Last Thursday was my first palenque (cockfight)
I was pretty excited about the experience, not for the thrill of watching animals slash each other’s throats, but for the cultural weight of a tradition I’d never witnessed and the fact that it’s illegal in the States.
The experience definitely left me with conflicting feelings. Yes, it was interesting and kind of exciting. On the other hand, it’s kind of deplorable to set animals upon each other, gladiator style, justifying the practice because they’re animals. Bullfights are kind of in the same category – dress it up as valiant or exciting or glamorous or traditional, but when it’s over there are pools of blood in the dirt and something died a nasty, unnatural death. Look at the knives (nebajas) they strap on the roosters’ feet.
I doubt I’d voluntarily attend another palenque – I mean, I’m glad I’ve seen one, crossed it off the list, and now know what they’re all about, but it’s sort of gratuitous. Like, “do we really need to keep killing these roosters guys? If it’s about the gambling, can’t we just play bingo?”
(note – bingo (loteria) is actually really popular here)
This picture sums it up for me – one man is covered in rooster blood, and the other man is figuring out how much he’s gonna bet.
I saw one guy win 600 quetzales in a single match, which points to another less-than-admirable aspect of cockfighting – it’s a rich man’s game. At the same time, I can’t be totally condescending and pretend like I didn’t gamble at least once (I won a couple of sodas)