“El Capitan,” a reliable, sturdy rod crafted by experts that has served my father and his father for years now. It has brought in fish, some worthy of taking a picture with, and some that should not even be mentioned. Something my father cherished, and something I now cherish.
Miami, Florida, a city and state that I have come to adore over the years of living here. Aside from the amazing fishing in the Florida Keys, the Hispanic-cultured restaurants, and thrilling theme parks, my parents have brought their own mix of culture to Miami. The Cuban and Colombian culture is nothing new to South Florida, but being able to pass it down to my siblings and me is a blessing from my parents.
Something my dad has invited to my life that I enjoy very much is the sport of fishing. Fishing is indeed a sport, but to my parents and me it is more than that. It is something you do to forget about work, school, or anything that causes stress. I recall being a young boy, somewhere around 3 or 4 years old, when my father brought me to a beach, and with his fishing rod he would patiently wait to hook a fish. Then he would hand me the rod in hopes that I would get hooked on fishing. I did.
My mother was not always a fan of fishing, however. She would get upset at my father for going fishing with her brother until 5 a.m. and leaving her at home with my brother and sister, who were still toddlers. (I was nonexistent then.) But one day my father convinced my mother to go with him. They left my siblings with her sister, and ever since that first night of fishing my father said she became addicted to it – the thrill of feeling the fishing rod throb, the fear of losing a big fish, and the funny jokes and conversations one has on the bridges or boat.
My parents find it strange how out of their three kids I was the only one who showed interest in the outdoors and outdoor hobbies. My father has taught me all kinds of tactics and methods to be an amazing fisherman, even the types of knots to do in order to compensate for weather conditions, type of fishing, and species type.
My father is passing two things down to me to keep not only his legacy but the items’ legacies alive: a yoyo and “El Capitan.” The yoyo is basically a very large ring that is wrapped with fishing line and used as an alternative fishing rod. This yoyo has been used by his father, and his father’s father and so on, making its way from Cuba and Santo Domingo to South Florida.
The second item, “El Capitan,” did not make it from Cuba but from a flea market in the Florida Keys, a little way from Islamorada. It is not about where it was purchased, but the fights I and my ancestors saw that rod and reel go through. From snapper of all kinds to grouper as long as 40-plus inches to even a 500 lb. bull shark 20 miles off Cuba. That bull shark is a man eater that no doubt can easily tip a Cuban raft and feast upon the voyagers. El Capitan has been used on so many bridges that the butt of the rod has worn down into an angle, perfectly aligned with most bridges’ guard rails. And that is only what I have seen.
The yoyo that was mentioned is actually a quite interesting piece. When my grandfather visited from Cuba he chose the yoyo instead of a modern-day fishing rod and reel. Turns out my father was serious when he told me his dad does better with a yoyo than a reel and rod because he caught more fish than my father, mother and I. The yoyo is unique because of the method used to cast out the line. You do a lasso motion, swinging the line, weight, hook and all over your head, while simultaneously tilting the yoyo horizontally, and then release your thumb and hope you get the distance you want. That was the case for me, at least on my first few attempts. The largest fish I witnessed the yoyo catch was a little over 20-inch mutton snapper.
Aside from the outstanding stories that can be shared from these two pieces, the fact that they relate to something that plays a big role in my life, like fishing, allows me to keep my sanity. These two pieces hold a lot of sentimental value to not only my father and my grandfathers, but to me, too.
My mother has made Miami home by cooking her country’s dishes. Something I look forward to every time her parents visit from Colombia is the food. They make sure to bring all kinds of sweets and foods that do not make it out to the United States. The best combination is to go fishing with my family in the Florida Keys while bringing our culture and ethics from Cuba and Colombia at the same time. Making Miami home.