After a long day of cycling today, I was about to reach Celendin when I passed through a small town with the name Bellavista. There, I saw a bunch of people gathered in a circle not far from the road. The curiosity to know what was happening overwhelmed me and I steered the bicycle towards the crowd.
After parking the bicycle aside, I peeked above the shoulders of spectators. In the middle, an intense cockfight was going on!
Men, women and children were shouting and cheering for their favourite rooster. People were betting on their favourite fighter. Roosters would go aerial and attack each other. The referee kept an eye on the stopwatch. If there was no clear winner after few minutes of fighting, he would declare it a draw. But, that rarely happened. Usually, the fight ended with one rooster fatally injured or dead. The roosters were armed with sharp blades (navaja) which yielded lethal blows. If the rooster became severely injured, it was immediately slaughtered. For many roosters, the journey from being the centre of public attention to getting slaughtered took only a few minutes. After the fight, winning owners claimed the prize money and shared it with their fellows.
Cocks are aggressive towards other cocks by nature, so they fight until death or critically injured. Peru has a long tradition of cockfighting where it is a legal activity. Cocks were introduced to Peru by the Spanish colonists. Cocks are trained for fighting by professional breeders. A good cock would not run away and would fight until death.
The fights were not only between roosters (gallos), but also between chickens (pollos). A man with a rooster or a chicken would come forward and would call for an opponent. As soon someone accepted the challenge, they both would handover bet money to the referee. During the fight, people would go vocal and announce their bets. Rounds after rounds, the roosters and chicken fought against each other, some survived. Others didn’t.
After a cockfight, I asked one of the owners whose rooster was badly hurt in the fight, “Isn’t this game brutal to these poor animals?”
“Simply killing and eating the animals isn’t good either!” he replied.