Yesterday, Cara and I photographed a cockfighting tournament in San Francisco de Macorís with about 40 fights. We were told it would be “beautiful” by a few different Dominicans, and while personally I didn’t find it beautiful, I can understand what they meant.
We rolled into the parking lot at the coliseum, made up of rocks and pebbles, and walked into the arena. From the outside, I couldn’t guess just how crazy things are going to get inside.
Before we got to the ring, we walked through a restaurant area. Men drank Presidente beers, ate chicken noodle and shrimp soup and watched the fights on big TVs. Meanwhile about two dozen roosters paced and peered back and forth in cages through a large glass window as men looked up and down at them, taking notes on paper on who to bet on later.
Through the next door, we were shown the locker room for the roosters, where they get their shanks taped on by the owners. Imagine a mix between a boxing locker room and a NASCAR pit and you’ve pretty much got the idea. The shanks are inspected for size then the roosters are ready to go.
Finally, we were inside the arena, and everything got much louder. A man came through a door with two cloth sacks, stepped into the ring and hung the sacks from a scale, the roosters have to be in the same weight class (more boxing ties). The fun began.
The arena erupted in yelling, screaming and the waving of fistfuls of cash. Bets were being made. Men just made eye contact, waved some cash and began to negotiate the bet. I couldn’t understand how anyone was hearing each other or how anyone could take the bets seriously.
The roosters fought until one died or gave up. That was the easiest way to describe it. The most interesting thing to me, though, was the way the crowd reacted. I’ve photographed just about every sport you can imagine, from football to cricket, and this crowd was so different. The yelling and cheering came in short, 10-second waves, then died down. The tension, however, was always like you’re watching the Bulls in Game 6 of the championship game and Jordan was about the get the ball.
Every blog deserves a Michael Jordan reference, no matter how bad.
Stay tuned for more,