Are you scared of the night? Horror movies have placed in our minds the idea that when everything seems calm, something bad is going to happen. Besides any surrealist creature is one that is part vampire and part wolf. One that might not be as appealing as Edward Cullen from Twilight, neither Jacob; the werewolf. It is the Chupacabra, also known as goat-sucker in English. A mythical beast that attacks quietly. His monstrous signature is the punctures on the neck of the livestock, where the blood was being sucked out. But, what exactly is this creature and how does it look? Both of these questions are what makes monsters intriguing. It all started in 1995, in the town of Canóvanas in Puerto Rico. Rumors started to circulate among farmers. However, the first person to see the mysterious monster was Madeline Torrentino. Some of her descriptions regarding the monster have been restated by further witnesses, whereas a few other physical traits vary. Amongst the famous appearance of the Chupacabra in Puerto Rico are his mesmerizing red eyes, strong legs like a kangaroo, a bipedal with tiny front arms, sharp claws, fangs, and on his torso a sequence of spines or scales (Derby 291). Sounds like a science fiction film, right? Nevertheless, the creature found its way out from the Caribbean sea to Latin America. For that reason, the unexplained events to the livestock converted the creature part of the Latin folklore. The purpose for me to mention such a monster is not entirely to entertain with an urban legend but inform how we can understand a culture through the existence of the monster.
The creature became very popular that TV programs like Monster Quest from History Channel were fascinated with the idea of hunting mythical creatures. Although, they never found promising traces of the monster when looking intentionally for the Chupacabra. People do this never-ending search due to curiosity, which gives a sense of adventure when trying to trap something unique. At the same time, the reason to chase monsters is to get rid of something that is considered ‘bad’ for the community. People in Latin America were afraid of the Chupacabra attacking not only animals but them. Humans like to have the control over everything that Earth has to offer and being threatened by a powerful and mysterious existence generated anxiety. But let’s be honest, fear induces discipline too. That is why mom and dad tell the child stories in order to make him act as instructed. For example, sleep early. Even if a creature with those incredible features exist, people make the monster fit unto their stories and beliefs. Davis Schmid, author of books of imaginary and real monsters, discusses that “ Monster narratives help us share an experience of horror and address our real anxieties, from wars and economic disasters, to insane political situations, climatic ruin and other issues in the news” (qtd. in Donovan). The history of a monster is a subtle representation of the society we live in. The monster itself might represent a person, system, or fear. Monsters exist for a purpose, sometimes is easier to analyze other times not.
Only two years after the first encounter with the monster, the X-files series released the episode “The World Turns” in 1997. Due to the impact of the Chupacabras story in society. The episode depicted how the FBI agents Mulder and Scully try to find the person responsible for the death of Maria Dorantes, an illegal immigrant residing in California. Her unusual death was quickly associated with the Chupacabras, even though her blood was not sucked but her faced looked eaten. It happened when yellow rain covered the land, and his companion Eladio Buente resulted unscathed. That is why, he was found guilty and became on the human image of the Chupacabras for migrants. We fear the unknown and for everything that seems different people use the term Chupacabras as a way to understand it. In fact, the death of Maria was due to the direct contact of an Aspergillus enzyme that came from outer space. To which, Eladio developed immune tolerance and was now a carrier of the enzyme. The officer Lozano from the Immigration and Naturalization Service said to Mulder that immigrants created “fantasies to keep on going, to feel alive because they are strangers here, they feel hated, unwanted…” (“Watch the X-files”). We often hear stories of monsters that sound like a horrible nightmare to which you know it is a product of imagination but still fear it. Such stories divert our attention from other problems. Like Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, the author of the book in Monster theory explains that “The monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy…giving them life and an uncanny independence”(4). This quote is similar to what officer Lozano mentioned. This psychological attributes shape a monster, which goes beyond grotesque looks. Every monster serves as a projection of society. Similarly, Puerto Ricans like the immigrants portrayed in the episode feared the “belonging to but not being a part of the United States” (Derby 293-294). In the case of Puerto Rico, it became an annexed territory in 1898. However, since it was incorporated into the U.S., the soil was used for military purposes. Therefore, rather than being treated like the rest of the U.S. land, it was often used for war testing without the consent of its people. It was and still is a complicated relationship.
In the end of the episode, Eladio’s brother got infected and escaped together. Scully explains to her boss that “they have a way of being almost invisible” and Mulder adds “ the truth is nobody cares”(“Watch the X-files”). Meaning by invisible that immigrants escape from police, but so do monsters from hunters. This is part of thesis two: The Monster Always Escapes. Nowadays, technology is very advanced, there is also more population and therefore deforestation. Then, why is it still difficult to find the Chupacabras and from where does it return or where is its hiding place? Cohen writes “We see the damage that the monster wreaks, the material remains… but the monster itself turns immaterial and vanishes, to reappear someplace else” (4). In Puerto Rico, many animals were found dead the next morning, the animals did not have health issues; it was a predator that killed them by consuming their blood and a couple of organs. Mass media spread rumors regarding the attacks. Subsequently, in other places of America like Mexico, Argentina, and Chile, similar events started to occur. The Chupacabras never stayed static, it wondered the frontiers of land and always found a way to escape. Leaving behind only the corpses that veterinarians examined. Because no footprints, no fur, nor remains of saliva could be analyzed. Thus, among all the attention-grabbing hypothesis for the origin and functionality of the Chupacabras; these lead to more questions. Therefore, until the creature is finally defined, it becomes an investigation in circles. Since it is difficult to study something that you barely know what it is. For that reason, the Chupacabras is considered a cryptid—an animal that is not believed to exist— like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.
The physical characteristics associated with the chupacabras are hard to believe. For example, how can a creature drink that much blood a day? Why does not he eat the flesh? According to the veterinarian, Ramiro Necoechea, to consume such quantity needs an stomach of 100 liters and weight approximately 500 kilograms. This does not correlate to the estimated weight from the witnesses of 20 to 35 kilograms (“Latinoamerica”).Hence, the existence of the Chupacabras defies science knowledge. In addition, the size that is frequently mentioned is 3 to 5 feet tall, that does not correlate to the fact of his diet. If it attacks quietly; does it use anesthesia on its victims? Maybe his digestive system isn’t rich to process solids and that’s why drinks blood. However, blood is difficult for the stomach to process due to the iron in its content. Benjamin Radford a scientific paranormal investigator who has contributed in more than twenty books regarding urban legends, expresses that “like several other ‘chupacabras’ found in Texas and elsewhere in recent years, a simple look at the mouth demonstrates that is physically impossible for animals to suck blood” (qtd. in Ross).This implies the lack of verification of the dead animals and the apparent captures of a Chupacabras with a wild dog appearance. Such real captures started in 2007, after the chupacabras attacks disappeared from news headlines. American scientist try to incorporate the chupacabras to similar classified animals that are not monsters. In this case, to the canines group. It is hypothesized to be a hybrid between a Mexican wolf and a coyote with mange (Elbein). Mange is caused by a parasite mite, and one side effect is the loss of fur in animals. So far, many believers of the chupacabras refused the idea of it being a coyote hybrid. Nonetheless, it is one of the more realistic and analyzed hypothesis for the chupacabras. Although, experts have not make official that this is the reality of the urban legend. This is lead us to thesis three of Cohen, where the monster resists categorization as a way of integration. Cohen describes monsters as “disturbing hybrids…that threatens to smash distinctions” and “appears at times of crisis”(Cohen 6). Humans like to classify things as a way to understand them. It is a way to validate the existence of species and analyze behavioral patterns. Once classified, it is accepted as ‘real’. We do not like what is different. Many people hold the belief that whatever is distinct from us must be evil. Thus, an animal that is difficult to capture or restrain, and is dangerous ‘must’ be a ‘monster’.
After all the research, one can point out that the urban legend of the chupacabras is a depiction of the insecurities of residents of Latin America regarding the perceptions of its government. It also symbolizes the fear of the night and the unknown. The fantastic features of the chupacabras might have been exaggerated generation to generation, where the mass media had a great influence too. The attacks looked very real, but after all this time the identity of the chupacabras is still pending. The monster is a projection of the culture and open to interpretations, for that reason, “This thing of darkness I [society] acknowledge mine”(Cohen 20). There are many versions of the chupacabras and names. Inclusively, I rate the chupacabras with a 7. For the unique way to kill its prey, and history. When I heard about it as a child, it sound scary. It is surprising how the monster always escapes, but I found hard to believe that there is not enough evidence and resources to find it. And regarding the apparent captures of the creature, they never show how this kills animals; they only show the dissected body. There must be something that makes it different from the typical coyote or wolf. Like in the anecdotes of Puerto Ricans, the monster attacks alone, does not eat the flesh. Which is the contrary of how wolfs attack.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1996.
I used the document provided at class to explain the monster and culture.
Derby, Lauren. “Imperial Secrets: Vampires and Nationhood in Puerto Rico.” Past & Present, 2008 Supplement 3, pp. 290-312. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=34705898&site=ehost-live.
Describes how media used the legend of the so-called “Chupacabra” monster in cartoons and a rumor purposely spread to drive attention out of politics. From the public perspective, the Chupacabra was an apocalyptic sign. I plan to use it to provide the various perspectives from this monster and to connect a possible meaning to the origin of it with one of the monster theories by Cohen. It is reliable because the Oxford University has the copyright of this document.
Donovan, Patricia. “Monster Culture.” University at Buffalo. https://www.buffalo.edu/home/feature_story/monster-culture.html
It provides with many ways to interpret monster stories and real monsters. It is reliable since it was published by a university and written with the help of scholars. I used it to introduce how we can interpret monsters.
Elbein, Ashber. “Chasing the Chupacabra, a Lone Star State Legend.” The Texas Observer, The Texas Observer, 2016, https://www.texasobserver.org/chupacabra-legends-texas/.
The article provides an encounter with the Chupacabra and was also hunted. The DNA of this ‘animal’ was examined. I like the article because it can be used to ‘unmask’ the monster or at least talk about a documented encounter. The publisher is a non-profit news podcasting; therefore, it is going to be a primary text.
“Latinoamerica Historias Perdidas – El Chupacabras Documental Canal Infinito.” YouTube, 2016, youtu.be/AOy3xAedad8.
The documental provides with anecdotes and hypothesis to the origin of the creature. Various especialists were interviewed to give their perspective on the issue. I used it to give an example of the measures of the monster.
Ross, Philip. “Is The Chupacabra Real? Why The Legend Of The ‘Goat Sucker’ Endures And What Science Says About It.” International Business Times, 2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/chupacabra-real-why-legend-goat-sucker-endures-what-science-says-about-it-1569567.
The article addresses common questions regarding the creature. They interviewed Benjamin Radford whose name I have found in various articles. I plan to use one of the comments of the expert in urban legends.
“Watch The X-Files: Season 4, Episode 11, ‘El Mundo Gira’ Online.” FOX, 1997, http://www.fox.com/watch/2f4bfde20b18a604feae11893494d9a0/.
Used as a primary source. It was used to see another example of the origins of the chupacabras.
“Scary Creatures That May Actually Exist.” Slapped Ham, 2015, slappedham.com/scary-creatures-actually-exist/.
Betancourt, Manuel. “From Ruben Blades to the Chupacabra: These Are the 6 Most Latino Episodes of ‘The X-Files’.” Remezcla, http://remezcla.com/lists/film/from-ruben-blades-to-the-chupacabra-these-are-the-6-most-latino-episodes-of-the-x-files/.