Cockfighting is one of the most traditional and controversial pursuits in Puerto Rico, a blood sport which dates back to the Spanish colonial period and is vigorously defended by its chief supporters. The main arena for cockfights in San Juan is Club Gallistico de Puerto Rico, at Avda Isla Verde 6600. Ringside seats are $40, but the $10.70 seats higher up provide perfectly adequate views. Women are welcome, though in practice you won’t see many inside.

After being weighed and given a brief “warm-up”, the two combatants are released and the fight begins, accompanied by frenetic shouting around the ring as bets are placed. You’ll hear cries of “azul, azul!” (blue) for one and “blanco, blanco!” (white) for the other, followed by the amount being waged – white or blue ribbons denote which rooster is which. Fights run almost continuously throughout the day and last a maximum of fifteen minutes each, or until one of the roosters can no longer stand (you’ll rarely see them die in the ring). It’s certainly a unique experience, but be warned: the roosters really do peck the hell out of each other and the arena floor can become bloody – it may be too disturbing for some to watch. The main season is January to May; check in advance at other times.

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