I am originally from Colombia and migrated to the U.S. with my family at the age of nine. The challenges of assimilating into two cultures has helped shape my view of the world and has inspired my curiosity about other cultures, people, and...
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Javier Vega breeds and sells roosters out of his home in southern Bogota. He’s very specific about the breeds he chooses because his customers expect only the finest fighting birds. Javier has gained a reputation for breeding champion roosters and people pay up to 3 million COP (roughly 1k USD) for a single bird.
The town of Ubala is one of the municipalities in the department of Cundinamarca where monthly cockfighting competitions take place. Competitors travel from nearby municipalities and sometimes even from the city of Bogota, which is a four hour journey by bus or car.
A man trains his roosters by performing a variety of exercises that are meant to increase strength, agility, and overall endurance. Like a professional boxer training for a fight, these roosters undergo an arduous training regimen with the hopes that they win their fights, which in most cases simply means surviving.
The Asil or Aseel is a purebred rooster with origins from Pakistan and India. The Reza Asil pictured here is characterized by its tight fitting feathers, long legs, and compact but muscular bodies. The Asil is often considered the world’s oldest gamefowl breed. It is unknown when this bird was first brought to South America or when people began breeding it in Colombia.
The fights are typically divided by weight categories but any competitor may choose to match his rooster with a bigger adversary if desired. Age and experience are also factors to consider when matching fighters.
After the weighing process is over the competitors begin preparing their roosters for their fights, which involves placing the spurs (metal or hard plastic) on each leg using a combination of athletic tape and candle wax as cohesive, massaging their legs with rubbing alcohol, and doing any last minute adjustments to make sure their animal is ready.
Fights last ten minutes. If within the first five minutes a rooster loses or breaks a spur they will stop the fight and replace it. If a spur is lost or broken after the first five minutes the fight continues as they are. If both roosters are still standing after ten minutes, the fight is considered a draw and all bets are given back.
An hourglass is used by the referee when a rooster does one of three things — stops pecking, avoids the fight, or falls down. If a rooster falls and does not get up by the time the upper bulb is empty, the fight ends.
A competitor tries to save his roosters life after having lost a fight by draining a blood clot in its neck. Galleros, or cockfighters, oftentimes take intimate care of their roosters and some even express sadness when they lose one in a fight.
A dead rooster is thrown in a corner after having lost the fight. This scene is common during cockfights and is one of the many reasons many people advocate against this practice, calling it a blood sport for the sake of entertainment.
A man puts a rooster he found dead that morning from injuries incurred the previous night into a plastic bag. It was unclear what he was going to do with it, but its very likely that it would just be thrown out with the trash.
Cockfighting is widely popular in much of Latin America and Asia. Though cockfighting is illegal in the U.S., it remains legal in the unincorporated U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. This ongoing work explores cockfighting culture in Colombia, where there is a lot of controversy associated with this practice, in which a huge divide exists between those in favor of it and those against it. To some, cockfighting is a cultural sport and way of life, while to others it is simply a blood sport that encourages animal cruelty for the sake of entertainment. Pelea de gallos, or cockfighting, is practiced in most rural areas throughout the country and in big cities like Bogota or Cali there are establishments where daily fights take place. Currently, Colombia’s Supreme Court is debating whether this practice violates laws against mistreatment of animals, which could make cockfighting illegal in the near future.