The Stories of Immigrant Children… Fighting Roosters

As told by Maria Felix, age 11.


My grandfather has fighting roosters, Maria Felix says.

Not like it’s a secret, but something exciting. And scary. This is what she remembers about her grandfather, in Mexico.

My youngest uncle and my grandfather took me down into the basement of my grandfather’s friend, says Maria. It was dark. It smelled like wine and cigars. Like blood when my grandmother kills a chicken. The men were sitting on old chairs, all crowded together.

In the corner, the roosters were in crates. You are only allowed to bring two roosters,’ my grandfather told me, and you keep them there until it’s time to fight.’

I remember, their feathers were red and black and white, with flashes of green.

In the middle of the room was the big box where they fight their roosters. The sides are high so they can’t get out.

The roosters don’t stop until one of them smells death.

My uncle passed his sombrero and the men threw in their bets pesos, watches, jewelry. Then they were cheering. The box was all covered with blood, and sometimes my grandfather and other men would go clean the walls and the floor. Then the roosters would fight again.


Finally a man said, Cecilio Verdun, es tu turno,’ and my grandfather was holding his rooster under his arm. Another man had his rooster, too. My grandfather put his hand over his rooster’s face and set him down in one corner of the box. Then the other man did the same thing. When they moved their hands away, the roosters ran at each other and started pecking and biting with their beaks and scratching with their feet. They went from side to side of the box. I saw flashes of green.

When it was all over, my grandfather cleaned his roosters with special alcohol and taped cloths over their cuts. He won’t use those roosters again until they are healed, he told me. He holds them close to his face and talks to them. Hiciste bien, hijo,’ he says, you did good, hiciste bien, my son.’ He strokes their feathers. It’s night, let’s go rest,’ he tells them.

When we got home, my grandmother asked him, How did you do? Como hiciste?’ And my grandfather, Bien, ganamos la pelea, we won the fight.

‘In those other houses, women are making soup of their roosters.’


My grandfather took me to watch his roosters fight, Maria remembers. Their feathers were red and black and white, with flashes of green.

This is what she remembers: He held them close to his face and talked to them. Hiciste bien, hijo,’ he said, hiciste bien.’

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