Cockfighting in San Juan

The oddest thing about Puerto Rico was the fact that it is a major cockfighting center and not all Puerto Ricans are happy about it.

I first became aware of the boriquan love for the bloodsport when I moved to Bushwick (Brooklyn) in 2000. Roosters were a common sight (and sound) in my barrio, which was much more Hispanic then than it is today.

The neighborhood roosters frequently started crowing at 5am, though sometimes they started at 11pm or 3:30am depending on how old, starved or tortured they were.

So, needless to say, cockfighting seemed grisly to me and my experience in San Juan didn’t change that perception much.

Unlike everything else on the island, cockfighting wasn’t easily accessible to the tourist but it wasn’t exactly hidden away either. I noticed that most of the people who worked in the arena didn’t speak English well unlike the rest of the island.

The club reminded me of the OTBs in New York, a little seedy, gritty and not exactly romantic. Here are some observations:

  • 99% of the audience was male
  • people yelled out bets–which are called gentleman’s bets–to one another before the match started
  • each fight lasted 10-15 minutes
  • it was sad to see dead animals carted off
  • after each cockfight men swapped money based on their oral bets
  • there was also a booth up top for betting
  • getting a taxi afterwards wasn’t very easy

Click here to launch the Flickr slideshow from the Tues, Dec. 4 matches.

2 responses to “Cockfighting in San Juan”

  1. […] 7 years in Bushwick, Hrag Vartanian goes and sees the real, and magnificent, thing: Puerto Rico. And he goes to a fuckin’ cockfight!? […]

  2. neery melkonian Avatar
    neery melkonian

    this image could pass for a photograph of a contemporary sculpture piece, as in critiquing the know freezing it to make us reflect on the violent ritual the marriage or ambivalence of a certain economy and cultural practice… wishful thinking!! nm

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