Mexico’s Baja California state wants cockfighting to draw tourists

World Today

Mexico’s beaches are enormously popular amongst travelers. But one city on the Pacific Coast is promoting a different kind of attraction. It’s a centuries-old tradition, but as CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports, it’s one that tourists might not be ready for.

Ruben Yuen, the latest in a long line of fighting cock breeders, is passionate about his sport.

Cockfighting is popular throughout Baja California, where he says society benefits a great deal from the activity.

“It’s a growing trend, because young kids are taking an interest, and as parents, it is good to have them taking an interest,” Yuen said, “rather than falling into other vices, since their time is occupied in this pursuit.”

But the bloodsport, which sees the animals fight to the death with blades attached to their feet, isn’t universally popular, and many animals rights protesters have campaigned against its practice.

But Baja California’s cockfighters are getting a helping hand. The state capital’s government is beginning to promote the sport as a tourist attraction, encouraging visitors to ignore the blood and gore, and focus instead on the cultural experience.

Preparing for a cockfight in Mexico:

“When tourists go to other countries they seek to find out about the culture, but someone who goes to a cockfight will surely know that they will see violence,” explained Juan Carlos Gonzalez, the General Secretary of government in La Paz.

“There are activist groups who are against the practice, but it is a centuries-old tradition that has endured over time.”

The state’s cockfighters association are convinced their show will be a hit.

“It’s great that the government is recognizing cockfighting as our state heritage,” says Juan Luis Garcia, president of the Baja California Cockfighting Association. “Tourists get very excited when they come. Visitors from America and Canada clap and applaud at the fights.”

In La Paz, tourists downtown have opposing views of the sport.

“Yes I would, not with the kids though; just to experience it,” said one visitor from London, while his wife had other ideas. “No way!”, She exclaimed, “I think it’s really cruel and I wouldn’t take my kids either.”

As Baja California’s government seeks to share the state’s sporting culture with its visitors, many tourists here say that the holiday destination is enough on its own, without the additional spectacle.