One Old Cripple I Remember To Have Seen In The Little Town Of
Guines, Stiff With Wounds Received In Combat,
Who had probably got a
furlough for life, and who, while limping among his female companions,
maintained a sort of
Strut in his gait, and now and then stopped to crow
defiance to the world. The peasants breed game-cocks and bring them to
market; amateurs in the town train them for their private amusement.
Dealers in game-cocks are as common as horse-jockies with us, and every
village has its cock-pit.
I went on Monday to the _Valla de Gallos_, situated in that part of Havana
which lies without the walls. Here, in a spacious inclosure, were two
amphitheatres of benches, roofed, but without walls, with a circular area
in the midst. Each was crowded with people, who were looking at a
cock-fight, and half of whom seemed vociferating with all their might. I
mounted one of the outer benches, and saw one of the birds laid dead by
the other in a few minutes. Then was heard the chink of gold and silver
pieces, as the betters stepped into the area and paid their wagers; the
slain bird was carried out and thrown on the ground, and the victor, taken
into the hands of the owner, crowed loudly in celebration of his victory.
Two other birds were brought in, and the cries of those who offered wagers
were heard on all sides. They ceased at last, and the cocks were put down
to begin the combat. They fought warily at first, but at length began to
strike in earnest, the blood flowed, and the bystanders were heard to
vociferate, "_ahi estan pelezando_" - "_mata! mata! mata!_"
gesticulating at the same time with great violence, and new wagers were
laid as the interest of the combat increased. In ten minutes one of the
birds was dispatched, for the combat never ends till one of them has his
In the mean time several other combats had begun in smaller pits, which
lay within the same inclosure, but were not surrounded with circles of
benches. I looked upon the throng engaged in this brutal sport, with eager
gestures and loud cries, and could not help thinking how soon this noisy
crowd would lie in heaps in the pits of the Campo Santo.
In the evening was a masked ball in the Tacon Theatre, a spacious
building, one of the largest of its kind in the world. The pit, floored
over, with the whole depth of the stage open to the back wall of the
edifice, furnished a ball-room of immense size. People in grotesque masks,
in hoods or fancy dresses, were mingled with a throng clad in the ordinary
costume, and Spanish dances were performed to the music of a numerous
band. A well-dressed crowd filled the first and second tier of boxes. The
Creole smokes everywhere, and seemed astonished when the soldier who stood
at the door ordered him to throw away his lighted segar before entering.
Once upon the floor, however, he lighted another segar in defiance of the
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