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Pearl Diving Essay

1108 words - 5 pages

Pearl Diving
Pearl diving is an ancient trade that has been practiced since early times. In The Pearl, by John Steinbeck, pearl diving is very important to the city, La Paz, where the story takes place. The history of La Paz is rooted in pearl diving. Pearl diving, although it is a dangerous profession, shaped the history of La Paz and the writing of The Pearl.
Pearls are the only gems that are produced by a living organism. Pearls are formed when a tiny substance, usually a small organism enters into a mollusk. The substance irritates the mollusk, causing it to produce a substance called nacre, or mother of pearl. The nacre coats the substance until it becomes a beautiful pearl. (Pearl ...view middle of the document...

This commonly occurs when a diver surfaces too fast. Symptoms of the bends include joint pain, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty breathing, strange behavior, paralysis, and death. The treatment for decompression is recompression, which can be done in special recompression chambers. (Divers Alert Network)
Pearl diving was very important to the city of La Paz in The Pearl. The main pearl divers in La Paz were the Spanish, but even before the Spanish arrived, the natives fished for pearls. When the Spanish arrived, they started pearl diving. Word of the abundance of pearls spread and influenced many adventurers to come to La Paz. The name California, (which is where La Paz is located), relates to the amazing pearl diving opportunities. In 1586, Spain started requiring pearling licenses to dive in La Paz. All the people who found pearls there had to give one fifth of the pearls to the Spanish government. As a result of this, Spanish royalty had a lot of pearls. There were many obstacles for pearl fishers coming from Spain. The gulf was difficult to navigate. There was also lack of food and pirates to worry about. In 1685, pearls were scarce because of over fishing. People stopped going to La Paz to find pearls so Spain gave control over the area to the Catholic Church. The Church set up missions in La Paz. For a while no one went pearl diving, allowing the oysters to be naturally replenished. In 1740, thousands of pearl oysters were expelled on to the shore. This happened for unknown reasons and is the only time this has occurred anywhere ever. One of the solders from the mission, Manuel de Ocio, found out and dropped everything to become a pearl diver. He collected the pearls from the beach, and bought all the necessary equipment. Ocio became incredibly rich. Other people discovered his success and started pearl diving too. By 1756, the pearls became scarce again due to over fishing. Spain tried to keep the pearl diving business alive, but failed. When Mexico won its Independence from Spain in 1821, Spanish people no longer dived for pearls there. This allowed the oysters to regenerate. After a few decades, foreign investors became interested in reviving pearl diving in La Paz. Once again pearl diving became big in La Paz. This time, people started exporting pearl shells to harvest the mother-of-pearl that was on...

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