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Why the Cocks Fight

Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

Like two roosters in a fighting arena, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are encircled by barriers of geography and poverty. They co-inhabit the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, but their histories are as deeply divided as their cultures: one French-speaking and black, one Spanish-speaking and mulatto. Yet, despite their antagonism, the two countries share a national symbol in the rooster--and a fundamental activity and favorite sport in the cockfight. In this book, Michele Wucker asks: "If the symbols that dominate a culture accurately express a nation's character, what kind of a country draws so heavily on images of cockfighting and roosters, birds bred to be aggressive? What does it mean when not one but two countries that are neighbors choose these symbols? Why do the cocks fight, and why do humans watch and glorify them?"

Wucker studies the cockfight ritual in considerable detail, focusing as much on the customs and histories of these two nations as on their contemporary lifestyles and politics. Her well-cited and comprehensive volume also explores the relations of each nation toward the United States, which twice invaded both Haiti (in 1915 and 1994) and the Dominican Republic (in 1916 and 1965) during the twentieth century. Just as the owners of gamecocks contrive battles between their birds as a way of playing out human conflicts, Wucker argues, Haitian and Dominican leaders often stir up nationalist disputes and exaggerate their cultural and racial differences as a way of deflecting other kinds of turmoil. Thus Why the Cocks Fight highlights the factors in Caribbean history that still affect Hispaniola today, including the often contradictory policies of the U.S.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 01, 1999 – The U.S. has sent troops to Haiti and the Dominican Republic four times in this century, twice to each country. In the last 20 years, reports Wucker, one-eighth of the population of the island of Hispaniola has emigrated to the U.S. Wucker, a freelance journalist, delves much deeper than mere numbers and chronology, supplementing her knowledge of the island's history with a great sense of the fabric of everyday life in the two countries. While each chapter is discrete enough to stand alone, cumulatively they create a passionate mural of the often bloody relationship between wary neighbors. Among the critical issues and events Wucker addresses are the role of geography as a barrier, European settlement, slave revolts, the role of the sugar industry and the experience of Dominican and Haitian immigrants in the U.S. Wucker's treatment of Dominican racism toward Haitians is particularly good, capturing the nuance and ambivalence at work when two peoples who are not nearly as different as they would sometimes like to believe are stuck together on a small piece of land with limited resources. Throughout the book, Wucker uses the metaphor of cockfighting, presenting the countries as two roosters forced (sometimes by the U.S.) to battle in a small, enclosed ring. If she relies a bit too heavily on this trope, Wucker more than makes up for the minor indulgence with her insightful treatment of many cultural issues, particularly the politicized nature of language, to which she brings an understanding of Creole, Spanish and French. Clear prose and vivid scenes of life at street level make Wucker's first book a marvelous immersion experience in the clash and conciliation of cultures on a small, embattled island next door. FYI: Why the Cocks Fight makes good companion reading to Edwidge Danticat's novel, The Farming of Bones (Forecasts, June 8.)
Why the Cocks Fight
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  • $7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: History
  • Published: Apr 08, 2014
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 324 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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