As a young boy Franciso Paredes began raising roosters in his neighborhood in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal island where he grew up. At the age of fifteen he entered his first bird to fight in a match. Decades later Paredes is still living on San Cristobal and participating in cock fights each week.
Paredes describes his love and respect for his birds, saying that he thinks of them as part of his family. But after raising and training the birds for the first year of their lives, they are put into a ring to fight – often to the death.
The night of the fight an audience gathers. The spectators are mostly men, with the occasional wife or girlfriend there in support. The birds are each weighed and readied to fight by attaching metal spurs to their legs.
Cockfighting is legal on the Islands, but importing birds is not. Roosters must be bred and raised there, resulting in close bond with their owners. When a bird is killed in a match, that bird is given back to the land, out of respect. The victor in that match is set free, never required to fight again.
Bets are places on each match. Gambling is also legal at these matches. While for most men, cock fighting is a hobby, it can also be a source of income with minimum bets of $150 dollars for each match. Paredes says that some bet in the thousands for the larger matches.
But Paredes says it is about more than the money. It is about the love of the sport, and the animals. “It is a joy I believe I will take to my grave. My passion.”