Roosters Cockfighting near Ocampo in Mexico
Roosters Cockfighting near Ocampo in Mexico
The second morning following our arrival in Mexico, Bob and I took full advantage of a perfect sunny day to go to Santuario de la Mariposa Monarca “El Rosario” to witness the phenomenon of wintering Monarchs by the millions. Getting there was half the adventure, and unexpected sights such as a spur-of-the-moment cockfight at roadside certainly made the trip interesting.
Our route north out of Zitacuaro was laid out by Pablo, the host at our hotel, and had us driving to the small town of Ocampo before turning east towards the butterfly reserve. It was on the mountainsides surrounding Ocampo that we began to see evidence of earlier clear cut forestry practices that took place to make more land available for agricultural purposes.
Humble farms populate all the hillsides and valleys, clusters of rustic structures tucked together,
and everywhere, smoke puffing from wooden homesteads and roadside food stalls, together with stables built of ramshackle combinations of canvas, tin and wooden slats, proved the continued need for wood as building material and fuel.
It was easy to see why forests fell prey to the axe, and slopes were left bare.
Certainly, farming in one way, shape or form is the bedrock of Mexican society, and that simple lifestyle was obvious everywhere we turned, particularly in the countryside but also in the villages and towns where farming operations took over every front and backyard. On this day, we shared the roadway with horses,
and met head on a stray herd of dairy cattle along a sinuous mountain road.
And so, as we navigated the broken tarmac threading through the villages, besides watching out for potholes large enough to engulf a small car, we had to be mindful of errant livestock. Chickens and roosters in particular wandered at will.
One very large rooster took our eye as it strutted at roadside. Its appearance was quite remarkable.
Just outside of Ocampo, we noticed a trio of young lads, each with a rooster tucked under his arm, just as they clambered over a crumbling stone wall into someone’s dooryard.
We had slowed for yet another in the endless string of speed bumps or topes, and watched as things quickly developed. The boys presented the roosters to one another, taunting them with forced face-to-face contact. I am naive because it wasn’t until the roosters started attacking one another that I realized what their intention was.
In a flurry of feathers, the two largest roosters beset upon one another. This is a natural instinct among mature males that want to dominate their territory. They literally will fight to the death to win breeding rights and eliminate other male competitors, but I was totally unprepared for such a show of dominance.
The roosters went at it with full intensity; they dashed forward and began attacking one another with their legs and beaks. Cockfighting is a tradition in Mexico, much like bullfighting, so I wondered if these youngsters were training the birds for competition.
I have read that cockfighting is among the biggest attractions, along with roller coasters and merry-go rounds, at many Mexican fairs, so I rather thought that idle hands had these children planting one’s strong rooster against the others to replicate what they might have seen at a local fair.
Although we have never attended a Cockfight, and certainly don’t condone this brutal and cruel blood sport, we had to remind ourselves that it is natural for roosters to fight amongst themselves in a normal barnyard setting, but of course, in such situations, humans are seldom involved, and the roosters rarely fight to the death.
The roosters were quite vocal, and with wings flapping furiously, they performed a brief and brutal ballet. At the centre of a small whirlwind, feathers flew while bits of dirt and grass spiraled outwards.
Although the sport of cockfighting has been one of Mexico’s most cherished traditions, it has been meeting resistance in recent years. The main reason for opposition is the use of razors tied to the cocks’ legs during combat, which leads to a quick and brutal death. Like miniature gladiators, the cocks are placed in a palenque or ring where only one is meant to survive. Cockfighting is banned in all 50 U.S. states, and it has also been banned in countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
The scuffle between the roosters was fast and furious and had me recalling similar skirmishes as they are portrayed in cartoon clips. Moments later, the boys corralled the fowl, and the battle was over.
Hopefully, these roosters will never know the inside of a cockfighting ring but returned, instead, to serve as lookout for the hens at their home farms. In more recent days, some lawmakers in Mexico have begun to look at possibly making cockfighting illegal in that country.
Our drive back to Zitacuaro was a constant parade of colourful vignettes that encapsulated the so-called stereotypical impressions that outsiders have of the country and the people’s way of life. Thing is that those ideas held true everywhere we traveled in Michoacan. Life for the common folk is simple and rustic, the people friendly and helpful, notwithstanding the language barrier. We were always made to feel welcome.
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