Welcome to the fourth installment of my Central American Photoblog! This update will bring you into the dark and seedy world of cockfighting.
The videos in this post are pretty tame compared to some that I have seen on the web, but the blood is prevalent. Now don’t get flustered, but I’m going to ruin it for you: one bird dies in the end, the boat sinks, and Bruce Willis is dead the whole time.
There were five fights when we were there, and we were all set after three. You might ask, “Why weren’t you all set after one?” Well, that’s a tough question to answer. The first one, we weren’t so excited about, the second one lasted about thirty seconds (one bird just ripped a hole in the other’s chest), and the third had the bird that we were excited about seeing. Maybe if I was a bit more desensitized to the cockfighting culture, I would be able to see it more competitively. (edit: from the trainer’s point of view. I saw this pit bull being run by a kid on a BMX in Belize – the dog was the most muscular life form I have ever witnessed in person. If you were a professional dogfighter, and you had to bet against that dog or me, you would bet on the dog.)
It was free to go to, but they encouraged you to bet. I watched and had some lunch.
They only serve fish here.
And if you haven’t been reminded enough already, the pictures clicky-pop open in the same window, so you don’t have to waste precious time and energy moving over to another window to see the beautiful cocks. The least you could do is mouseover the pictures as you’re reading the captions beside them. They’re so funny I forgot to laugh.
Here we see the gentlemen weighing the birds to be fought. This seemed to be the sole measuring stick for pairing the gamecocks. The crew walked around the premises and were making eyes a particularly fit bird (pictured later) that looked as if every precaution had been taken to make sure it was ring ready. That rooster fought the biggest bird in the yard and whipped him squarely with a size disadvantage.
It just goes to show you, it’s not the size of your cock that counts, it’s how you use it.
In some regional variations, the birds are equipped with either metal spurs (called gaffs) or knives, tied to the leg in the area where the bird’s natural spur has been partially removed. A cockspur is a bracelet (often made of leather) with a curved, sharp spike which is attached to the leg of the bird. The spikes typically range in length from “short spurs” of just over an inch to long spurs almost two and a half inches long.
The whole cockspur thing kind of makes me think of that scene in the movie Seven. If that didn’t gross you out more than the cockfighting videos, I think you have a few screws loose.
|You can bet with anyone you want, the house doesn’t take anything off the top for the fight. The cock owners would put up $75 of their own money on the fight to get it going and then they would each take bets until one guy wasn’t receiving enough bets on his bird and refused to cover the additional bets. There were also bookies there taking bets with odds – Of course, you were better off just betting with one of your friends. We set it up so bettor one got to pick the first match, then bettor two got to pick the second, and so on.|
At the end of the video, the cock handler does something interesting that will be explained later.
|And now the cockfight in pictures. This section leaves a little more to the imagination, but I think you’ll like it.
Here we have a nice, white, shaved cock.
They shave the birds because when the other bird attacks, it goes for the neck and chest area. Shaving their legs allows the birds greater freedom of movement.
We wanted to see this cock in action since we laid eyes on it.
Don’t even think I am going to stop the cock jokes – they get better with the pictures and descriptions later, just watch. This lactose-intolerant chick that was staying at our hostel said she didn’t want to see the videos because she could imagine what happens at a cock fight, but she is dead wrong.
|Refer to this video for what’s going on here.
The cock’s barb is wrapped in cloth for the pre-fight, and one of the cock handlers takes a different cock out of this box (roll over the picture to see where it is) and get the other bird riled up, then the other cock handler gets his time with the practice cock.
This cock spends all day in the dark, and when it’s whipped out, it’s repeatedly smacked against two other cocks . . . kind of sounds like a Friday night at 24 Tremlett.
|The brown guy is about to get a beakful of barb. Seriously, this is inhumane. Even the bird that won was completely disoriented at a few points in the match.|
|This one is my new desktop wallpaper . . .
The last state to implement a state law banning cockfighting was Louisiana; the Louisiana State Legislature voted to approve a Louisiana ban in June 2007. The ban took effect in August 2008.
What? August 2008? That was six months ago.
On June 11, 2005 a number of law enforcement agents raided a cockfighting pit in Del Rio, Tennessee. Authorities claim this was one of the largest and oldest cockfighting operations in the United States. The agents arrested 144 people, killed over 300 roosters, and confiscated $40,000 in cash. The 144 people arrested were booked on charges of being spectators at a cockfight, a misdemeanor.
OK, so they came in and killed the roosters . . . How does PETA win here? Were they ethically killed? I think I’d take bloodsport for pride as a way out rather than being brought to some kind of rooster concentration camp.
|There are two reasons why the guys in the pictures have their mouths on the head of the bird. I will give you the first one now – the handler sucks on the head of the cock to elevate bloodflow to the bird’s brain. I don’t know how this one actually works, but that’s what one of the guys there said (or that’s how we traslated it, anyway)
If you can’t tell from the picture, this little fella’s right foot is broken, and he’s losing a lot of blood. There are a few lacerations on his neck and head. When the blood gets flowing, the bird can stand up for a while longer.
|Untitled (2009) – (edit: while not my favorite shot, I think this was my best photograph of the whole trip)|
|The other reason that the guys have their mouths on the birds’ heads is to blow air into their lungs, acting as an artificial respirator. This guy wouldn’t let his bird quit.|
|He was beyond beaten, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the losing handler was acting.
You can obviously see which one lost in this picture, but the handler was tryng to revive his bird for more than five minutes after he was able to put it down standing. I had a video of this, but I watched it a few times and it was just too much.
The poor little guy was only standing for a few seconds each time he propped him up before he keeled over and accepted the first few blows before figurng out what was happening to the back of his head, getting up, and running toward the outside of the circle. Everyone in the crowd knew it was over, but even as the referee called it when the bird laid its neck to the ground in a sign of surrender, the handler was furious and argued the call.
|Yeah, he looks pretty beat up about the face in this one, but a fighter is a fighter. He was woozy a couple of times during the fight and ran away from the action once or twice, but this was the one that the whole crew had their eyes on all day long waiting for the fight. Turns out they were right. We came out way on top for the day
The next day, I talked to the guy in my crew who whitewalled the car before we started the fight and he taught me how to use my camera to get the high-speed shutter working so less of my shots came out blurry, but I think it works well here.
The only thing in focus is his face. I would love some criticism of my photography if you had any. I am beginning to wish that I had taken some photography courses before I came over here . . . In a lot of these pictures, I feel rather inadequate as a photographer.
|Broken foot and a pretty messed up neck area, but this guy walked away and is going to fight another day. We were making jokes before when they asked if we wanted to buy a chicken and fight him ourselves:
Q: “What do you get if he loses?”
Turns out that all the winners were tied up and clucking afterwards, and the losers were nowhere to be found.
I said that they only served fish at the bar, which I thought was kind of silly. If these little guys smelled cooking flesh, they should get even more riled up, right?
I guess the guys really love cocks.