Monday, December 4, 2006

Los Gallos

Gallo is the Spanish word for rooster. There are lots of roosters here, and cock fighting, next to futbol, is the favorite pastime amongst my tico friends. Every Sunday afternoon at a finca nearby, after church with the family, the caballeros (it's a man's sport) go to a place to fight and bet on their gallos, and to drink. It's a Sunday tradition here. An illegal one, but a tradition nonetheless.

Today, on mayoral election day, there was a bigger competition at a different nearby venue. One might call it The Regionals. More roosters from a larger area with more competition, pride and a grand prize at stake. So I hopped on the bike and motored over to spectate the prestigious event.

A couple of friends of mine, along with my brother-in-law and the husband of my sister-in-law, raise game cocks. It's very serious stuff. The grooming, the clipping, the diet, etc. are taken very seriously. There's money and prestige at stake. Even fame. And a prize game cock can fetch a considerable price.

It's a cruel sport, for sure. Lots of blood, guts, pain and suffering for both animals, and sometimes death for the loser. Personally, I'm not sure whether I condemn or condone it. It's exploitation of an animal's natural instinct. But then, so is Spanish bull fighting, which many aficionados consider an "artform". Maybe that's because the human element is more directly involved in what transpires in the arena. I think that if the cocks were wild animals, I'd have a stronger opinion. Domesticated animals for me, especially livestock - stuff we eat - are kind of a perversion of nature. Yeah, I like dogs, so sue me for not being a fundamentalist. But I could really give a crap about domesticated cows, pigs, and chickens. They take up the space the wild animals used to occupy so we can enjoy a juicier steak or pork chop.

Anyway, I was the only gringo there. I always am (though there's a Canadian guy I know who sometimes shows). Most of the gringos in my community hang with other gringos. Few of them know Spanish well enough to have meaningful interaction with their tico neighbors. But there are some who overcome this with persona. I love these people. They can laugh at themselves. But the others... It's a shame. They're missing out. Most don't know and don't really care. There's a certain arrogance in it. Many would be the same people in US who would tell a Spanish speaking Mexican, "Speak English! This is America." It hasn't occured to them that they are that Mexican here.

I won't go into the bloody details of the fights I watched. You can get that somewhere else on the internet. I was there more to bond with my family and friends, and did so. I let my brother-in-law use my lucky lighter to melt the wax they use to adhere the fighting spikes to each his gallo's legs. In between fights I had a couple of beers with my wife's great uncle. He introduced me to more of the family tribe. We watched a couple more fights and drank a couple more beers. It was a great afternoon.

So fight on mutants! There, I said it.

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