Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lawlessness in rural New Mexico--at least with regard to cockfighting

This story in Sunday's New York Times discusses the persistence of cock-fighting in New Mexico, even after the state became the 49th to ban the activity in 2007. The feature illustrates the difficulty in effectively enforcing a law when law enforcement support for the ban is lukewarm and when their resources are limited. Other challenges are posed by the rural locales where the cockfighting takes place, as well as the weak penalties associated with the New Mexico ban.

Here's a short excerpt from Adam Ellick's story, which has a dateline of Chaparral, population 6,100, on the border with Mexico:

After two weeks of preparation, 150 officers, backed up by a helicopter, slipped into this sleepy desert town. Their focus was not illegal immigration or drug smuggling, but a less pressing crime: cockfighting.

But when they raided what was billed as the Christmas Cockfighting Derby in December expecting to find 300 cockfighters, they found fewer than a dozen people. The cockfighters had been tipped off, the police said, and the officers issued tickets for four misdemeanors before seizing 12 shrieking roosters.

The story also features this rich quote from a rooster breeder:
“A gamecock shows me what an American should be like . . . . You defend to the death.”
Here's the closing vignette:

For 16 years, Richard and Louisa Lopez operated a 310-seat cockfighting arena at their farm in Luis Lopez, N.M. The $30,000 they earned annually from the operation helped subsidize their farm expenses, and send their children to college. Last month, they used the arena for their family reunion and a baby shower.

“We don’t have money to buy diesel sometimes,” Mr. Lopez said. “And this is the place that kept my farm going.”

New Mexico courts in January dismissed a suit by the New Mexico Gamefowl Association claiming economic devastation. An animal control investigator was similarly unsympathetic to to the Lopezes and others like them, stating: "You need to go find a job at Wal-Mart.” Guess that sorta' sums up the economic situation in rural New Mexico.

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