Entertainment | February 2009
|Mexico's Chupacabras Meets the X-Files|
Ed Hutmacher - MexicoBookClub.com/PVNN
Do you believe in "Goatsuckers"? Are Chupacabras real critters, urban legend, or blood-sucking creatures from outer space? The truth is out there.
Okay, the truth is I didn't discover a thing about Mexico's mysterious bloodsucking Chupacabras in last year's X-Files movie, I Want to Believe. But a 1997 X-Files TV episode titled El Mundo Gira (As the World Turns) did explain what Chupacabras are. Uh, well, sort of.
The word roughly translates to "goatsucker," as supposed sightings often stem from slaughtered goats — Chupacabras are believed to suck the blood out of the animals they kill through fang-like puncture holes that penetrate the skulls of its prey. The creepy creature looks like a four-foot tall vampire bat, a grey-skinned and red-eyed wart hog, or a lizard-like extraterrestrial serpent.
Confused? So were agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.
What does seem believable is that Chupacabras are thought to be part of an ancient Mesoamerican tradition that links the appearance of strange feathery-like creatures to supernatural spirits. Anthropologists and archeologists speculate that reliefs found on Aztec sculptures might actually depict the mysterious Chupacabras and wonder whether the representations are exaggerations of real-life critters or the imagination of superstitious priests.
Some free thinkers try to link Chupacabras with the Toltec-Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, the celebrated ruler of Mexico whose Nahuatl name is often referred to as the Plumed, or Feathered, Serpent. The "serpent-bird of Gurabo" legend includes the chimera idea of a monstrous creature made of the parts of multiple animals.
Modern day sightings of the mysterious Chupacabras continue, with newspaper accounts dating back to the 1950s. Coincidentally, the word "Chupacabras" turned up in a 1960 episode of the TV western Bonanza. It was used by a Mexican who was talking with one of the Cartwrights about a bird-like creature that sucked the milk from goats, and thus linked to being one of the legendary goatsuckers.
Chupacabras garnered worldwide attention in the early 1990s when the creature was declared responsible for a rash of livestock killings in Puerto Rico. Soon afterwards, Chupa-mania exploded. Newspaper headlines reported sightings and attacks as far north as Canada and south to Tierra del Fuego. Most Chupacabras sightings today occur along the US-Mexico border.
Mexican folklore and oral history recount various versions of Chupacabras stories as far back as the sixteenth century, following the invasion of Spanish conquistadors. Even today, more than a few Mexicans will tell you that a concentration of goatsuckers reside in Mexico's remote Sonora Desert, in the lightly explored region of the Sierra Madre Oriental where the elusive creature can live largely undisturbed and unseen.
Tracking the origins or merit of mysterious monsters, such as Chupacabras (or the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot, for that matter), can be as difficult as determining whether such mysterious creatures are real. Regardless the legitimate scientific evidence to the contrary, diehard believers refuse to shake the notion that these critters really do exist.
An urban legend, say sociologists, is simply a modern form of traditional folklore—the story might not be entirely false but, over time, the re-telling is often distorted, exaggerated or sensationalized. And once a story takes root, no matter how tall the tale, it can grow to mythical proportions.
The quixotic quest for beasts of lore is not far from what drives respected zoologists to find new or incredibly rare species — it’s the outside chance that legendary creatures may not be figments of the imagination. A few fringe scientists, known as crypto-zoologist (who often appear on the History Channel’s MonsterQuest), are even more passionately motivated by the thought that anything is possible.
As are agents Mulder and Scully, the famous special investigators who work for the shadowy, marginalized FBI department assigned to unravel the weird and usually frightening occurrences of paranormal phenomena.
In that 1997 X Files episode, El Mundo Gira, a migrant workers’ shantytown in California’s San Joaquin Valley is visited by earsplitting explosions out of nowhere, bright flashes and a downpour of hot yellow rain, which leaves behind mutilated human corpses and goats, with their faces partially eaten away. The Mexican migrants attribute the carnage to the legendary Chupacabras.
Mulder, a believer in the far-fetched, is convinced the gray-skinned blood-sucking creature is from another world. Scully, a skeptic, counters: "Mulder, I know you’re not going to like this, but I think the aliens in this story are not the villains; they’re the victims."
Ed Hutmacher is Editor in Chief of Mexico Book Club. For information on books about Mexico and its people, visit the website at MexicoBookClub.com.