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ordinates and oversees all subsequent activities. He is responsible for         of the tonnara, the rais enjoys complete autonomy in his decisions
                  the outcome, and his position requires skill and expertise. The posi-           concerning the tonnara operations.
                  tion of the rais isso coveted and prestigious that i t used to be passed           In Aprii, the rais directs the ciurma to depioy the tonnara in the
                  down from father t o so n through an extended apprenticeshi p based             waters approximateiy three kiiometres from the western end of the
                  on obedience and experience. At one rime he was aiso the head of the            island. Preparations on the fishing nets have been made for months
                  village. On the tombstones of deceased raises, their honourabie title           ahead. Before depioying the tonnara, a local priest blesses the boats
                  hoids p ride of piace and many isianders stili remember the names of            that the fishermen have adorned with bouquets of flowers, and all the
                  raises who di ed decades ago. A t iocaiievei, they were veritabie cul-          other equipment, the sea, the fish in i t and the rais as well (Maggio
                  ture heroes, charismatic characters who acted as the 'brains' of the            2000:97). After construction of the tonnara is complete, the rais sets
                  ciurma, something of'an interface between God and the elements'.                into the waters near the entrance of the trap, the bocca di nassa, a ten-
                  He was 'nota tyrant'; 'he was not giving directions, but just looked            foot floating wooden cross bearing pictures of the patron saints of
                  or gestured slightly to get what he wanted from his men, and all paid           Favignana, a  bronze statue of Saint Peter, a piume of fresh  palm
                  passionate attention in order to be successful in reading his mi n d. ' 9       fronds,  blessed on Palm Thursday, and a bouquet of gladioli and
                  The rais was a symboi, a man who refrained from using improper                 white lilies (Maggio 2000:14 5 ). The rais prays fora good catch and
                  language and from participating in the actual kill. Today only those            the men respond: 'May God make i t so'. A t each stage of work, the
                  who have demonstrated expertise, courage and leadership can be-                 tonnaroti sing a series of eia/ome,  propitiatory and superstitious songs
                  come rais. H e keeps his knowledge about the tuna tra p setting and             of Arab origin, passed down over so many generations that the mean-
                  operation to himself, lending him a powerful yet responsible posi-              ing of many of the words they are singing has escaped them.  11
                  tion. As rais Gioacchino Cataldo claims:                                           The arrivai of the tuna is an event that is held in great anticipa-
                                                                                                  tion not only by  the fishermen and their families who depend on
                      The work of the tuna fishery needs so much passion, so much com-
                      mitment, that for six months I only get 4-5 hours of sleep a night.        fishing as their main source of income and livelihood, but by the en-
                      During the night I worry about what l'm going to do and the rea-           tire island community.  12  Once the trap has been set, the tonnaroti
                      sons why this or that may happen ... The Rais has final responsibility     spend their days maintaining the nets, counting the tuna that have
                      for the tonnara; he has collaborators, but the fìnal responsibility is his   entered the net, and corralling them from one chamber to the next.
                      alone. It's more like being a farmer than a fìsherman because you
                                                                                                 They start work at seven in the morning when they gather outside
                      have to make so much effort, mental work to plan the numbers, to
                                                                                                 the Camparia, the storehouse for the equipment. But after placement
                      think of everything, and once everything is ready you must wait for
                      rhe fruir of your work- the tuna (in Hope 2002).                           of the tonnara, most time is spent waiting for the tuna. If the tuna do
                                                                                                 not appear, the tonnaroti plead to various Saints in prayer. Given the
                      The rais is a reputed and respected man, whose authority is usu-
                  ally unquestioned by his ciurma. Although employed by the lessee
                                                                                                       In 1997, former rais Gioacchino Ernandes claimed to be the last o ne to
                                                                                                 really know all the songs. Chronicle ofHigher Education, November 21, 1997.
                      8   The rais's decisions also affected community life, as- up to 1968- ali
                  activities were adjusted to his orders.                                              This also went for the mattanza in Sardinia's Portoscuso, where i t was 'a
                                                                                                 true and proper ceremonial ritual made up of precise commands and gestures
                                                                                                 fixed intime and a popular festival in which the entire community partici-
                  sid=238. Last accessed August 24,2004.
                                                                                                 pates'  (  Last  accessed  23 July,
                      10  When in the late 1960s unions gained a foothold in the ciurma, the act-  2004). Stintino and Carloforte also had ritual celebrations for the arrival of
                  ing rais, Salvatore Mercurio, quit (Maggio 2000:106).                          tuna.
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