Francisco Vélez

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Grandpa before the fight

EL GALLERO –

Cock fighting and gambling was my grandfather’s life passion. While taking care of the rooster and preparing one for the big fight that day, my grandmother rushed to the backyard to get a picture of my grandfather and the soon-to-win rooster. With a big grin on his face, the picture was taken. My eyes took pictures as well because I knew these where going to be my last memories of him. In just one week my brother, my mother, and me were moving to the United States. Because I was a kid, I wanted to be in this picture, but I understood that this was a big day for my grandfather, so I stayed back and enjoyed his victory smile.

Cisco vena aca y ayudame con el gallo” (Come here and hold the rooster). So I went to help him, feeling manly because I was holding a rooster.

We loaded everything into his station wagon and drove to Gallera La Candelaria, a place for cock fighting in Mayagüez. Once there, the big rush began, weighing the rooster, checking their espuelas (spurs), and making sure the bird was healthy.

While my grandfather was taking care of this, my grandmother found us good spot to watch the big fight. Then she sent us down to the cafeteria to stuff our faces with cheese dogs and hamburgers. As we approached the cafeteria stand, we were already drooling because of the smell of hot oil ready to embrace the ground meat turnovers.

“I’ll take two cheese dogs and two orange sodas please,” my little brother said with emotion.

The guy looked at us once, put our order together without thinking and said, “That will be $3.50.”

We looked for a table and we didn’t say anything to each other until we were done eating. Then my brother asked me, “Do you think Grandpa is going to win?”

With an obvious look on my face I said, “Of course he is.”

We waited there until we heard Grandpa’s name through the intercom and rushed to the seats that Grandma had saved for us.

“How much is the bet for the big fight,” I asked her curiously.

With a confident smile she said, “It’s over two-thousand dollars.”

In shock, I looked at the tiny ring and watched my grandpa holding the rooster as he prepared for the battle.

They let the roosters loose to kill each other and me and my brother started cheering so loudly that we started laughing.  The fight went quickly and one of the rooster’s began to give up its life. Just as my grandpa’s rooster gave its final blow to the enemy, my grandmother screamed a scream that stopped my heart. Just as the fight was declared over, my grandpa collapsed. A heart attack took him away from us forever.

Grandpa’s win was annulled. Even though I didn’t understand it then, I came to realize that my grandfather died doing what he loved and what he was best at. I just wish I could see that victory smile once again.

To this day my grandmother says she knew something bad was about to happen. The roosters were acting up while we were taking them to La Gallera. This was not normal behavior.  A peck or two would be common since they are trained to kill, but their strange behavior seemed to be about giving us a message, that their master was leaving them for good. At least that was what my grandma said. I wish we would have known to listen, so we could have said our good-byes.

3 Comments

  1. A shocking but fascinating story Francisco, I might say I used to help my father to train roosters as well when I was a little kid. More than watching the fight I enjoyed the training sections, it felt like if the rooster was a boxer preparing for a big fight. I think your grandfather knew what was going to happen and he decided to spend his last minutes in what he loved the most. Magnificent work!!

  2. Death is the only thing we all have in common. It’ll get us all one way or another. Your grandpa seemed like a strong man. Very dedicated to the sport he loved. While details weren’t present in every sentence, I could make a clear image of what was happening at the moment of the fight. Animals have a 6th sense and always know what is going to happen next. We just have to listen to them carefully. May your grandpa rest in peace.

  3. Very well written and emotional. “cisco” your grandpa will live forever I. Your memories.

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