The Don King of Cockfights

He whipped Bob Dornan. Now Latino activist Nativo Lopez turns his attention to cocks of a different sort

Illustration by Bob AulThe location of Nativo Lopez's mind has become a subject of interest for those aware of the former political heavyweight's recent crusade: cockfighting.

Yep, the man who went toe to toe with Bob Dornan and won, the man who five years ago seemed on his way to becoming one of the region's leading Latino power brokers, was spotted recently using his position as president of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) to push the agenda of those who enjoy and profit from cockfighting.

Lopez's obsession with cockfighting came to our attention when colleague Gustavo Arellano wrote in a Sept. 2 "Ask a Mexican" that Lopez was leading opposition to Senate Bill 156. That legislation would make repeat cockfighting offenses punishable as a felony. Lopez had called the bill "completely oblivious to the cultural, economic and social realities of our community."

A lot of people, myself included, thought Arellano and Lopez were using cockfighting as a metaphor, you know, as for that thing men do to test each other, to see how they measure up, as it were, you know, the reason men buy big trucks and start land wars, all of it best summed up by the Richard Pryor joke about two gents unzipping while standing on a bridge—Gent 1: "That water's cold!" Gent 2: "And deep!"

But no: not metaphorical. A fellow who goes by Jubal on OC Blog (ocblog.typepad.com) was intrigued enough by Arellano's piece to do some research and found that "Lopez really, really, really loves cockfighting and his MAPA is working hand in glove with the California Association for the Preservation of Gamefowl (APG)."

Beneath the headline "Nativo Lopez: On His Way to Being the Don King of Cock Fighting?" Jubal referenced someone called "Tornado" on the Cockfightsonline.com site describing Lopez's appearance at the 2004 APG annual convention. Lopez reportedly "discussed our current situation, and what it would take to join our efforts and grow our numbers and fight hand in hand against all of the atrocities committed against us. . . . I encourage everyone that can to join [MAPA] for the betterment of our sport, and legal representation, you don't have to be Mexican American to join. I'm sure we will be hearing more about this in the near future. . . ."

Though it's difficult to question the logic of a person/weather system who believes that laws regarding a "sport" where small animals outfitted with tiny razors fight to the death amount to "atrocities," the fact is that MAPA may have already retrenched from its earlier, Lopez-inspired position of support. Apparently Arellano and Jubal's pieces made it around the Internet. Now the MAPA website, which once called SB156 "unnecessary" and "mean-spirited," does not mention cockfighting at all.

So, if Lopez's championing of cockfighting is over, why did it start in the first place? There seem to be only three possibilities. First, it seems likely that Lopez, the man who went from power broker to recalled school board member to marginalized politico, believed a dedicated, single-issue, fringe group with vague ties to national identity would strengthen his organization the way the NRA has bolstered the Republican Party. There might have been a great piece of video associated with it—Lopez standing before a cheering crowd of cockfighting enthusiasts with a rooster in his raised hand, shouting, "If they want my cock they'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hand!"

Then there's the possibility that Lopez, who called cockfighting "an old Mexican tradition" in an interview with SocialistWorker.com, honestly believes the sport is a critical aspect of Mexican culture. Of course, that would mean Italians still yearned for thieves to be crucified, but okay.

Finally, and we find this the most probable: dude just really likes cockfighting and had to find a way to rationalize it.

And no, I'm not going to examine why someone would like cockfighting. It's not my cup of blood sport—two roosters flutter their wings and jump at each other, the only hint of violence being the intermittent explosions of feathers that make the whole affair look like a tickle fight between Rip Taylor and Phyllis Diller—but to each his own. As I write this, news has just come that boxer Leavander Johnson has died from injuries sustained in a lightweight title fight, and you can bet some people paid a lot of money to sit ringside and watch it all happen.

And really, anyone who isn't a vegetarian hardly has a complaint about the cruelty of cockfighting. Not when PETA estimates that 10 billion birds are slaughtered for food every year, most of them in awful circumstances. In fact, PETA is campaigning against KFC because, it claims, the chicken giant's faulty killing equipment causes birds to be "scalded alive in feather-removal tanks or have their throats slit while they are still conscious." A friend suggested that as horrible as the chickens' fate is, at least they died for the greater good: to feed humanity. But, c'mon, let's face it. Most of them died to be fried and served with cholesterol-laden side dishes and to contribute to the burgeoning obesity-related diseases that, doctors tell us, will wreak havoc in a generation.

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