Fitting the metal holder to the rooster´s leg
Sometimes they say that life is stranger than fiction. As I stood outside the bathroom next to the cock fighting pit looking at newspaper clippings and talking to a man about his friend in the photos, who of course is a world champion speed walker at multiple distances, and how they train in the high altitude mountains outside of Otavalo
, I thought how true that is.
But perhaps such is one´s quest to see a cock fight, especially the one in Otavalo. After confirming the location of the pit with two locals, we were given conflicting starting times and were forced to check back at each time because we wanted to get good seats. So we waited as the market wound down and the mass exodus from town had commenced as all the sellers packed up their wares and left.
Attaching the thorn
I wasn´t too sure what the refreshments situation would be like at the cock fight, whether it would be like every sporting event in the US where they have hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and beer and soda, or whether it would be more of a bring your own type of event. At first we showed up with a few beers and snacks but the building still wasn´t open so we decided to go hang out in the park and check back an hour later. Again no luck. Another hour passed by and still nothing. This time I talked with the man outside the bathroom about speed walking and the mountains and he told us to come back in an hour and that is when the action would start. So after another hour we come back and the whole area is deserted, except for a few people loitering around. Now we decided to go play some pool at the tiny little local place, that had only been filled with Ecuadoreans all week long.
The touching of the cocks
When we walked in, everything stopped inside for a second or two. After getting a table, one of the three, we were lucky enough to get the a complete set of balls. The other tables were missing at least a few each. We tried to rack the balls with one of the two wooden triangles that were there. Strangely they were both different sizes. More strangely neither one fit all the balls. I found this rather ironic that in a town famous for its artisans, that they couldn´t get someone to make a wooden triangle. But nonetheless it was fun and it helped to pass another hour. This time when we returned to the cock fighting pit the building was open and there were a few people milling around the place but it was still pretty dull and mostly filled with other tourists.
Intimidation time, what you got?
After some more people started coming in, some of them bringing roosters in special bags, I´m not sure where you would buy these bags, maybe there is a cock fighting catalog or such, but the place began to fill up and soon it seemed like things would start up. They had a bar there selling beer, liquor, and soda, but no food, maybe food distracts the birds. On my trip out to the bar I walked in on the preparation ceremony. One man was holding the rooster and had trimmed the nail up on its leg to create a hole. Over this hole he placed a metal plate with a hole in it to use a support. This metal piece was taped to the birds leg. Into this metal hole and the nail hole a long sharp needle-like thorn was inserted with the point facing outward and was taped to the birds leg.
This process was repeated with the other leg resulting in the bird having two sharp needles with the points facing backward from their legs. The whole time the bird was shaking as if it were scared, but it wasn´t in any pain, not yet anyways. The first bird was then brought into the ring and its handler would wave a random rooster in front of it to really rile it up and get it into fighting mode while its adversary was being similarly prepared. With two birds in the ring, each handler held the birds and they touched the heads together, similar to the touching of gloves in a boxing match. After this the timer was set to some random amount and the birds were unleased on each other.
Finally free, the birds quickly faced each other and flared the feathers behind their neck to create almost a hood, in attempt to intimidate its oppenent.
Live action death blow with the razor sharp thorn
This was followed in rapid succession by a quick charge and some pecking to the head and neck. The action was really fast and it was hard to determine what was happening most of the time. The birds would occasionally fly up and gouge at each other with the thorns on their legs. From time to time the birds would become entangled when their nails would catch in the other bird´s feathers. When this happened the referee stepped in to break up the birds with help from their handlers. After the initial time expired the handlers collected their birds and wiped the blood off their heads and then either kissed the birds for luck or gave them mouth-to-mouth to help them breath, and then it was back to the fighting. People in the stands would look and yell things as the fighting intensified and a few times the action was less than a few feet directly under our front row seats.
After the death blow, the loser awaits his fate
Despite being so close it was hard to follow a lot of the action as it was mostly a high speed flurry of feathers and pecking. The fighting continued until one of the birds got weaker and weaker from losing so much blood from its cumulative wounds. Eventually, one bird would strike a death blow on its weaker counterpart and the bird would go limp and go down. At this point victory was declared and the birds were separated and removed from the ring. The winner was praised and taken to be cleaned up and rested for another match later in the night. The loser, well, he was not so lucky. In reality, the loser was still alive, albeit just barely. Removed from the ring and taken to an area just nearby, the bird left a bloody trail along its exit route. Nearby the ring the bird was held upside down over the concrete floor and allowed to bleed out as it slowly died of the course of a minute or two.
The loser, bleeding to death, they do eat them for lunch the next day.
Such is the cycle of the cock fight. There are long delays in between matches as the birds have to be prepared. Opponents are selected by displaying the birds on a long table and discussing the the number of victories that each bird has, and probably a few other things that I didn´t understand. There is also considerable betting that goes on for each match, and I have no clue what the odds are or how they even determine that, it was well beyond my level of spanish. The one thing I did find out is that you can bring your own rooster to fight. So what I recommend, if you find yourself at the market in Otavalo on a Saturday, is to buy a rooster from the live animal market in the morning, train it during the day, and then bring it to the cock fighting pit at night. Its always better when you have a vested interest in something.