Cockfighting in Manzanillo
Cockfighting is not a sport for everyone, and in fact, it is not a regular tourist attraction, although mock cockfights are held at many of the local restaurants in Manzanillo, during celebrations, such as Independence Day and Christmas Eve.
At the Colima Bay Cafe, a waiter holds one of the fighting cocks. This gallo (rooster) was an entrant in a real cockfight the following day.
Please click on photos to enlarge
Tourists can go to see a real cockfight, however, if they visit Manzanillo. Before you do, however, read this article, and it will help you decide whether you really want to see one or not. Cockfighting is a tradition in Mexico, much like bullfighting.
The Fighting Cock is a breed of domestic fowl, originating in India more than 4,500 years ago. Breeders say it is a dignified, wild, tough-bodied bird. It is good for hunting and is easy to raise. There are many different breeds, and they are bred for strength and endurance.
The contests are held in a fighting pit, one side painted red and the other side green. The owners bring their roosters to the judge, who weighs them on a scale, and examines the bird. Owners oftentimes bring more than one bird to fight.
The judges examine the birds and determine the odds. They also sell tickets. If you purchase a ticket on the favored bird, and he wins, you win, but not as much as if you chose the "underdog." If the winner of the fight is the "underdog", you are paid almost double your bet. The judge accepts your bet and pays out to the winners. At a recent cockfight held in a neighboring town of Manzanillo, the minimum bet was 100 pesos, or about $9 dollars.
Before the fight starts, the birds are given a trial run. The owners deliberately get them aggravated by letting them do a mock attack (without knives). They literally toss the birds at each other, then pull them back, over and over again. This action also gives the audience an idea on which cock to bet on.
Cockfighting in Manzanillo is like a family picnic, or going to a baseball game. Beer and soft drinks are sold, as are tacos and other snacks. Entire families come and bring the kids. Although more men attend a cockfight than women, many dads bring their young sons to introduce them to the tradition.
The kids not only watch the fight, but play around the dead losers, and it doesn't seem to have much impact. It's just something they all grow up with. Groups in the United states, such as Citizens Against Cockfighting, based in Phoenix, say that it teaches children to relish violence. Looking at the kids in Manzanillo who attend cockfights, they appear to be inured to the brutality of a cockfight, rather than enjoying it.
The cock owner brings his own blades to the fight, and they are carefully measured and checked for poison. They all must be of uniform length (about one inch), and are cleaned by rubbing a lime on the blade to remove any toxins. (Since cockfights are to the death of the loser, the judges want to make sure there's no poison to help them along.)
The blades are tied on to the rooster's back claw with string. It is inspected by the judge before the fight starts. The blades are honed razor sharp, and don't take very long to tear through feathers and flesh, once the fight has started.
As the fight begins, two roosters stand beak to beak, puffing out their colorful feathers. Suddenly, they fly at each other, stabbing with their beaks, slamming into each other, crashing and slashing until one dies.
It is a bloody and brutal battle, but usually it's over in less than a minute. In the event one of the cocks goes down, but is still alive, the judge will make the decision whether it is mortally wounded, and will call the winner of the fight. Sometimes more than one judge will be called upon to decide the winner.
The judges make their money by selling tickets, getting 10 percent of the ticket price sold. If your rooster wins, you may also tip the judge who sold you the ticket. Thousands of pesos are bet every Sunday, and there is one fight after the other. Toward the end of the day, the dead roosters start piling up around the back side of the arena. In Asia, it is considered an honor to eat the loser, but in Manzanillo, the losers are thrown in the trash bin.
Cockfighters say the birds are naturally antagonistic, but you can also see that the owners do things to aggravate the bird, such as taking a mouthful of beer and spraying it on their animal. The mock fight without blades is another way they incite their cocks to fight. While the rules require one bird to die, supporters of cockfighting say that no one forces the bird to fight. Cockfighters take this sport very seriously.
Cockfighters admit their sport may seem brutal and cruel to outsiders. But in Mexico it's a tradition, and there's money to be made.
Author's Note: Graphic photos were intentionally omitted so as not to offend the sensibilities of those readers who find this sport brutal. The article was written about a cultural event prevalent throughout Mexico, and specifically about cockfighting here locally, in Manzanillo. It is not intended to offend, although some readers may find it shocking. Cockfighting is legal in five states in the U.S.: Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico and Oklahoma. There are currently several animal rights groups fighting for a ban on cockfighting in the above states. There is no such movement in Mexico.