Cuban families enjoy cockfighting sports every Sunday afternoons

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– Gameness til the End

Cockfighting has deep roots in Cuba

Photos By Sarah L. Voisin
Writer Nick Kirkpatrick
December 31, 2015

Spectators watch the cocks fight.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

“It’s the sort of place that families would go on a Sunday afternoon,” Washington Post photographer Sarah L. Voisin told In Sight, referring to a government sanctioned cockfighting ring on the outskirts of Havana. “This sport clearly runs in the veins in of Cubans,” she said.

Part restaurant, part farm, part cockfighting ring, La Finca Alcona is one of a handful of state-run venues permitted to partake in the bloody sport. While the fights are sanctioned, betting on them is is strictly forbidden, — gambling in Cuba has been illegal since Castro’s 1959 revolution. And at La Finca Alcona, security guards act as bouncers throughout the arena to try and prevent spectators from gambling Voisin said, but sometimes it does happen.

To get your bird in the ring is a lengthy process Voisin said. First you have to see a veterinarian who inspects the bird, then the bird is weighed, registered and given a division. And before the fight, competitors attach spurs and wax on to their legs.

Inside the crowded venue, birds are are seen everywhere Voisin said. “People walk around with their birds, birds tied up like dogs in a backyard, and other are just waiting their turn” she said. But competitors can take a break, “If you wanted to go eat,” Voisin said, ” you can check you bird in like a piece of luggage.”

While families enjoy the restaurant, outside of the muddy ring spectators scream, shout and jump out their seats with excitement as the birds rip into one another. Spectators of all different socioeconomic backgrounds are as Voisin describes “mesmerized by it.” But “you can’t get too emotional in there,” she said. Security guards quickly suppress any excitement or “emotional outbursts” that might result in a fight Voisin said.

Cockfighting is one of the most popular sports in Cuba. Voisin describes a part of the county’s love affair with birds. “It’s like a past time,” Voisin said, “the same way some people like to crochet a blanket.”

Yoshander Peraza, 32, waits to have his bird weighed before the fight.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

A group of spectators watch the fight.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Between fights, roosters wait in a holding area.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Luis Mora Cisnero, 22, smokes a cigarette as Magdie Cambar Rodriguez, right, puts spurs onto the legs of the cocks.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Cubans and their roosters wait in the wings for their turn in the ring.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Isidoro Fresneda, 64, is the doorman for the cockfighting ring He lets the next set of fighters into the ring after each fight.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)


The cocks are weighed before the fight and put into their appropriate weight class.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Two men wait for the fights to begin.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Spurs are put on the legs of the cocks with string and wax before fighting.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Cubans wait for their turn to enter the ring with their roosters.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

An injured rooster is held by its owner after a fight.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

A group of spectators watch from the second floor of the cockfighting ring.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Despite strict control and prohibition of betting, some unscrupulous visitors manage to exchange money while hiding from security.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

An owner holds his winning bird in the air. Cockfighting is long linked to Cuban culture.
(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)




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