Here’s how it goes down: A live rooster is buried up to its neck, allowing it to look around and evaluate the situation it’s in. Being a rooster (gallo), it doesn’t likely know what to make of the crowd or the machete, but it still seems plenty uncomfortable and whether it’s the panic or the pressure of the earth, it struggles to breathe. Once or twice it escapes, only to be buried again.
Meanwhile, the village of predominantly Afro-Latinos is celebrating. Those in the crowd lean against old buildings or sit in plastic chairs at the edge of the dirt street. It’s a nice day, the street is dry, people open Colombian beers or get into a bottle of viche – the raw local alcohol made from sugarcane. They are celebrating Colombian independence from the Spanish in a way unique to the local villages, thought to have its roots in Catholicism, African ancestry and Colombian national heritage.
Which brings us back to the machete. The rooster “enjoys” the attention of curious children while an adult volunteer is selected. Some 60 feet from the rooster, she is blindfolded and takes hold of the machete. The man in charge takes a look at his cell phone as he walks her toward the rooster. Upon reaching the rooster, she reaches down to feel it, is turned around and walked back to the starting point. That was all the help she gets. Three spins and she is on her own. Left dizzy and blind, facing in the direction of the rooster, she staggers off to the cheers and jeers of the crowd, machete pointed dead ahead. But then she veers!
The laughing or screaming onlookers from the sidelines dodge the machete and her blindfold is removed. She doesn’t get to kill to the rooster today.
Volunteers continue trying until someone cuts off the head or the rooster is given to the person who gets closest. During my time as a spectator no blood was spilled. A feast is prepared for all to share and the following year the winner supplies the rooster.