The Day Orlando Lost: Colombia Cockfighting In Photos

Orlando with his cock

BEACON

When two men on Colombia’s Caribbean coast settle on a deal, they often say ‘palabra de Gallero,’ which means ‘Cockfighter’s word’. It means something along the lines of this: my promise to you is public and now written in stone.

It seems like just about every man I saw in the town of Ciénaga, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, had a gallo – a rooster – under his arm. Colombia’s Caribbean coast is known for its strong cockfighting tradition. This photo essay takes you inside the fight and tells of the time when Orlando de la Rosa lost the game. Continue reading on Beacon…

 

Advertisements

The Parabola of Tío

Parabola.2

BEACON

“Somehow, Tío is still drinking…,” I sometimes find that I say to myself mornings upon waking after the fiesta. I used to make this observation and say it with amazement. How can he be drinking at this ungodly hour? Now, I say it with very little surprise.

A personal essay about the place where I live, Colombian fiestas, and parabolas. Continue reading on Beacon…

Damned Roosters

rooster-1

BEACON

You didn’t have to take more than one glance at Orlando de la Rosa to know how bad he had lost. Orlando de la Rosa leaned in on the rim of the arena and his black cowboy hat dipped down slightly. His shirt was still tucked deep into his jeans, his black boots dusty. But his moustache could not hide a tight and pensive expression on his face. The animal – his animal – was limp, laying on the ground, and covered in blood. His rooster was dying.

Cockfighting is a serious pastime for folks on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. So I persuaded my friend and guide Benedicto to take me to a match late one Friday night to see what it was all about. This is a personal essay on cockfighting in Colombia, peace and conflict, and what it means to be victorious – or not. Continue reading on Beacon…

Sometimes It Takes An Ocean

Bloqueador.1

BEACON

Before I tell you about all the great things that happened to me on vacation, I should probably mention a couple of things that people always ask about for context: First, I didn’t get sunburned…

This Hotel Prado joint on Colombia’s Caribbean coast was the best spot around. It was vacation. And my girlfriend and I were traveling. She used the whole tube of sunblock, but I forgive her. This is a personal essay about vacation and sun block, an abandoned Colombian commercial shipping wharf, and loving someone. Continue reading on Beacon…

I Am A Gypsy

circus-1

BEACON

Uncle Conrado was crushing them. One nut after another. He ripped the shells off with his hands and as he popped one into his mouth with one hand, his fingers were already in the bowl, hunting for another. You’d think it would be boring to watch an 83 year old man eat nuts, but it actually wasn’t because it wasn’t just about the nuts.

Ever since I met him, I had wanted to know what made Uncle Conrado so prosperous. But what really got me was all he had to endure happening around him in Colombia when he started out. This is a personal essay on the memories of a circus master, Colombia’s ‘pájaros’ killers of the 1950s, and dignity. Continue reading on Beacon…

As Long As She Gets Her Tomb Back

Ice cream.RAW-2

BEACON

Just look at Maria Elena. It’s as if she’s not afraid of anything. Not afraid of anything in this crowded, crime-ridden Barranquilla market. She has five things on her shopping list and you can just tell she’s going to do anything to get them, no matter what.

It’s as if Maria Elena isn’t afraid of anything – not even death. I went to the Barranquilla central market with her to buy perfumes and lottery tickets, and get her shoes fixed. A personal essay about envying the determination of a Colombian woman, Barranquilla’s central market, and the things we fear. Continue reading on Beacon…

The Sweet Wet Heavens Come Falling Down

fish.RAW-3

BEACON

I wanted to go to the Tasajera fish market on Saturday, but we were forced to cancel our trip. Just before we were about to go, it started to rain hard, and it hadn’t rained the whole year on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It started soft, and then the drops got bigger and came down faster, and soon it came down in monsoon-like proportions. Benedicto, my guide, told me, “we’re not going today, amigo – with the rain, it’ll be chaos… it’s too risky.”

No one in Tasajera knew it was going to rain that day. It hadn’t rained on Colombia’s Caribbean coast for the entire year, and a drought was plaguing the land. So when the rains came, the people celebrated. But the fishmongers still took the risk and went out for a night on Big Swamp. A personal essay about facing the rains, fishing in Tasajera, and the chaos of water. Continue reading on Beacon…

Death Happens With Flowers

casket-1

BEACON

Celia told me that yellow daisies are what people like the most. I found Celia outside the entrance to the cemetery. She was surrounded by flowers, and she watched and waited as one by one, mourners came to the iron gates, paid her 6 or 7 pesos for a bouquet of yellow, and walked down the dirt path to find their family tomb. The mourners seemed to walk slower than usual. Few people are in a rush to get to death, I suppose.

Ciénaga, a town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, has two places for people to go when death happens to them: one is called Cemetery of the Rich, and one is called Cemetery of the Poor. A personal essay on visiting the tombs with a local Cienaguero named Benedicto, inequality in Colombia, and mourning. Continue reading on Beacon…

If The Dynamite Goes Off

dynamite

BEACON

It was already 11am and our bus had screeched to a halt around 2am that morning. When I woke up, I first thought we had broken down, but then I saw the long line of tractor trailers, engines off, packed like sardines, one after another. Traffic was frozen. It felt like the greatest traffic jam in the world.

Fighting between Colombia’s military and Farc rebels broke out on the road between Barranquilla and Medellín. The road was dynamited, and that meant my bus traveling the route from the coast to the interior was stuck. A personal essay on getting trapped in a mountain traffic jam, Colombia’s armed conflict, and hostility. Continue reading on Beacon…