White Lobster

Nicaragua

It's like winning the lottery. You wait for years and one day your life is radically transformed by a plastic bag labeled 'Made in Colombia'. Fishermen call it the 'white lobster', the rest of the world knows it as cocaine.

"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world," wrote Herman Melville in a story about a fisherman trying to catch a white whale named Moby Dick. This, instead, is the story of a fisherman trying to catch a white lobster named cocaine.

Call me Ted Hayman, the owner of the best house in Tasbapauni. Or call me the lucky one, Richie Rich or just call me Robin Hood. I caught 220 kilograms of a subversive white powder and with it I thanked God and mocked my destiny.

Welcome to our little Miami. The fishermen of Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast no longer have to survive by fishing snapper, catfish or lobsters. These days they are trying to win the lottery by collecting bags floating around in the water with a special label: Made in Colombia.

I don’t know if it is a blessing from God. I know that God blesses anything that is good.
'Ted Hayman', Nicaragua

The white lobster, the informal name for cocaine dropped into the sea between the San Andres Island and the United States, generates the same feelings as the whale in Melville's story. The white lobster has two faces: it can provide the money to fix the local church, but it can also suck you into the underworld of drug smuggling.

For the priest Percival Hebbert, the cocaine is something of a blessing: "When it has the blessing of God, you can see, as they use it for God's purpose," he says.

But for Sandra Archibald, the white lobster the worst thing to have happened to her people: "Every night I sit round here with my husband and cry," she says. "I cry about the way my people are."