Told you I’d take you to Nazaré today. Nazaré, what used to be (used to be, I repeat) one of the most picturesque and lovely combinations of beach tourism and professional fishing. It has changed a lot, as have most fishing villages along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coast.
barque portugaise
It used to be a small village, with small houses along a huge beach, with in the summer rows of striped tents to protect people from the sun, or rather: part of the beach, because all sunbathing stopped at the Sitio rock and the rest of the beach was taken over by the fishermen and their boats,
often repairing the nets which are almost always somewhat damaged. Nazaré doesn’t have a real harbour and the boats are parked on the beach, until evening comes, the tide rises and they can be rolled on round poles toward de sea. There, they wait for the right roller wave to lift them up and allows them to do their work.
Filet de pêche
The next morning, the much heavier boats – fishing around Nazaré is most lucrative – they are pulled back up onto the beach with the help of a tractor or a team of oxen (and, darn, I couldn’t find a photo of them).
You’ll notice that the boats are very colourful and most of them are decorated with a star, a cross, or the ‘Eye of God’, to protect them.
It’s a hard life they live and Nazaré has been called the village of the widows. The women pray almost constantly and there is a saying: If you want to learn how to pray, go to sea.
But, more positive now: when the boats come in the beach becomes a beehive of women going back and forth with special racks on which they dry the fish (after opening and gutting it, of course).
Times have changed for Nazaré and tourism has devoured what once was a small village.
The fishermen don’t dress in their typical chequered flannel shirts and pants rolled up to above the knee, most don’t wear a stocking on their head anymore, the way they used do: to keep warm and as an extra pocket. The women used to be dressed in black, with a black cape and black head scarf and … seven under skirts (usually flannel). Every once in a while you see a younger woman, basket with fish on their head, show her seven vests … these are coloured ones though. Most attractive, but terribly warm.
One thing is for sure, though, in Nazaré a lot has changed but not the woman’s role in life:
the man is the boss at sea, but at home it’s the woman who reigns.
Once the boat is back on the beach and all of the catch of the night in Mama’s hands, Papa can go to sleep, or fix his net. She’ll do the rest and that includes cleaning, drying, sorting and selling the fish.


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