Last updateFri, 15 Jan 2021 2pm

Pelea de gallos: Mexico’s festival of total — and lethal — commitment

Editor’s note: While blood sport with animals is deemed animal cruelty north-of-the-border, a few countries still allow and promote this 6,000-year old spectacle. Mexico is one of them. Although the Fiestas de Octubre in Guadalajara has been cancelled this year, cockfighting is a nightly event at that festival, generally held just before a well-known Mexican musical star or band takes the stage.

(First published in August, 1980)

pg14There are a number of names for it: pelea de gallos, riña de gallos, juego de gallos. It is cockfighting and, whether you are instinctively attracted to the spectacle or not, it is an enduring Latin-American social event, a traditional “sport.” Of all the names, the first, with its use of pelea (to fight) is the most accurate. To riñar means to scuffle, to feud, to quarrel, and cockfights are considerably more than that, unless you enjoy extravagant understatement. And to jugar means to play, to gamble (that’s close), to sport, to game. Pelear, with its implication of full-tilt combat, then, is the term to succinctly describe this festival of machismo, gambling, bloodletting and lethal risks.

Central instinct

This raw display is the violence we witness on our television sets and playing fields distilled, made real. Cockfighting is the simplest pageant of them all. Basically, it is two males fighting to death for a female. Two combatants propelled by a central life instinct to oppose on another totally unintimidated until one is killed.

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