Cock of the Walk

This is the story of our first cockfight. After 6 week of trying unsuccessfully to track down the fight schedule (as if anything in Peru functions on a schedule), we managed, with the help of a local friend, to up in a thatched-roof dirt floor cock-ring on a Friday night. The experience turned out to be well worth every bit of anticipation.

I suppose I should take a moment to address the disappointed looks on the faces of my readers. I can say with confidence that outside of cockfighting world, the sport is considered cruel, disgusting, and disgraceful. And believe me, we had plenty of misgivings as we headed for the arena. After thourough consideration, we had decided that as culturally aware and adventurous travelers, we would set aside our judgement and righteousness and try out this ever so popular Latin American sport for the cultural experience that it is. We made sure women were not a taboo sight at the arena, had a couple of drinks to take the edge off, and headed out into the cloud of feathers and cock-a-doodle-doos.

We have been lucky enough to befriend a local man named Juan Carlo, who is actually listed in our Lonely Planet guide book by name as a “super friendly and highly skilled” surf instructor. He is an international surf champion and although I would definitely agree with the highly skilled description, ‘super friendly’ wouldn’t be my first choice as a description. Juan Carlo is the kind of guy that you want on your side. He is equally capable of being gentle and open as he is of being commanding and intimidating. He somehow houses an absolutely incredible amount of knowledge about Peru and the world. If you need to know facts about local gangs, birth practices, or weather patterns, he’s your guy. If you need to know how the moon came to be or the creation stories from all 5 pre-Incan civilizations, he’s your man. If you want to learn how to surf from the best of the best and don’t mind the fact that your instructor yells throughout the entire lesson, he’s your man. Juan Carlo is complicated and amazing and he was our escort to the cockfight.

We followed a trail of dried blood droplets down the sidewalk to a relatively small cement building with dirt floors and a thatched roof that showed patches of night sky through the many holes.

View of the ring from the 4th row. There were only 5 rows of benches so every seat was a good seat.

We paid 10 soles entrance fee (about $3 usd), bought a couple beers in the corner, and headed to the ring. You would think they had never seen a group of 8 gringos stroll into a cockfighting ring before by the way the heads turned. Unfazed, we gave our “buenas noches” greetings to all and took our seats. In a situation that easily could have gone sour, the Peruvians went above and beyond to make us welcome. If it wasn’t for the way we were received in that room, our experience could have been quite different.

Preparing for his fight. One of the only times I have ever seen a macho Peruvian man smile so openly for the camera. He won.

The locals were proud to show us their culture, and liked the fact that we were having fun. There was hand shaking and photo taking, laughing and cheering. The men flirted relentlessly but respectfully and proudly posed with their prize roosters for my camera.  Yes there was blood shed, yes we ate chicken shish kebab, and yes there were a handful of moments when I winced and turned my head. But ultimately, it wasn’t about the actual cockfight, but about being fully accepted and welcomed into a local tradition that many travelers shy away from. Not a single one of us, male or female, left the arena regretting our Friday night activity. Judge us if you must, but I will honestly admit that we are toying with the idea of making a second Friday night of it.

In the process of posting Trujillo Cockfight Video on you tube. No gore, no death involved. I’ll add the link once it’s uploaded.

Notice the 5 year old boy front and center. He watched with little interest, as if it was nothing new. A few seats over a grandpa sat with his arm around his little grandaughter. She, too, did not seem fazed.

Our latest Christmas Card idea: "In Love at the Cock Ring."

Action shot. You can see the spikes on the foot, taped on with electrical tape. In S. Peru they use blades, sharp on all edges and the death is much faster. Here they use spikes, sharp only on the point. The cocks have a natural instinct to fly up and use their feet to fight. The "training" of the birds is basically just picking those with strong instinct.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Cock of the Walk

  1. That is great. Absolutely emerge yourself in the local culture. It is amazing how many hang-ups we have here in the USA. Why is cock-fighting wrong, but commercial production of veal ok? Cock fighting sounds much more interesting than baseball, but what’s with the pictures of the chickens?

    Your story kind of reminds me a strange Thanksgiving trip a long time ago I took to Astoria, where the indigenous peoples took me on this traditional hunt for wild mushrooms. It seemed crazy, civilized people on this barbaric primordial hunt for wild mushrooms. It was cruel, unusual, and damp. Post feast of the killed, we celebrated in an antediluvian communal steam bath tradition. Had I not been so young, I’m not sure I would have survived to share the tale. I haven’t returned to Astoria since.

    • Grandma Lois

      LOL I’m in Astoria at Lois’ as we read this! (This is Margo) We all enjoyed this post very much, Dave. And yes, it is raining quite heavily. I’m pleased you have these memories, which outsiders rarely get to experience, but are essential experiences to us natives. You survived the initiation, and you carry The Mark forever.

      • Oh! You are making me want to tromp through the rain and find those mushrooms. And carve pumpkins. And eat Grandma’s pie! Isn’t it amazing how you always want what you don’t have. Torn between worlds. Or is that just me?

  2. Shairn

    Corinna, the thing that strikes me in reading your posts is how radiant you are- in your writing and your (and Cameron’s) photos. I can tell that you are both full of life and joy right now. Thank you for sharing that joy with us!

  3. julie robertson

    You always make me smile and laugh out loud when reading your posts. Thanks for the keeping the folks and friends at home involved in your adventures.

  4. mary

    this is just so great Corrina- your writing makes me want to be there! no judging here- just jealousy that i couldn’t come with! 😀

  5. Steve Wallace

    Couldn’t have described the experience any better…. 🙂

    …..I just wish I could be there for next time. 😦

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