Oyster Divers in Mazatlán/Los Ostioneros

VictorToday we had breakfast with Victor. He is an oyster diver here in Mazatlán, and has been for 33 years. His brother, Javier, has been diving for oysters for 28 years. Their father before them was an oyster diver for 52 years.

There were 12 divers late this morning on Playa Camarón, just off Valentino’s/Fiesta Land, and they were all family: brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins.

Victor told us there are at least ten locations or oyster reefs around town that are good for diving. He told us they start work about 8 or 8:30 each day, diving till 10:30 or 11. Each diver makes what he makes; they are not a cooperative. A normal haul — one fill of the net in one of their inner tubes — is about 50 kg. They pack the oysters into green mesh bags that weigh about 23 kg each. Those bags wholesale for about 400 pesos locally.

For our breakfast we were charged 30 pesos (about US$2) for five oysters shucked fresh from the water as we watched. Fresh limes and bottled salsa were available, as well as plastic stools on which to sit while we ate.

Victor explained to us that they throw the shucked oyster shells back into the ocean in order to increase the harvest: that the shells have larvae on them, and they will replant and grow. He also told us about how they have a forced holiday every summer, when the veda is in place — when it’s illegal to dive for oysters. That’s why September is so often called “Septi-hambre,” the hungry month, because it comes after they’ve had three months of no oyster income.

I asked Victor how long he stays under water when he dives. He said if the water is about three meters deep, they stay down about 40 seconds, hammering on the rock to get the oysters loose. If it’s deeper water, they may stay down as few as 20 seconds at a time. Based on my observations, I’d say he underestimates.

He told us that sometimes tourists like to come out diving with them. They bring underwater cameras, and ask the guys to teach them how to oyster. He thinks it’s cool that they want to take home with them such a souvenir: a new skill, a new experience.

Below is a slideshow with a few more photos. ¡Gracias, Victor y familia!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

About Dianne Hofner Saphiere

There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we've raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What's your story?

10 thoughts on “Oyster Divers in Mazatlán/Los Ostioneros

  1. As I wander around my snow-encased home, I’m muttering “Ostioneros, ostioneros”–what a great word! Sunday morning in Mt. Shasta and another night below 10 degrees F. here….your enticing blog is calling to us to make another trip to MAZ, the first in many years. I’m really enjoying your efforts here, old roomie! Very best wishes…~Kathi

      • Dianne: You’re welcome! Would it be insanity to try to come to Carnevale this late? Could one find a budget room or rent one from a family? My Spanish is quite elementary but it sure sounds like fun! Just wonderin’…maybe flights are all booked, too. Could we do it on foot, or is a car rental necessary? Probably we should look ahead to next year, but we are always committed to serendipitous travel. (Might spark an essay on how to actually get there and how much lead time it takes!) Thanks! xo, ~Kathi

  2. Diane – your posts are a true delight! Thanks for all the great information and showing us some “behind the scenes” things in and around wonderful Mazatlan. – Penny

    • How very kind of you, Penny. I so appreciate your taking the time to let me know! We truly are blessed with incredible people, natural beauty and resources here in Mazatlán. It is my privilege to be able to post a bit about it in my free time.

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