El Chupacabra: Latin America’s Cryptid Icon

Whether you believe in it or not, El Chupacabra would forever be immortalized as something that would go bump in the night.

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El Chupacabra

The Goat Sucker

On March 11th, 1995, a farmer in Orocovis, Puerto Rico found eight of his prized sheep dead and “completely drained” of all blood. He then noticed all his sheep had what appeared to be bite wounds on their necks as if they were killed by a vampiric creature. Over the next few months, hundreds of animals were slain in a similar fashion but it was an eyewitness named Madelyne Tolentino who would claim to see a reptilian creature with bright red eyes, fangs, and spines. This would begin the reign of the terror from the cryptid known as El Chupacabra “the goat sucker”.

As someone of Mexican descent who grew up in Southern California in the late 90s throughout the early 2000s, El Chupacabra was folklore amongst my family. My father claimed that he saw one on his ranch – though it was most likely him joking around as a five-year-old would believe anything. Plus I have always had a fascination with cryptozoology growing up with series such as Animal X and Monster Quest being my go-to watches for me.

Searching For Monsters

For those unaware, Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience that investigates “unknown” creatures such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and of course El Chupacabra. Originated from the works of Bernard Heuvelmans, a Belgian zoologist, and Ivan T. Sanderson, a Scottish zoologist, cryptozoology can be described as determination incarnate as, despite numerous evidence against these cryptids (a term to describe these creatures), many cryptozoologists are adamant that these creatures exist and their sheer unbreakable belief is something to be admired at times. It’s why I love watching television series such as Destination Unknown and Mountain Monsters.

Another thing I find enduring about cryptozoology is the cryptids themselves. As many know I have always loved monsters. Whether they are from film, television, comics, or mythology, I have always loved monsters since I was a child. With cryptids, one could describe them as modern folklore. Ever since humans have told stories, we’ve always had the “thing in the dark”. Whether it was vampires, dragons, or demons, humans always conjured unknown entities to explain the unexplainable. Even in modern-day where these myths can take the form of cryptids and conspiracy theories such as UFOs, The Illuminati, and fantastical undiscovered creatures.

And with these cases of “unexplained” animal deaths that ravaged not only Puerto Rico, but has spread across many Latin American countries such as Mexico and Brazil and even in the USA such as Texas and California, the desire for answers can lead to making an avatar to somehow find closure to the mystery. Especially to the owners of these animals who were killed. Unlike most cryptids, these attacks are affecting people’s livelihoods and thus the desire for answers becomes much stronger.

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The Blood Thickens

Some speculate the reason the original Purto Rican attacks have manifested as a vampiric entity is an unintentional metaphor for many of the citizens’ resentment towards the United States. Many feel they are economically exploited by the US and because of that Purto Rico suffers a massive debt to the US, thus creature sucking the life out of their livestock seems on the nose. It’s even speculated that the Chupacabra is either an escaped government experiment or an alien entity that the US is trying to cover up (both of which sound like it would make a great movie). While skeptics argue that the Chupacabra is a result of mass panic and the culprits or either wild dogs or monkeys. Some even say the creature is a result of the film Species which was released very recently before the first attacks.

Despite the original wave of sightings born of economic resentment, eventually, the Chupacabra would become a pop culture icon across many Latin American countries and even to the United States. It would start off with people selling t-shirts with the chupacabra on it and there would be an animated series based on the creature. In fact, my earliest exposure to the Chupacabra was in an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory were an episode focused on the creature. It would continue to appear across media such as Jackie Chan Adventures, The Secret Saturdays, and several direct to video films such as Chupacabra: Dark Seas. And like any good pop culture icon, it got its own Funko POP.

And while there continue to be sightings of the Chupacabra in the Southwest of the United States, this may sound weird but I dismiss these sightings as this new “Second Generation” Chupabra are just poor dogs with mange. For me, the first wave of the Chupacabra phenomena would remain one of my all-time cryptids and even one of my favorite monsters. The Chupacabra is a great example of how Latin America contributed to genre media on par with El Santo and the works of Guillermo Del Toro. Whether you believe in it or not, the goat sucker would forever be immortalized as something that would go bump in the night.

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