I realise that there’s going to be an awful lot of people who are disappointed when they read this blog. There isn’t going to be a new fiesta held for naturists at the foot of Montaña Roja or anything like that. It’s the start of the cock fighting season on Tenerife.
I’d known that there had been cockfighting on the island, but had thought that it must have been an underground scene until I read this report in La Opinion on Monday.
Not only does it still take place, it’s legal. The official programme of activities for the celebrations to mark the Dia de Canarias on 30th May in Santa Cruz even includes cockfighting competitions. Apparently the Canary Islands are one of the two regions in Europe where this practice still takes place; Andalusia being the other.
The main centres for these ‘riñas de gallos’ on Tenerife are in Güímar and in the capital Santa Cruz where crowds of mainly older men gather around a small cage, waving their bets as two ‘gallos’ fight it out to the death.
Opinion about the ‘sport’ is divided on Tenerife. Its defenders say it’s not like bullfighting, which never caught on on Tenerife, because it involves a fair fight between evenly matched cockerels. Its detractors point out that the ‘gallos’ are imprisoned in a cage; there’s no escape for the loser, only death.
I don’t approve of sports which involve cruelty to animals and I know that the title of this blog might seem to trivialise what, in many people’s views, is a barbaric custom. Admittedly it was designed to catch people’s attention, but with the continuing intent of highlighting that the Real Tenerife is considerably different from the one that many people believe they know.
I’m not being judgemental about ‘riñas de gallos‘; I’m not a hypocrite – Britain is no innocent when it comes to sports which involve a less than ‘happy ever after’ outcome for the animals involved.
I’ve chosen to live in a culture which, despite its popular image, is different in many ways from the one I’m used to and the tradition of ‘riñas de gallos’ is simply another example of that fact, shocking though this particular tradition may be.
It is part and parcel of the Tenerife which lies beyond the brochures.