Donde hay patrón...

José Luis Tirado

In Donde hay patrón... [Where there is a boss...] José Luis Tirado shows the fishermen’s work problems, their financial difficulties, the dangers of their trade, and the relationship between them and their employers, in the village of Barbate (Cadiz). The video recounts the tragic shipwreck of one of the fishing boats that sail from Barbate to the Moroccan coast. These boats have often to endure the dangerous storms that plague the Strait, just in order to make a decent living. This video is a social documentary that offers us different testimonies and builds, in a very fluid manner, a tribute to the fishermen and the difficult and dangerous circumstances of their trade.

“No matter how bad the sea is, a boat from Barbate is always crossing the Strait of Gibraltar.” (popular song)

“And they dare say that fish is expensive.” (Joaquín Sorolla, 1894)

On September 5th, 2007, the fishing boat ‘Nuevo Pepita Aurora’ sank 14 miles southwest of the coast of Barbate (Cadiz). Only eight of the sixteen crew members saved their lives. Three died and five continue to be missing.” With this tragic event as his basis, Tirado looks into the precariousness at  work of the fishermen collective in the village of Barbate. The video offers a testimony built out of different conversations with the seamen and their wives. The different comments of the interviewees are alternated such that they complement each other and so build over the length of the video a coherent discourse about the problems in the trade from the mouth of the true protagonists, the fishermen. The themes that come up are accidents, sleepless nights, low salaries, no active union representation nor collective work agreements, being cheated by the shipowners, etc. These are all experiences that are narrated to the camera and so generate a collective reflection on the socioeconomic and work precariousness that these professionals endure.

The testimonies are narrated on camera in the first person, and in remembering the shipwreck, they start with their experience of life at the limits: “the ship has cheated me”; the reasons for allowing the ship and crew to go out to sea under dangerous conditions such as a bad sea and an east wind (even with strength 8 or 9): “if you don’t want to go out, they sack you”; the pressures of money ; the great competitiveness between seamen and the Moroccan immigrants; the low salaries and their bad distribution; the unused collective labour agreements; the poverty in the village of Barbate, a village dedicated exclusively to inshore fishing and without a tourism industry, whose inhabitants consider themselves part of the third world; the fact that the fishermen (even though they work for an employer, a company) have to give fifty percent of their salary for company expenses - they even have to pay for their mattress and their protective work clothes; no basic salary: “they go out at God’s will, if they don’t fish anything, they don’t make a penny” (in fact, the week that they spent searching for their missing colleagues from the shipwreck, they didn’t get paid) - even if the day doesn’t go well they still have to pay the shipowner. Given that the collective is not unionised and there is no real unity amongst them (they are afraid of reporting to the police for fear of getting fired) their only hope is early retirement (the only way of having a fixed income). As some of them “get more money out of unemployment benefits than work”, they end up giving up fishing. Even their children are not interested in continuing the trade. The situation described is similar to that in most of the Spanish coast, except for Cataluña and the Basque Country. This video portrays a local story which becomes a global issue when work precariousness in inshore fishing is internationalised, together with capital and the market, which has as a consequence the presence of immigrants in Spanish boats, Barbate companies relocating to Morocco, and imports of the same type of fish...

The village of Barbate is dead, the canning and distribution industry that was in Barbate time ago has now relocated to Morocco (in order to pay even lower wages). Donde hay patrón... transcends its material nature as a document and becomes a humble protest against the work deficiencies and the limited options at a decent future of the sea trade in the coasts of Cadiz. The accident was a catalyst for this realisation and for demanding improvements in work and life conditions. Unfortunately, everyone involved is very aware that all will be forgotten and none of the problems will be resolved. This is a document without hope, all the sides assume that everything will continue as it is in the world of inshore fishing in Barbate, because “where there is a captain, the sailor has nothing to say” [Spanish saying: “Donde hay patrón no manda marinero.”].

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Donde hay patrón...
  • Direction: José Luis Tirado
  • Production: ZAP Producciones. 2007.
  • Duration: 00:53:00
  • Languages: Spanish
  • Subtitles: English - French - Spanish
  • Original format: Mini DV
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: NTSC - PAL
  • License: Copyright