Cockfighters find sympathetic ears in 35th Guam Legislature
Among them lifelong cockfighter Sen. Jose "Pedo" Terlaje
In response to a call to action from local advocacy groups, Speaker Tina Muna Barnes committed to protecting what she maintains is the Chamorro traditional practice of cockfighting. A rider provision buried in the recently passed U.S. Farm Bill included a ban on cockfighting in all U.S. territories, which had previously been exempted from the law prevailing in the mainland U.S.
“Cockfighting is one of the many instances that our rights have been impeded on,” Muna Barnes said.
Earlier this week, mayors of our island as well as the CNMI came together and opposed the ban. “As Speaker, I am here to listen, and ask you, our experts in the classroom as well as the cockfighting community, what should we do going forward” she added as she addressed a room full of proponents from the cockfighting community at a teach-in held at the University of Guam last night by Dr. Michael Bevacqua.
Dr. Bevaqua presents his the history of cockfighting on Guam. Photo by Independent Guahan
Bevacqua was able to trace back cockfighting on Guam to the Spanish Era and produced historical records of its existence. He also provided a U.S. Navy fiscal statement from 1913 which demonstrated that the U.S. government actually taxed cockfighting on Guam in the early 1900s.
Muna Barnes was also joined by Sen. Kelly Marsh-Taitano, who stated “What struck me the hardest last night was hearing stories from families themselves about how cockfighting has long been a part of their lives - how caring for these birds have been passed down from father to son or daughter for many generations now. It’s important to underscore that its social value is personally significant for so many families.”
Lifelong-cockfighter, Sen. Jose “Pedo” Terlaje also stated that he will work with his fellow cockfighters and support any measure to protect this culturally significant sport.
Going forward, Muna Barnes plans to continue the dialogue with her colleagues and local cockfighters to explore what "options we may have going forward."