A Visit to the Mompox Cock Fights

 Cock fighting, credit- globalanimal.org

Cock fighting, credit- globalanimal.org

A Soul Searching Trip to a Colombian Passion

Drinking, gambling, shouting, spitting and ultimately death. A tale of a trip deep into the strange fraternity of cock fighters in the Colombian interior. It was bloodthirsty and for all the wrong reasons, exciting.Mono was down, breathing his last and we were some $10,000 Colombian pesos out of pocket. But, in the last 8 minutes or so of frantic wing-flapping and scratching Mono had given what was presumed to be a good account of himself and provided ample entertainment for those in attendance. The emotions that preceded this sombre event when man’s bloodlust triumphs over simple animal welfare and good taste, kept the blood racing through our veins.

Tio Julio is the master. By bringing us along with him to the cockfight arena (more of a shack) away from the well-kept and altogether more sanitary area of Mompox, he had invited us in to view another world as his esteemed guests.

We arrived early so that Tio Julio – by day a jobbing lawyer, father of two and serious candidate for Mayor -could fraternise and speak fighting cock talk with his cronies. Of course, all entry fees were waived, Tio Julio holds some sway here, to the point that when his niece Alba, visiting from Bogota for Semana Santa, was approached by a less than savoury cock fighting type, she just merely had to make mention of her familial ties and he was off.

A few ice cold Aguila beers sunk, the chat picked up momentum as more and more people came along with their fighters clasped lovely to their breast. This could make or break them tonight, as in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s, No One Writes to the Colonel.

There were those who clearly trained dozens and were accustomed to losing a creature and it was all factored into their enjoyment, the spectacle and their overall budget. But also there were those who appeared to have walked in barefoot from the surrounding swamp land to pitch their all in an attempt to feed their families and make some riches.

Tio Julio excused himself before the second bout to prepare his colleague’s challenger. Together they filed the claws, melted the wax and bound a lethal spur to the reverse of the chicken’s leg. Made from tortoise shell, this spur is designed to do exactly as one would expect, to kill.

Given the constant heat here in Mompox, averaging 31 degrees daily and not a great deal cooler than that at night, these animals have had the feathers on their back, undersides and lower necks trimmed down. Before the final preparations are made and their weapons are attached they are weighed before a gaggle of interested parties and measured up in weight categories, a bit like in boxing. This perhaps gives new meaning to featherweight. It is hard to imagine if the creature truly knows what is going on.

Spurs attached to the fighters, everyone makes their way over to the arena and onto the bleachers that run in a circle around the venue. All the while cash is visibly changing hands as the bets are placed. Owners and gamblers are placed in the front row ringside. Then, once the stopwatch has been set, the cocks are dropped in by their owners and the spectacle steps to another level.

Both animals periodically launch themselves, claws first at one another. In a flurry of wing activity and almost in flight they fling their legs forward aiming to spike the other with their fastened armament. It is hard to follow but the crowd is baying for blood.

Consisting of mainly middle aged men, a few women and some teenagers they cheer along, whooping and trying to coax and provoke their chosen cock to victory. The time flies by, the umpire steps in on occasion to separate the fighters. Then one is down and the other has its wing in place holding him under, pecking and maneuvering for the killer blow.

Just like that is all over. The victorious cock is cheered raucously by those who remain in the black and mourned briefly by those who lose. The losing party, breathing its dying and futile breaths is swept up and taken away by its owner while the winner struts in the ring before being swabbed down with antiseptic wash to speed up any recovery needed for the following week.

We had lost and Tio Julio had lost. Rather than dwell on this he grinned, after all, there was a long night and many fights ahead.

You May Also Like:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *