It doesn’t exactly mirror the intensity of Super Bowl Sunday, or even Wrestlemania Sunday, but the fans going to this event in Loiza, Puerto Rico, are going to be worked into a frenzy in about 15 minutes. The fighters they’ve come to see are being prepped right up to the last minute, as handlers secure razor-sharp blades to their feet.
Welcome to the sometimes brutal — many say cruel — world of Puerto Rican cock fighting.
“This is a cockfight, this is a real, real, real traditional thing in Puerto Rico,” reggaetón superstar Don Omar explains while a throng of his friends and random strangers yell excitedly in the background.
In the United States cockfighting has been outlawed, deemed barbaric and inhumane, but in Puerto Rico, attending a cockfight is just as natural as going to Shea Stadium to watch Pedro Martinez pitch.
“You know, Puerto Rico is part of the States, but you can’t see this in the United States,” Omar continues. “Maybe those things you only see it in Puerto Rico. Maybe in the United States they don’t got cockfights because they’ve got something [against it]. In Puerto Rico it is a big tradition. Big on Sundays, all Sundays. You come with your friends, you come with your family.”
Pointing into the stands on the opposite side of the circular venue, he says, “Those are friends from school. That’s the people who I work with.”
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The love Omar gets in his native Puerto Rico is rivaled only by Daddy Yankee and Tego Calderón — the two other undisputed kings of the reggaetón genre.
“Give me that support, and that start,” Omar said. “I make my music, I make my things. [The people] give it to me. And you know what? We love that here, we love our culture, we love everything. I’m so proud to be Puerto Rican, to be a Latino. I’ve got my family, got my people showing me love. I love that. I came from that place where people really need to express themselves.”
Omar, who last year made a splash with the monster hit “Reggaeton Latino,” has his Universal Records debut, King of Kings, coming out May 23. He has guest appearances by Juelz Santana, Beenie Man and Miri Ben-Ari, among others. The first single is called “Angelito” and has been in heavy rotations in the U.S. and Latin America for weeks.
Omar’s Sunday on his home island wasn’t all fighting and wilding out. He spent time riding his motorcycle with his crew (he’s an avid biker) and at the family hangout spot, Piñones, playing checkers, kissing babies and hugging fans.
“I’m so proud to be Latino,” he reiterated. “I’m so proud. We’ve got good people in Latin America — Venezuelans, Colombians, Nicaraguans, Ecuadorians. When we made ‘Reggaeton Latino,’ we never expected that it’s gonna be so big. That’s a moment that all Latinos forget about where you are. No, I’m Latino. Forget about if you’re from Venezuela, forget about if you’re from PR, forget about if you are from Cuba. We are Latinos. And I think ‘Reggaeton Latino’ broke the rules.”