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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Peace, Fish, Yield to Cruise Ships in Piriapolis Port

copyright 2014, story and photos, Carola C. Reuben

Small wooden fishing boats float alongside yachts in the port at Piriapolis, Uruguay. Sea lions flip up and down as they swim near the boats, and sometimes, one naps on a dock (photo below.)

Fish (mullet) jump out of the water, and some of them end up for sale in kiosks across the street from the bay.  

From the opening of one kiosk, Patricia announces, “Today I have brotolla (forkfish) and corvina (sea bass), fresquecitas”(photo below.)  Frozen barge fillets from China are on display next to the fresh fare just delivered from the fishing boats.

The front of another kiosk frames Bebe the fisherman, playing cards with another wizened old man.
Bebe (photo below) has been a fixture there since 1976, even during the rainy winters when icy wind blows into his kiosk. He closes the kiosk only during severe storms or on days of mourning when local fishermen die at sea.

Bebe : a fixture at the Piriapolis port for 38 years.
Once upon a time British slave traders docked at the port to smuggle cowhides. Back then the land next to the port was known as “the cow herd of the sea,” according to Pablo Reborido, Piriapolis history buff and tour guide.

In the early 1700s cows were breeding in the wild, and locals would skin them. The British would then smuggle the leather out of Spanish territory on ships carrying slaves from Africa to Buenos Aires. The port on Rio de la Plata, a salt water estuary, is still called Puerto de los Ingleses ( British Port.)     The shore remained nearly deserted and not much happened there until 1890. That is when Francisco Piria bought 2700 hectares (6671 acres) of land and created Uruguay’s first beach resort.
Piria, a mystic and Kabbalist, reportedly favored the location because of his belief in the “energy” between the sea and the hills that encircle it. Some of today’s vacationers as well as “the Guru of Piriapolis” still refer to that “energy.” ( See previous story, “Guru, Flowers, Sun Finally Beam on Piriapolis.”)
When Piria built his first hotel (circa 1902), vacationers from Montevideo and Buenos Aires arrived there only by boat. At his swanky hotel in the wilderness, they would dine with china and silverware imported from Europe.
Then the first hotel became too small to fit the vacationers, so Piria built the gigantic Argentino Hotel, inaugurated in 1930 (photo below). 
 Historic Hotel: Pablo Reborido leads a tour.

Meanwhile Piria, the son of Italian immigrants, was also busy selling seaside lots and laying out his resort.
Piria created a mystical route in the wilderness. It wound around a three-ton sculpture of a bull, imported from Paris and placed on a hilltop as well as two other fountains, including one of Venus surrounded by cherubim (a replica of a Greek temple in Villa Paravicini, Italy.) 

Today Piria’s creations still stand in Piriapolis, and the mullet keep on jumping in the port.

However, the tiny port is about to change. It is to be enlarged this year (2014) to accommodate cruise ships.   
But at least for now the orange-colored fishing boats remain, and at night, street lanterns still cast a dim light on the little boats, rocking gently in the bay.
Copyright, 2014, Carola C. Reuben, EarthyReporter 
Hilltop view of tiny port about to be enlarged.

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