|Coliseo de Gallos - Huanchaco|
For the last 10 months I’ve been really curious about the Peruvian Pelea de Gallos (cock fight). My host dad raises and fight roosters, and apparently is well known in the community for his success – in fact, they call him, translated, “The one who kills all the others.” The first time I met my host dad, he was standing outside the front door holding a rooster. Apparently he breeds them and gives away baby roosters to good friends for special occasions – which is considered a highly prized gift.
|my host dad is a cock-fighter!|
One day I got the tour of his set-up: up on the roof of the house down the street, he raises about 30 roosters for cock fights. This is no easy task - the fighting roosters have a special (expensive!) steroid-like food mix to boost their explosive strength, a special training regimen including spurs in a large sand pit on the roof, and a rest schedule in the days leading up to fights. They even get special “vitamin” injections!
|one of my host dad's roosters|
The truth is, I didn’t really want to see a rooster die on some bloody battlefield, surrounded by cigar smoke and drunk men shaking fistfuls of soles in the air, in a dust pit in someone’s backyard. But the whole idea of it intrigued me – plus, I thought, it can’t be as gruesome as the bull fight, right?! (Which I have yet to experience).
So, finally, with 2 other gringos and my host sister in tow, I went to the cock fight. My host dad wasn’t on the rooster roster this weekend, but he came along to watch. I was glad we showed up with a few locals- we certainly stood out among the almost 100% male crowd.
Before the fight, roosters are prepared for battle by taping these 5cm-long needle-looking bones to the back of their legs – which makes is easier to damage opponents. By the time they’re carried to the dirt pit, they look pretty pumped up and ready to fight! They arrange the fights by the weight of each bird. The birds have 6 minutes of fight time before a tie is declared. A rooster wins if his opponent 1) dies, 2) almost dies, or 3) runs away in the other direction when a door is opened at the end. The bounty for winning a cock fight can be several hundred soles – which is about 60-100 bucks – but here, that is a LOT of money for one day’s work! And for big tournaments, one sign boasted a prize of ~1500 dollars - and a free bull!
|roosters in action!|
I have to admit, the experience pretty much lived up to my stereotyped expectations. Yes, it was smoky, and yes, the men all had beer. Feathers went flying and the men shouted and shook their fists in the air to make bets. As a whole, I was intrigued by the cultural experience, though I’m not sure my gringo friends (one of whom is a vegetarian) were quite as enthused to be there. Fortunately we only witnessed one rooster die, though many had eyes gouged out and at times it was a bit gory. I certainly won’t be eating any chicken for dinner – at least until tomorrow. ;)