Once Forbidden, Hialeah Pigeon Competitions Now Legal
High above the Miami sky, two pigeons are falling in love.
And on the ground, Mario “Mayito” Lopez is beaming.
This is what he has trained his prized pigeon, El Bastardo, to do: elegantly seduce lady birds and bring them back to roost.
With a plump neck and iridescent green and purple feathers, El Bastardo is a champion in the local world of pigeon breeding. It’s a world Lopez has been infatuated with since he was a boy in Cuba, where raising, breeding and training birds to woo one another is a way of life.
“I love it,” said Lopez, who lives in Westchester and owns his own garage door installation company. “Some people love a dog or a cat or any other animal. This is the one that I like.”
The tradition has been transplanted by Cubans to Miami-Dade County’ neighborhoods like Kendall and Hialeah. Lopez, 40, estimates there are about 300 members of the local Club de Palomos Ladrones, which organizes competitions and crowns the most successful gigolo pigeons — or rather, their owners — with trophies and prize money.
“It’s all about beauty and seduction,” said Roberto Fumero, who raises pigeons in the backyard of his Hialeah townhouse.
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