Here is the scene: Hot Sunday afternoon. A large backyard, especially for Nicaraguan standards. A big, open gazebo in the backyard. No, it’s not a gazebo. It’s a small circular arena with three-row high home-made stands. Roosters are calling as if it were dawn. Animal cages line the circumference of the backyard. One hundred Nicaraguan males. One Nicaraguan female. Ten to 15 gringo tourists. And, obviously, beer flowing as if it were water. Where are we at?
We went to the Leon community Gallera. No, not a gallery; a rooster fight. As we are now acutely aware, rooster fighting is quite the hobby for several men in the area. Roosters are bred, fed, and trained to be champion fighters. Fighting roosters are given special treatment throughout their careers; a career potentially lasting four years with two to four fights per year.
We were told that rooster fighting is “natural”. It was certainly extremely intense. We’re not so sure about natural. For example: To increase a fighters’ stamina, the rooster is walked on a leash for 45 to 60 minutes a day. Natural? The rooster’s hard (and potentially deadly) right nail is cut and a one to two millimeter “knife” covers its hard left nail, balancing the playing field between the roosters. Natural?
As the final bets are placed, the arena erupts with energy. (Bets placed can range between 50 cents and $2.50.) Just before the bell rings, everyone assumes his rightful place. Spectators pack the stands. A referee and a random individual who just wishes to have a closer look wait alongside the two owners gently holding their roosters in the arena. The roosters have, at most, 15 minutes to fight.
Roosters don’t get trained in fighting techniques, so the fight looks like you’d think… two birds jumping, pecking, kicking, and generally using brute force until one is either conspicuously defeated or concedes by laying his beak into the ground. While that can be to the death, it isn’t necessarily. We didn’t see any birds die in the ring, but we did see some that could very well be dead now.
The fights continue, but the gringos have had their fill. The hot afternoon has turned into a warm evening. The heat of the gallera defies the thermometer.