Saturday night Ibis and I ran into friends downtown and after joining them for pizza, we tagged along for a Mexican tradition: chicken fights. (Technically they're called c**k fights but I'm trying to keep this family friendly.)
These friends go fairly often, at least once or twice per week, but we've never gone with them. I'm a very squeamish person and don't do well with blood, especially when it involves a living, jumping, squawking creature. Morally I don't agree with these fights and I feel bad for the chickens, but it's ingrained in this culture and not going away because I don't like it.
We drove to a neighboring town and entered through a nondescript metal door. Bright lights greeted us and after paying a 50 peso cover fee, we approached the ring. A low wooden wall enclosed the large dirt ring that took up most of the outdoor area. We were offered blue folding chairs in the second row, which I later found out is preferable because the chickens sometimes escape the wall and jump into the audience. Second row it is.
Several women worked the crowd, selling beer, food, and a quick card game in between fights. When the first group entered the ring I was grateful I hadn't worn my glasses (I've gotten into the habit of going out half blind.) I could see well enough to know what was going on, but not well enough to see much detail. I'll give you the fuzzy details as seen through my blurry eyes.
The owners get the chickens riled up with other chickens, kind of like sparring partners. When the feathers around their necks fan out - much like a lion or peacock - you know they're ready. Then the referee winds something that looked like tape around one of the chickens' feet.
"What are they doing?" I asked my friend.
"Tying on the knife."
Yeah, a knife. Silly me thought they just pecked each other to death.
I won't go into detail but we saw two chickens die in four fights. The burial was anything but dignified; they were thrown to the side of the covered viewing area, next to one of the support posts and right in the middle of the spectators.
I always assumed chicken fights were illegal, but several armed policemen were there, seemingly on patrol. Whether they were betting or working, I'm not sure.