Inside The Brutal And Dangerous World Of Cock Fighting [PHOTOS]

Photographer Tony Chirinos’s father used to tell him stories over the dinner table about his youth in Cuba. They usually included cock fighting, a popular entertainment in Cuba and other areas of Latin America.

When Chirinos found out that the sport was still legal and popular on the small Colombian island of San Andrès, he decided to see for himself.

After his first trip to the island in 2000, Chirinos found himself captivated by the sport, the culture, and the trainers and gamblers who love it. Over the next seven years, Chirinos continued to make periodic trips to expand the project.

Chirinos shared some of the photos here (check out more recent work at his website).

When Chirinos first arrived, he simply walked into the cock fights with no introduction. This was a dangerous move for an outsider.

Gambling is a huge part of the cock fighting culture. In a country where most people's wages average around $US200 a month, Chirinos said he frequently saw people putting down bets of $US1,000 or more.

Chirinos said that spectators and trainers use a special slang and hand signals to indicate how the fight is going and if a rooster is near death.

Once a fighting rooster dies, it is cooked and eaten.

Chirinos befriended a local trainer named Wolly Time (pictured), who invited him to his house and taught him the different aspects of cock fighting culture.

Cock fighting has a rich tradition in San Andrès and other parts of Latin America, including Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil.

It is such a large part of the culture that it often includes the whole family.

Wally had nearly 70 roosters at his house to train and fight.

Chirinos was fascinated by the majestic creatures.

Roosters do not need to be taught how to fight. Once they become sexually mature, roosters become extremely aggressive towards any other male roosters. Placed in close proximity, they always fight for dominance.

Instead of training the roosters to fight, people train them to be stronger.

In order to strengthen their ligaments and leg muscles, trainers force roosters to 'roost' on a string, rather than a post, so that they are constantly trying to balance themselves.

The feathers and crest of the rooster are trimmed before they fight.

The birds are often equipped with either metal spurs or knives, tied to the leg in the area where the bird's natural spur has been partially removed.

Roosters are weighed and fight only against those roosters that are very close to their weight.

A good rooster is worth a lot of money.

The fights are a dangerous place to be. Chirinos would never stay past 1 AM at a fight. He says that 'bad things' often happened later in the night.

He later witnessed his friend Wolly shot and killed over a dispute during a cock fighting match.

Chirinos says that, before seeing the fights, he thought his father exaggerated what happened. After seeing them, he says, 'Everything that my father told me was true.'

Latin America can be a dangerous place

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