“It’s the sort of place that families would go on a Sunday afternoon,” Washington Post photographer Sarah L. Voisin told In Sight, referring to a government sanctioned cockfighting ring on the outskirts of Havana. “This sport clearly runs in the veins in of Cubans,” she said.

Part restaurant, part farm, part cockfighting ring, La Finca Alcona is one of a handful of state-run venues permitted to partake in the bloody sport. While the fights are sanctioned, betting on them is is strictly forbidden, — gambling in Cuba has been illegal since Castro’s 1959 revolution. And at La Finca Alcona, security guards act as bouncers throughout the arena to try and prevent spectators from gambling Voisin said, but sometimes it does happen.

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To get your bird in the ring is a lengthy process Voisin said. First you have to see a veterinarian who inspects the bird, then the bird is weighed, registered and given a division. And before the fight, competitors attach spurs and wax on to their legs.

Inside the crowded venue, birds are are seen everywhere Voisin said. “People walk around with their birds, birds tied up like dogs in a backyard,  and other are just waiting their turn” she said. But competitors can take a break,  “If you wanted to go eat,” Voisin said, ” you can check you bird in like a piece of luggage.”

While families enjoy the restaurant, outside of the muddy ring spectators scream, shout and jump out their seats with excitement as the birds rip into one another. Spectators of all different socioeconomic backgrounds are as Voisin describes “mesmerized by it.” But “you can’t get too emotional in there,” she said.  Security guards quickly suppress any excitement or “emotional outbursts” that might result in a fight Voisin said.

Cockfighting is one of the most popular sports in Cuba. Voisin describes a part of the county’s love affair with birds. “It’s like a past time,” Voisin said, “the same way some people like to crochet a blanket.”

See more of Sarah L. Voisin’s work from Cuba:

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