Banned in the United States, cockfighting is a very popular spectator sport in other parts of the globe, namely in the Dominican Republic. It’s a serious event, with avid patrons betting heavily on their favorite winged competitors.
My decision to attend this particular event was made somewhat spontaneously. I read about it in my Lonely Planet, invited a friend from the hostel I was staying in, and together we jumped in a cab for the Club Gallistico.
My imagination ran wild: the fights would surely take place in a filthy arena, jam-packed with hulking Dominican men. I envisioned my younger, blonder companion and I having to elbow away rum-swilling bloodsport sympathizers. Wasn’t I responsible for her safety, given I had dragged her along?
Curiously, our taxi dropped us off in front of an unassuming club — a small but proper little stadium. No one hawking goods outside, or leering at the foreigners attending their first cockfight. We entered the stadium to find organized seating and a handful of patrons tricking in. They were neatly dressed; casual yet smart.
We were the only female attendees in the entire stadium.
The biggest surprise to the uninitiated may be that there are multiple fights, one after another. In other words, you witness a lot of dying birds.
My interest in seeing a cockfight was rooted in a desire to experience the more controversial side (from an American vantage point) of Dominican popular life. Travel presents unique opportunities to engage with different cultural traditions, which may also provoke your moral belief system. This experience certainly challenged my own. I leave it to you to decide what’s right for you. For my companion and I, we had enough after several fights.
To follow is an up-close view from start to finish, beginning with arming the cocks with espuelas, or the spurs with which they fight, to the weighing of the cocks, to the actual fight itself.
Warning: Video contains graphic footage that may be disturbing to some viewers.