course the dollar has long been used in countries without a stable currency. But it's been increasingly dropped by those countries in favor of just about anything else. I'm just a little surprised that this little town is sticking with the dollar when so many other people are refusing to accept them.

  • ||

    And to think, for all these years I've been trying to put an end to the War on Drugs.
    Shame on me.... bad... bad.

    Now I want to hear a story about where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina come together at their borders. That must be heaven on Earth...at least from a Reasonoid perspective. Those Free Staters up in New England are surely making plans to migrate there.
    It has the appeal the Alamo had for Davy Crockett.

  • ||

    When I lived in the Florida Keys there was much talk about the odd fisherman catching a "square grouper". I think most of the stories were lies but it seems that more than a few marijuana bales were jettisoned to avoid getting caught by the Coast Guard.

  • ||

    I don't think Rome cares where the money originates, just that it is contributed.

    If that's the case, their business model is majorly flawed. Just like how they stuck to the milennia-old teaching on contraception so they could collect more money from the extra Catholics that teaching is supposed to produce. As it turns out, for every additional third-world Catholic contributing pennies to the Church, there was a wealthy North American or European who left over that teaching.

    The way to run a religion business is to change your moral teachings whenever the wealthy countries' social mores change...that way you hold on to the big donors. You'd think the Vatican would have learned that from the Episcopal Church by now, right?

  • ||

    Endless seafood and drugs? I need to find out more about this place.

  • bill||

    I looked on Google maps. There really is a Bluefields, Nicaragua and it is in the middle of nowhere. Although there is an airstrip!

  • Joe Allen||

    Yeah, I checked it out too on Wikipedia. Evidently the whole place gets wiped out every decade or so by a hurricane, so there might be some vacancies soon! I suggest Radley go there personally and give us a first hand report.

  • ||

    Bluefields shows up a lot in histories of the various US interventions in Nicaruagua-if my memory serves, the airstrip was originally built by the US Marines during the US occupation of the 1920s.

  • Russ 2000||

    Lounge around all day, play baseball, drink beer. Every day is like Sunday! Why the heck haven't I moved yet?

  • ||

    Miche, are you looking for a houseboy?

  • ||

    Somebody tell me that there's another SF Giants fan that finds this funny: Bluefields in the birthplace of Marvin Benard.

  • wizard of oz books||

    With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

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