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A Cockfight

In the "Cult of Escapism": A Cockfight

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Cockfight

Let the feathers fly.

Five rows surround the ring and men lean over railings, encouraging, criticizing, screaming at the cocks in a futile effort to alter the course of the fight. A brown and red rooster circles left, jumps with a violent flapping and punctures the jugular vein of his opponent.  Everyone jumps to their feet, cheering, jeering, trading bets with their neighbors. Welcome to the cockfights in Santiago, Panama.

Rows of cages precede the ring; the roosters crow and pace excitedly in anticipation. A crowd lingers just outside, discussing the fights, drinking beer, talking to the owners of the cocks. We enter the stadium to a standing, screaming crowd of roughly 60 people and a standstill fight in its twelfth minute. Excusing ourselves, we pushed past the crowd and take our position in the third row back.

Fights are a maximum of fifteen minutes. If both cocks can still stand after that, the fight is a draw and all bets are pushed. Most fights end with one rooster either dead or completely incapacitated; both are generally bleeding profusely. Each rooster has a blade strapped to their claws and they kill by jumping and stabbing the neck of their opponent with this claw. Some matches are as quick as thirty seconds, most last about six minutes, with a clear winner emerging around the third minute. The fights themselves are not particularly entertaining, mostly a lot of flapping, pecking and circling one another. The betting makes it all worth it.

I love the betting system. As the cocks are brought in, the owners let them walk around, then pick them up and let them peck at each other while people evaluate. When you decide on your favorite, you simply survey the surrounding crowd for someone willing to bet against you. A typical bet begins like this:

You – Which one do you want?
Other person – Blue! Blue!
You – Ok, I’ll take red; how much?
Other person – Five dollars, five dollars (this other person tends to repeat themselves).
You – Ok, deal.

People climb up on the railings to scout bets and use hand gestures to begin a bet long-distance. Once the match starts, people lean way over the railing and scream at their cock (great sentence). “Jump! Jump!” “Yes!” “No!” “That’s it..JUMP!!”

When the match ends, you simply turn to the person you bet with and pay them. Everyone always pays. This is the part I love – a completely self-sustaining, self-regulating market, with no middle men or bet collectors. Beautiful.

My winnings fluctuated throughout the night, but I ended with $15 in profit. Thus, cockfights are treating me a lot better than the blackjack table and I have just added another cultural experience and another variation to my increasing list of vices. 

This video might say it better than I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70JMFgcnfDQ

3 Comments:

At April 2, 2011 at 8:54 AM , Blogger Josie Thrift said...

I'm jealous. Being a girl, I was never welcomed at those events. Also, have you been to a Panamanian rodeo yet? The fences that are supposed to keep the bulls in are practically made of popsicle sticks and elmer's glue, and ALWAYS fail. Enjoy your time in Panama.

 
At April 2, 2011 at 1:55 PM , Blogger Alyson said...

So much innuendo in this post...

 
At January 28, 2013 at 11:30 AM , Blogger bama said...

Peculiar!

 

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