Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

2-9 Cockfighting Ban Likely

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- This may be the year that cockfighting gets banned. The odds greatly improved when the Senate Conservation Committee approved the ban on a close vote.
For many years, that panel was where cockfighting legislation went to die. But a new strategy this year started the bill in that committee. It appears to be smooth sailing from here.
The bill made it through a second committee in a matter of days and is headed to the Senate floor. House passage is expected to be even easier.
Another difference this year is Gov. Bill Richardson's active support of the ban. The word around legislative hallways is that Richardson is doing some heavy-duty arm twisting to move the bill quickly..
The Catholic Church also supports the ban this year. Other than that, everything is about the same. Proponents of the ban call it barbaric. Opponents call it part of their culture.
Dave Clary, of Roswell, my expert on just about everything, has cast some light on the culture claim for me. Clary has just finished authoring the critically acclaimed Adopted Son, revealing the relationship between George Washington and the Marquis d' Lafayette that won our Revolutionary War.
Clary now is working on a book about the Mexican-American War, which took the American Southwest away from Mexico. In his research, Clary discovered that neither cockfighting nor bull fighting made its way up to this area during the Spanish Colonial period.
It was when Mexico won its independence in 1821 that the blood sports began moving north. In 1824, politicians in Santa Fe condemned the City of Durango, Mexico, where those sports flourished. They pronounced such pastimes as "opposed to republican virtues."
But by 1845, a bull ring appeared on the Santa Fe plaza and both sports became commonplace in New Mexico.
The immense popularity of cockfighting in Mexico was greatly aided by President Antonio Lopez Santa Anna, who at least one historian says was more interested in cockfighting than government.
Santa Anna usually could be found in the plaza at San Agustin, just outside Mexico City, where non-stop cockfights were held year-round. One historian describes Santa Anna as the "heart and soul" of this cockfighting arena. He brought his cocks, set the rules for the fights, checked the birds to assure that their spurs were fitted right, and always won.
And if Santa Anna's cheating wasn't enough to win a fight, his opponents would cheat in his favor. Everyone loved him and it was an honor to rub elbows with the Great Supreme Chief. He even took game cocks with him into battle.
There's no telling whether any of this had an effect on Gov. Richardson's hands-off approach to cockfighting legislation in the past. Maybe he listened to Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez who says no one can be elected president in this country without opposing cockfighting.
Clary notes that Santa Anna was re-elected 11 times while he was his nation's leading patron of cockfighting. In his last term, his interests turned to opera, after which he was run out of the country. Maybe there's a message there too.
I probably need to apologize to most of my readers for my attitude about cockfighting. I certainly don't support it but I have trouble getting too worked up about legislation to prohibit it.
I know people who raise and fight game cocks. They are good people. Their birds are well cared for and they live much longer than those destined for Colonel Sanders.
My main problem, however, is with wasting time passing prohibitive legislation. None of it has ever worked or ever will, even though people have tried from the beginning of time. The world's oldest profession is good evidence of that.
But if the Legislature passes it this year, maybe it will be out of the way in the future. But little will change.
FRI, 2-0907

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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