Death Of A Blood Sport Later this month, a Congressional ban will make cockfighting illegal in U.S. territories. Animal rights activists argue that the sport is cruel and inhumane. But in Puerto Rico, many people plan to defy the ban. They say cockfighting has been ingrained in the culture for centuries, and that the ban is an attempt to wipe out an integral part of Puerto Rican identity.
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Death Of A Blood Sport

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Death Of A Blood Sport

Death Of A Blood Sport

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KUMARI DEVARAJAN, BYLINE: How long have you been donating to NPR?

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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GENE DEMBY, HOST:

Just a heads up, y'all, before we get started - this episode contains depictions of animal violence and some foul language. That's a pun.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: You're listening to CODE SWITCH from NPR. I'm Gene Demby.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

And I'm Adrian Florido. Gene, have you ever been to a cockfight?

DEMBY: Why...

(LAUGHTER)

DEMBY: ...Would I have been to a cockfight? Like, is that a rite of passage that I missed somehow?

FLORIDO: Well, no, not - I mean, not here in the States - anymore, at least - because here, cockfighting is illegal...

DEMBY: Obviously.

FLORIDO: ...So you might not have had an occasion to go.

DEMBY: Right.

FLORIDO: But in Puerto Rico, where I've spent a lot of time recently, you might have gone to one because cockfighting there is legal - at least for now it is. And it's not only legal; it's actually a really big industry.

DEMBY: OK. So how common is cockfighting in Puerto Rico?

FLORIDO: Well, there are cockfighting arenas all across the island. There are more than 60 of them. And this is on an island that you can drive across in less than three hours.

DEMBY: So they're everywhere?

FLORIDO: Yeah. Almost every town has at least one.

DEMBY: OK.

FLORIDO: And actually, for a lot of people in Puerto Rico - especially in the rural areas in these towns in the center of the island - cockfighting isn't just a pastime; it's actually a way of life, and it has been for centuries.

DEMBY: All right. So you said it's legal for now, which seems to imply that that's about to change, maybe?

FLORIDO: Yeah - really soon, actually. In just a couple of weeks, cockfighting is going to be illegal in Puerto Rico for the first time in, like, almost 100 years. And because of that, a lot of people think that they're going to be losing an essential part of Puerto Rican culture. And that's why I went to this cockfight recently.

DEMBY: All right. Let's go.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTERS CROWING)

FLORIDO: So I came to a cockfighting arena called the Gallera Borinquen. It's this rectangular building on the side of a mountain road in the middle of the island. It's got a huge rooster painted onto the side of it. It's one of the oldest cockfighting arenas in Puerto Rico.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: And on Saturdays, people - mostly men - from nearby communities bring their roosters here to fight.

(CROSSTALK)

FLORIDO: There's a little pit in the middle of the arena, and it's surrounded by bleachers. It looks like a miniature stadium. And people are cheering for their birds...

(CROSSTALK)

FLORIDO: ...Screaming at each other from across the bleachers to place bets.

(CROSSTALK)

FLORIDO: This man standing on his tiptoes, egging on his bird, is Johnny Rios.

What do you feel when you're sitting here watching this?

JOHNNY RIOS: (Laughter) I just - that you don't want your bird to get hurt; you want your bird to win.

FLORIDO: His rooster is looking pretty beat up. It's covered in blood.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).

RIOS: (Laughter).

(CROSSTALK)

FLORIDO: And it looks like it's going to lose the fight because the other bird has just been pecking away at it mercilessly. And it's stabbed Rios' bird a couple of times with its spurs, the little plastic spikes that they attached to their feet.

RIOS: You see - right now, he got no strength.

FLORIDO: Yeah, just looking pretty bad.

RIOS: Yeah, because of the wound that he got in top of the leg.

FLORIDO: But his bird doesn't give up. It gets this burst of energy, and it starts really attacking its opponent. And then suddenly, the fight takes a turn, and it's the other bird that's lying on the ground, gasping for air, unable to get up. It's pretty gruesome.

RIOS: If that one stays like that, we win it. If he gets up - don't - (speaking Spanish). He got up.

FLORIDO: After all that excitement, the fight turns out to be a draw.

RIOS: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).

RIOS: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).

RIOS: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Rios tells a friend to take his bird to the ringside veterinarian to clean his wounds because Rios is going to take the rooster back to his house - heal him up so he can fight again on another day.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTERS CROWING)

FLORIDO: Johnny Rios' house is in the mountains, not far away. It's got a killer view.

RIOS: I got three acres here. Nobody bothers me. I raise my own birds.

FLORIDO: He calls it his finca - his farm.

RIOS: I'm 69. I'm going on 70. And I've been fighting roosters since I was 15. My father was a cockfighter. My grandfather was a cockfighter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTER CROWING)

RIOS: So this has been my life and my passion.

FLORIDO: You can see that from the tattoo on his arm. It's a rooster framed by two words, tradicion y cultura - tradition and culture.

RIOS: I just don't put on any regular tattoo that you don't know what it says, like when you put on those Chinese (laughter) letters. You don't know what the hell they say. Well, I put it on because it means something to me.

FLORIDO: For most of his life, Rios lived in New York, where he fought roosters illegally.

RIOS: I got arrested about 100 times in New York fighting birds, you know, because I'm Puerto Rican. It's part of our heritage. It's part of our culture. And when I used to see the judge, the judge used to say, you're not in Puerto Rico no more (laughter). You're in New York. And in New York, we don't fight birds. OK. Well, then, fine. So...

FLORIDO: So he moved back to Puerto Rico, where he built this house on this little mountain peak. He's got his cages and his pens up here for raising his roosters.

What's this one's name?

RIOS: ATM (laughter).

FLORIDO: ATM. Why ATM?

RIOS: Because he kills them quick (laughter).

FLORIDO: He just pulls the money right out.

RIOS: Yup. Pulls the money right in. He kills them quick, and you go and you get your money. He already killed - he has nine fights.

FLORIDO: Nine fights?

RIOS: Yeah.

FLORIDO: Never lost one?

RIOS: No. No. And he has one eye only.

FLORIDO: In two weeks, on December 20, Johnny Rios' passion, cockfighting, is going to be illegal in Puerto Rico - a federal crime - because last year, Congress passed a ban on cockfighting in U.S. territories, which are the only places that Congress has authority over where cockfighting is still legal.

So December 20, the day that ban takes effect, is a day that thousands of cockfighters in Puerto Rico are dreading - one, because many of them make their living off of cockfighting, but also because cockfighting is deeply ingrained in Puerto Rican culture. It's a recurring theme in art and literature. The University of Puerto Rico, the island's most important public institution, has a rooster as its mascot.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORIDO: And so when this ban takes effect, for a lot of cockfighters, it's going to sort of be the end of a way of life because if they're caught breaking the law, they face steep penalties - up to five years in prison.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORIDO: Now, I say it's the end for a lot of these cockfighters because many of them have no plans to stop fighting roosters - like Johnny Rios.

RIOS: Most of the cockfighters - (speaking Spanish) - the true ones, they're going to continue on fighting. Right now I've got - you're going to see all the chicks that I got now for next year.

FLORIDO: So you're not scaling down at all?

RIOS: Hell no. (Laughter) You think if I did it in New York (laughter), that now that I'm in my own country and this had been part of our culture, I'm going to stop because (speaking Spanish) over there in - (laughter) put this law because these people - what's happening is that the American people, they don't know what's behind it.

All they see is two birds fighting. It's not just two birds fighting. It's the economy. It's the pride that goes into it. It's part of our culture. Like, we've been doing this over 100 years. And then all of a sudden, these people, who are not Puerto Rican, are going to come and tell us to stop? Hey, come on. That s*** is not going to happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORIDO: He said once the 60 or 70 licensed cockfighting arenas across the island shut down, people are just going to go underground. He's already preparing a couple of sites for illegal cockfights himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORIDO: Now, as you can probably sense from the way Rios talks about this, this is not just a story about cockfighting; it's a story about what happens when cultural values come into conflict, about the long history of that happening in Puerto Rico, and it's a story about who gets to decide what Puerto Rican culture is.

KITTY BLOCK: We're talking about cruelty. This is not about somebody's culture or the way they want to view themselves or what they want to respect or not respect.

DEMBY: And more on that after the break.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: Gene.

FLORIDO: Adrian.

DEMBY: CODE SWITCH.

All right. So before the break, Adrian, you were saying that Puerto Rico, which has this long-standing cockfighting culture...

FLORIDO: Yeah.

DEMBY: ...Is on the verge of banning it. But you also say that there are cockfighting arenas everywhere, that people love cockfighting. So if everybody rocks with cockfighting - that's a weird sentence - where did this ban come from in the first place?

FLORIDO: That's a good question. It did not come from Puerto Rico; it came from the U.S. Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETER ROSKAM: Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Amendment No. 28, report number 115-679...

FLORIDO: So, you know, cockfighting is already illegal in all 50 states. But for years, animal rights activists, specifically the U.S. Humane Society, have wanted it banned in Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories, too. And last year, they finally got members of Congress to pay attention.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROSKAM: We're talking about things that if it were to happen in the well of this chamber, many of us would look away because we would be shocked at the gratuitous violence. To characterize this as a cultural norm that we should just...

FLORIDO: This is Peter Roskam, who at the time was a congressman from Illinois. He and some colleagues wrote a few lines into last year's federal farm bill to ban cockfighting in U.S. territories. When the ban got introduced, though, it caught Puerto Rico's politicians by surprise.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JENNIFFER GONZALEZ COLON: Today, I rise to express my utter disappointment with the inclusion of extending of the provision of the cockfighting in the territories in the farm bill before us today.

FLORIDO: This is Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon, Puerto Rico's representative in Congress, who, because Puerto Rico is a territory and not a state, does not get to actually vote on bills. But still, she took to the House floor to try to get the cockfighting ban removed from the farm bill.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GONZALEZ COLON: For the case of Puerto Rico, we've been regulating the industry of cockfighting since 1933.

FLORIDO: And her argument was, look; Puerto Rico is in bad shape economically. It's in the middle of a 13-year recession. It's billions of dollars in debt. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave the island because they can't find work.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GONZALEZ COLON: This is an industry that represent more than $18 million in our economy and also more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs on the island. So we are talking about how distressful is the economic situation in the island, but then we are approving another federal regulation without even consulting the people of Puerto Rico or even the territories.

FLORIDO: You can hear she's frustrated because this just felt like the latest example of Puerto Ricans having no real political power.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GONZALEZ COLON: I represent 3.2 million American citizens on the island, but I can't vote on this floor. I don't have any representation on the Senate side. But then we have another regulation coming to the island with even giving us an opportunity to debate it or an opportunity to actually vote against it.

FLORIDO: Gonzalez's objections were futile, though. The ban stayed in. It passed last December. And in Puerto Rico, cockfighters were shocked.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Spanish).

FLORIDO: And so a few weeks later, at the end of January, thousands of them from across the island took buses and carpooled into the capital, San Juan, and they marched.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Spanish).

FLORIDO: A lot of them marched with their roosters, raising them into the air as they made their way through the streets.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Spanish).

FLORIDO: And to give a sense of how much people care about this, I've been to a lot of protests in Puerto Rico over the last couple of years, and other than the ones last summer that forced the governor to resign, this was one of the largest I saw. And the protesters were all saying more or less the same thing - this is our tradition; this is our culture.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in Spanish).

CARMEN YULIN CRUZ: (Speaking Spanish).

(CHEERING)

FLORIDO: Throughout the afternoon, politicians from across the island lined up to address the crowd. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz - she got up into the bed of a pickup truck at the front of the protest. Someone shoved a rooster into her arms. She took the microphone and told the crowd that she'd just signed an ordinance prohibiting city police from helping enforce the cockfighting ban once it takes effect.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

YULIN CRUZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: The mayor said that if federal agents wanted to stop a cockfight, they were going to have to do it alone. She planned to defy the ban.

(CHEERING)

FLORIDO: So as this protest was wrapping up, I saw an old man who was walking away from it with tears in his eyes.

LUIS ANGEL DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: He was wearing a little wooden medallion around his neck carved into the shape of a rooster and a hat with an embroidered rooster on it. And he told me that the news of the cockfighting ban had wounded his soul. He said, you have to understand something.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "People say this is about sacrificing animals, about animal cruelty," he said. "But we cockfighters - we don't see it that way. We respect these birds. We admire them for their bravery. They inspire us."

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: He asked me to come to his house in the town of Vega Alta. He wanted to show me what he meant when he said that they admire these birds; that cockfighting is more than just bloodshed, that it's a tradition with a long history. So a couple of months later, I did go to his house.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTER CLUCKING)

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTER CROWING)

FLORIDO: His name is Luis Angel del Valle. On the patio in front of his house, he had four roosters tied to cinder blocks. The strings attached to their feet were just long enough so the birds could roam the patio but not attack each other. And they all had names.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Electrico (ph), Gaiman (ph), Astro Boy (ph).

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "And this one," he said, picking up a regal red and black rooster, "this one is my love."

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish) (Laughter) (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "He's crazy about me," del Valle said.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish) (Laughter).

FLORIDO: We went into del Valle's backyard and sat under a lush bana (ph) tree, which was just starting to bear fruit again two years after Hurricane Maria damaged it. Del Valle looked up to make sure none of the giant fruits were going to fall on my head.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: (Laughter) (Speaking Spanish).

Like Johnny Rios, who we met earlier, and like a lot of cockfighters, del Valle comes from a long line of cockfighters. His father, his grandfathers - they gave him his first rooster to raise when he was a boy. And del Valle said he still remembers taking that rooster to the ring for its first fight. His bird lost. It was killed.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Del Valle said he cried for two days. But he said what that did was motivate him to breed birds that were even stronger, even more aggressive. He'd travel to different parts of the island to get advice from the old men who'd bred roosters for decades. Some of the roosters on del Valle's patio today are direct descendants of the ones he started breeding more than 50 years ago. Del Valle beams with pride about that.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "My roosters are pure," del Valle said. "They're fine. That's why they're so strong."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL GALLO DEL JIBARO")

ANDRES JIMENEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

FLORIDO: This respect del Valle has for his roosters is so common in Puerto Rico - so common there are songs about the relationship between men like him and their birds.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL GALLO DEL JIBARO")

JIMENEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

FLORIDO: This is one of those songs, "El Gallo Del Jibaro." It's by the popular folk singer Andres Jimenez, better known as El Jibaro.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL GALLO DEL JIBARO")

JIMENEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Listening to del Valle heap so much love on his birds is kind of striking because it can seem hard to reconcile the love that he and other cockfighters have for their roosters with the violence of cockfighting - with tossing them into a ring to peck and claw each other to death. But del Valle says cockfighters don't see a contradiction there. They see it like this.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "These roosters - God created them to fight," he said. "They're bred for this. They fight by instinct from the time they hatch. And because we have such affection for them, we give them the opportunity to do what they were born to do." He said this is what the activists and the members of Congress behind the cockfighting ban don't understand. He gets angry talking about this because he remembers the stories his grandfather used to tell him about the last time the U.S. banned cockfighting in Puerto Rico.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Del Valle is talking to me about a hundred-year-old history - about when the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico and took it from Spain during the Spanish-American War. It was a year later in 1899 that the U.S. government banned cockfighting on the island as part of a broader cultural project to Americanize its new colony in the Caribbean. It imposed English. At one point, it was illegal to display the Puerto Rican flag.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORIDO: Del Valle's grandfather told him stories about these tall, white men who'd visit poor communities in the mountains - congressmen.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "They were the people who knew how to get what they wanted," del Valle said. "They were the people who had the power." When cockfighting was banned, it just went underground. And it didn't come out into the open again until 1933, when a Puerto Rican senator convinced the island's U.S.-appointed governor to legalize it.

DEL VALLE: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "Now those people want to do the same thing again," del Valle said. "They want to take my roosters." He said it's the story of Puerto Rico's colonial condition - the U.S. government stamping out the things that define Puerto Rican identity, criminalizing its culture. But del Valle said, we're not going to let that happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: We work on every continent and in over 50 countries. And we hear this argument about culture all the time.

FLORIDO: This is Kitty Block. She's president of the U.S. Humane Society, which convinced Congress to pass the cockfighting ban. I asked to respond to this criticism that this ban is U.S. colonialism.

Do you feel like that's what this is, that this is some kind of an imposition, a colonial imposition on Puerto Rico?

BLOCK: Not at all. We're talking about cruelty. This is not about somebody's culture or the way they want to view themselves or what they want to respect or not respect. This is about stopping a heinous act of cruelty. Interestingly, I've been reading about some literature, someone doing some research and saying that cockfighting actually is a form of colonialism because that's what the Spaniards brought. And that was something that they brought to them when that was a colony of Spain. So there's lots of different ways of looking at that.

FLORIDO: She said, yes, cockfighting may be ingrained in Puerto Rican culture.

BLOCK: But the main point is, there are certain acts of cruelty, of violence, that should be prohibited whether it's somebodies culture or not. Cultures evolve. And just because it's been part of your society does not mean that act should stay legal or continued simply because you've built a number of things around it.

FLORIDO: Because cockfighting is so deeply ingrained in the culture and in certain communities, people have no intention of leaving it behind. They're saying, we're going to go underground, and that's going to be worse for the birds.

BLOCK: But that's like saying don't ever enact any law. Don't enact laws where you can't beat your spouse or have drugs to minors. Don't do it because it's just going to go underground because people are going to do it anyway. That's not a society. That's now how a society works. You go underground, you're an outlaw. And you're subject to enforcement and prison time. And these are significant penalties. And that's important.

FLORIDO: In Puerto Rico, there are plenty of people who agree with her on this - who support the ban, who do think cockfighting is cruel, and though it has been a part of Puerto Rican culture for a long time don't think it necessarily should continue to be. But there's no organized movement against cockfighting like in Spain, for example, where bullfighting is a big part of the culture. But there are also organized movements of Spaniards who oppose it. In Puerto Rico, there's none of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLORIDO: I talked to a historian, a man named Juan Llanes Santos. And I asked him why he thought that was this.

JUAN LLANES SANTOS: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Llanes said, "Look; you can't separate anything here from Puerto Rico's political relationship with the U.S. - from the fact that we aren't a state, we aren't independent, we don't have any voting representation in Congress, we can't vote for president, from the fact that we have very little say over our own affairs, that we have everything imposed on us."

LLANES SANTOS: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "And so," he said, "you have a lot of people who may not like cockfighting, who might think it's cruel, and yet, something they like even less is having outsiders come in and tell us what kind of cultural practices we can engage in as Puerto Ricans, to define Puerto Rican identity for us." And he said that's why a lot of people don't feel terribly motivated to actively oppose cockfighting. And it's why so many cockfighters are planning to defy the ban, to risk arrest. Some even say they're going to defend their roosters with their lives.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTERS CROWING)

FLORIDO: Jose Torres is one of those men. He, like the two cockfighters we've already met, is also a lifelong cockfighter. He also lives in the Central Mountains in a town called Utuado. He also wants to defy this ban. But for him, things are more complicated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTERS CROWING)

JOSE TORRES: Hey.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Torres has three little kids and a wife, Lizmary Rivera. He supports his family by raising and training roosters for fights. He's got cages for 250 birds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTERS CROWING)

TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: They're lined up in rows in his backyard. They're stacked up on his roof. And every day, the whole family gets up before sunrise to feed them...

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTERS CROWING)

FLORIDO: ...Let them out for exercise. If the roosters have injuries from their fights, they tend to their wounds.

TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: We sat down in the family's living room. Torres and Rivera sat on the couch. Their kids were on the floor playing with the family's favorite rooster. And Torres had a stern expression on his face.

TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "This industry is dead," he said. "We're already dead. All that's left is for them to come and bury us." Torres said, he could do what a lot of cockfighters are planning to do - to go underground, raise and fight roosters illegally.

TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: But he said he's not going to do that. He has a family to support, he said. And if he gets a federal felony conviction and is sent to prison, well, what good is that going to do his family? Instead, Torres is making plans to leave his family in Puerto Rico and head for the U.S.

TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: He's still making plans. He doesn't know where he's going to go - may it be Florida - or what he'll do in the states - probably paint houses or work as a roofer. He said, he wishes he didn't have to go, but he has no choice. He hopes he can come back if cockfighting is ever made legal again.

TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: But with Puerto Rico's economy the way it is, he said, there's nothing here for him. Before he leaves, though, Torres said he's got to figure out what to do with his roosters. One big, unanswered question in Puerto Rico is, what is going to happen to all the fighting roosters on the island? By some estimates, there are close to a million of them. Lots of cockfighters expect federal agents to start showing up to confiscate them, the way they do when they enforce cockfighting bans in the U.S. But Torres said, on his property, that is not going to happen.

TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "I already told my mother," he said, "and I told my wife that if anyone comes and tries to take one of my roosters, they're going to have to kill me first." And Torres told me that he is not alone in that sentiment. A lot of cockfighters on the island are talking about what they're going to do if federal agents do show up to take their birds.

TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "Mark my words," he said, "if that happens, Puerto Rico is going to be soaked in blood."

TORRES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Torres said, "that is the most logical thing, isn't it? Because how could cockfighters ask their roosters to fight to the death and not be willing to do the same?"

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA ESENCIA DE UN BUEN GALLERO")

JIMENEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

DEMBY: So it sounds like things are about to get really heated on the island.

FLORIDO: Yeah, man. It's going to be interesting to see, you know, what happens once enforcement of this ban starts after December 20.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA ESENCIA DE UN BUEN GALLERO")

JIMENEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

DEMBY: By the way, Adrian, what is this song that we're listening to right now? Like, what is this?

FLORIDO: So this song is called "La Esencia De Un Buen Gallero." It's also by Andres Jimenez. And, you know, opponents of cockfighting often paint cockfighters as these sort of shady characters involved in, like, other illicit activities. But this song is about how cockfighters in Puerto Rico view themselves as these honorable men who always do the right thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA ESENCIA DE UN BUEN GALLERO")

JIMENEZ: (Singing in Spanish).

DEMBY: All right, y'all, that's our show. You can follow us on Twitter @NPRCodeSwitch. You can follow Shereen, who isn't here, @RadioMirage. That's Radio Mirage. Look it up. I'm @geedee215. We want to hear from you. Our email is codeswitch@npr.org. Sign up for our newsletter that comes out every week at npr.org/newsletter/codeswitch. And subscribe to the podcast on NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.

FLORIDO: This episode was produced by Maria Paz Gutierrez.

DEMBY: A matter of fact, MPG, come here real quick.

MARIA PAZ GUTIERREZ, BYLINE: Hi.

DEMBY: (Laughter).

GUTIERREZ: I'm going to miss you guys.

DEMBY: You've heard Maria Paz's name on the credits a million times. She's one of our producers. This is her last week on the CODE SWITCH podcast before she goes on to greener pastures.

What are you going to miss most about CODE SWITCH and talking about race, ethnicity and culture?

GUTIERREZ: The shade.

(LAUGHTER)

GUTIERREZ: Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDRES JIMENEZ SONG, "LA ESENCIA DE UN BUEN GALLERO")

FLORIDO: This episode was edited by Alison MacAdam and Leah Donnella.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDRES JIMENEZ SONG, "LA ESENCIA DE UN BUEN GALLERO")

DEMBY: And shoutout to the rest of the CODE SWITCH fam - the great Shereen Marisol Meraji, Karen Grigsby Bates, Kumari Devarajan, LA Johnson, Jess Kung and Steve Drummond. Our intern is Angela Vang. I'm Gene Demby.

FLORIDO: And I'm Adrian Florido.

DEMBY: Be easy, y'all.

FLORIDO: Later.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDRES JIMENEZ SONG, "LA ESENCIA DE UN BUEN GALLERO")

FLORIDO: Egging on, (laughter). Egging on.

DEMBY: His bird.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTER CROWING)

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