USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘chupacabra’
Legends

La Llorona

Main Text

La Llorona is a story about this grieving, um, it’s a grieving mom who lost her children, and that, she goes around taking kids from, from other families, screaming, “¡Ay! Mis niños, ¿donde están?” which translates to, “Oh! My kids, where are they?” You know what, you know he’s just—she’s, they’re looking for them, because. They died or, they were lost.

Background

The subject is a 21-year-old Mexican American in his third year at USC. He recalls first hearing the legend of La Llorona at around the age of four or six. Through childhood, he was frequently told the story of La Llorona by his parents as a form of discipline. If he or his siblings misbehaved, their parents said that La Llorona would come and take them away. The subject mentions that this usage of La Llorona as a form of parental discipline was common in every Mexican-American household, along with corporal punishment via the chancla (a flip-flop) or the belt. In terms of disciplinary severity, the subject as a child would have considered La Llorona to be less of a threat than the chancla and the belt. The subject stopped believing in the literal existence of La Llorona around the age of seven, eight, or nine—around the same time, he says, that most children realize that Santa Claus isn’t real.

Context

Growing up, the subject often discussed the legend of La Llorona with other Mexican American children in his hometown of Van Nuys. The purpose of such discussion was less to ascertain whether La Llorona was real, and more to affirm a shared folk experience of being disciplined by parents in the same manner. He felt that only other Mexican Americans would understand the normalcy of the disciplinary method, rather than reacting judgmentally and mischaracterizing the discipline as a form of child abuse.

Over time, the subject’s childhood fear associated with La Llorona dulled into nostalgia, and he began to view La Llorona as a central part of his cultural history. Based on this current perception, the subject says that he finds it fascinating the legend was even used as a disciplinary tactic to begin with. He characterizes its use as a disciplinary tactic as “negative”—as the opposite of how he believes folklore like La Llorona ought to be used. He thinks folklore like La Llorona should be used as a “positive” way to build a shared sense of cultural identity through the passing down of traditions.

Another “positive” use of La Llorona, the subject argues, is for entertainment. The subject mentions an instance when his Spanish teacher showed the class a cartoon adaptation of La Llorona, to give the class a simple task to occupy their attention on a relatively work-free day. The class, which was majority Latino, was familiar with the legend; as such, the teacher had offer little explanation for what the plot of the story was. The subject especially enjoyed the video retelling of La Llorona because of its “authenticity,” which he defined in terms of aesthetic choices, such as including all the major motifs in the legend (e.g. the river, the ghostly spirit), and casting Mexican voice actors who spoke Spanish with a proper Mexican accent.

Interviewer’s Analysis

When asked to elaborate on what constituted “authenticity” in folklore adaptation, the subject compared the La Llorona video to the Scooby Doo film, The Monster of Mexico, which he felt portrayed both an inauthentic version of the Chupacabra (another legendary Mexican monster), and an inauthentic version of Mexico. The Monster of Mexico made the Chupacabra look like Bigfoot, characterized Mexicans through stereotypical sombreros and maracas iconography, and most condemnably, featured an all-white cast. For the subject, authenticity in Mexican folklore adaptation hinged on the folklore not being whitewashed. Here, the interviewer asked the subject how one might strike a balance between fighting the hegemony of whitewashed folklore, and not establishing a new hegemony by claiming to have a singularly authoritative “authentic” interpretation.

Briefly, hegemony is defined as the total control over the terms of a narrative. The subject replied that he didn’t think ought to be a singularly authoritative authenticator for adaptations of folklore. In the context of Latino folklore, the subject suggested that his concern was less with defining authenticity, than fostering a sense of accountability. He didn’t want people to create adaptations of Latino folklore for a mainstream general audience, without creators being mindful of what portrayals of Latino culture they could potentially misinform non-Latinos with.

While the subject’s answer certainly adds nuance to defining the boundary between artificially authoritative authenticity and hegemony, the question of where that boundary is still remains—and, in the interviewer’s opinion, cannot be answered without defining what precisely “whitewashing” is. Is whitewashing the same as Americanization? Who defines and authenticates what is American, when America houses multiple types of cultures? What counts as “white” culture? Is any insertion of “white” culture into a historically nonwhite folklore adaptation automatically considered whitewashing? For instance, in the La Llorona video, the children are portrayed as trick-or-treaters, to appeal to a broader American audience—does that count as whitewashing?

These questions are complicated, and any definition of “whitewashing” for the purposes of evaluating “authenticity” of folklore will inevitably struggle to cover every scenario. Perhaps a more appropriate starting point, would be to consider folklore adaptation in terms of social power structures. What cultures does one group get a “pass” to freely adapt from? Who authenticates the “pass” under what circumstances? How do dynamics play out when authenticity gets contested?  Who is contesting authenticity, under what definition, and why?

Legends
Narrative
Protection

Chupacabra-“Chupee in SoCal”

My mom really enjoys telling me about The Chupacabra story- meaning “goat sucker”. Ironically, she wrote a paper about the Chupacabra for her college Folklore class. In her contemporary retelling the Chupacabra, or “Chupee”, it is a defender of powerless Latinos against of white people in positions of authority who abuse their power in California and throughout part of the southwest. It was no coincident that in May of 1996 reports of Chupacabra reached an all time high in terms of sighting in light of heighten social anxieties. Chupee was talked about on the radio and television with spoof interviews. Local issues about undocumented workers, border patrol incidents, Proposition 187, and the potential demise of affirmative action worried the Latino community. Projecting fears onto a blood-sucking creature was a safe way to air concerns. San Bernardino had a massive spike in Chapacabra sighting after an unarmed Latino woman was dragged from her car and beaten. It caused the LA Times to run a front-page story about the Chupacabra and publishing the photo attached.imgres

My mom thought it was awesome that Latinos living in the U.S had appropriated a Mexican legend and had unleashed it on Southern California, Arizona and parts of Texas. Several cattle in Texas were found dead with puncture marks on their necks. For the first time white ranchers were suddenly scared because they were dealing with an unknown entity. My mom was shocked when the LA times ran a front page article with a drawing of the Chupacabra. But it validated what she was thinking about the multiple sightings.

Analysis: I think the Chupacabra in this context sounds very interesting with lots of potential. My mom said while doing research for her paper she discovered that Chupee, “goat sucker” was written about in Mayan texts going back as far as 1400 B.C. This contradicts the contemporary belief that the Chupacabra was first spotted in Puerto Rico in 1995. Many Mexicans familiar with the Mayan legend reputed the origins and insisted that it was in fact part of ancient Mayan Mythology. Apparently it was their Mayan ancestor who were now seeking revenge against the white aggressors that almost wiped out their civilization. Many of the undocumented migrant farm workers at that time in California were of mostly indigenous descent. This perhaps was a way for a group of highly marginalized people to empower themselves with a creature that was mysterious and potentially deadly.

Myths
Narrative

El Chupacabra

Title: El Chupacabra

Ethnicity: Mexican-American

Age: 20

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): AJ is sitting on a sofa in front of the Trojan Knights house, it is a calm warm Sunday in South Central Los Angeles. It is a group of 10 male students from the University of Southern California sitting on the front porch, sharing stories. All of these men are members of Trojan Knights, and are relaxing after having started cooking homemade friend chicken. All of these men are close to one another, including the interviewer. AJ says he has a good one as he puts his drink down.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee – Ok so this thing ate my goat. Well, he sucked it really.”

Interviewer- “What thing?”

Interviewee – “The Chupacaba. At least I think it was one. It was back when I was in Texas, and my family has this farm you know? And I had to take care of a lot of animals, including our goats. Now heres where it gets good. (Long pause as he looks around at our faces). I went one morning to check on the goats and feed them, and I found it.”

Interviewer– “Found what?”

Interviewee – “My goat that I had lovingly named Joe Tuffhead. He was dead, and I can’t really explain what happened to him. When wolves come to feed, they feed, but Joe was still intact, mostly. This was the weird part, he… he was drained. You know what I mean? He had no blood anymore, it’s like something sucked it right out of him. He was hollow, yeah that’s what it was. I was looking for that word. Hollow. Poor Bob was hollow.”

Interviewer– “I thought his name was Joe?”

Interviewee – “Oh yeah, right, that’s what I meant. Sorry I have a lot of goats I mix up their names.”

Interviewer– “What did you do after you found Joe?”

Interviewee – “Oh my dad and I built another small barn house and had the goats in there every night from then on. No more Chupacabra attacks, no more dead goats. Everything ended well.”

Analyzation: AJ seems to have a hazy memory up until the actual scene of the dead goat, which would make sense. The most traumatic things are usually the ones that stick in our heads the clearest. We did not get to hear the father’s explanation of the situation, and so we get the idea of a young Adrian when he was growing up in Texas. Overall however, AJ is someone to be trusted, but there is also something to be said about the situation, and about how AJ was preforming this piece of folklore in front of 9 of his friends and fellow students, perhaps wanting to impress them. This idea of the Chupacabra however, is recurring within the Hispanic community in the United States and other countries. Often, when livestock die and there is no real reason as to why that has happened, people blame the Chupacabra. And it fits the MO. When animals die for no particular reason, the idea of a monster coming and killing them seems just a likely as anything else. The myth of the Chupacabra has been around for a while, and continually mutates in various ways. From this story, it appears the Chupacabra got tired of eating livestock in southern Mexico, and Mexico entirely, and has moved on to greener pastures in Texas. Of course this is better explained by pointing out that people from Mexico have been migrating every northward, and their myths and stories come with them. It is only logical to hear of the beast in the United States at this point.

Tags: Chupacabra, Goat, Mythical Creature, Farming

Legends
Narrative

La Chupacabra

My informant is a freshman at USC. He is half white and half Puerto Rican but was raised solely by his Puerto Rican mother and grandmother along with his younger brother in San Antonio Texas.

 

“So it’s supposed to be a mixture between like a vampire and a wolf. So its supposed to be like, a demon-dog kind of? La chupacabra. People’s sheep and cows and stuff started to die mysteriously and…they would like, have weird bite marks that they couldn’t identify on them. It never tears up the animal, there’s just these like…just like these two bite marks in them. That’s why they think it’s a mixture between a mixture between a wolf and a vampire…that’s what it lives off of. And it’s not supposed to be too big it’s supposed to be around like, two feet long and a foot high. But its really vicious with like red eyes and hairless…it, it looks like a rabid coyote pretty much…like a rabid fox. And its…its, people have claimed to have found the Chupacabra multiple times and they’ve found like…dog looking things but most of the time people find “Chupacabras” its like a diseased coyote or a rabid dog. And so, there’s been like sightings of it in Mexico and South Texas—where I’m from—which is where I heard about it. And my grandma you know, used to like scare me you know, saying like, ‘If you go outside at night or if you walk around’ like if I got out of bed at night, ‘the chupacabra will come and get you.’ So I guess that’s where I heard the story from.”

 

Analysis: The legend is said to have originated from from the mysterious disappearance of peoples livestock. Unexplained bite marks and animals that had been completely drained of blood were unsettling sights in the areas where La Chupacabra was rumored to have been sighted. The legend has taken on the purpose of scaring young children as a means of preventing them from wandering off or getting up in the middle of the night. Mothers and grandmothers would tell their children the story of La Chupacabra to instill good behavior. Given the graphic nature of the way in which La Chupacabra sucks the blood from its victims, the story seems scary enough to keep little children in bed at night and prevent them from engaging in bad late night behavior. Another version of this story can be found on Animal Planets “Lost Tapes” section of their webpage:

http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/lost-tapes/creatures/chupacabra-history/

 

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Chupacabra

“Um, it’s like a Mexican thing, I think. It’s like a little…it like eats little children at night as well as like chickens. It’s like a, what is it, it’s like a half, I don’t know what it is exactly. Chupacabra… Um, wait for it, wait for it. It means in Spanish ‘goatsucker’ and they drink the blood of livestock and if you’re a bad child and go out at night, they’ll eat you. It’s like a little thing. It’s like a little animal, but it’s like a made up, it’s like a, it has some like little animal that eats things. It’s creepy.”

 

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is originally from northern California, from the San Francisco area. Her father is from England and her other from Switzerland, while she was born in California. She studies Computer Science and Computer Engineering. She enjoys playing in the marching band on campus and playing water polo. Though she has lived in California her whole life, though has taken many trips away from it, including a few to Mexico.

 

The informant was asked of urban legends she knew of, ones she had heard stories of or perhaps encountered. She thought of the Chupacabra, which she had heard about growing up, seen in a Scooby Doo episode, and had met believers of the legend in Mexico.

 

The Chupacabra is an urban legend whose renown has spread outside the country of origin. Though few outside Mexico believe it exists in their own countries, many believe it possible it lives in Mexico, or elsewhere in Central or South America. The informant does not believe in it, believes it is a made up story, but despite this disbelief, and likely the disbelief of many of those around her, that has not stopped the story’s popularity.

The urban legend is surprisingly contemporary with the first sighting in Puerto Rico in 1995. Popular media, like Scooby Doo and other conspiracy mediums, ran with the idea. Some claimed supernatural origins, others extraterrestrial.

Descriptions of the creature’s appearance vary widely. The creature is often described as an animal, sometimes as big as or bigger than a man, sometimes as small as the goats it supposedly sucks. Sometimes it is described like a bear with spines on its back, with large eyes (the better to see at night with). It is usually considered “heavy” or dense and muscular. At times, the chupacabra seems more alien than animal.

The one thing all of the sightings agree on is that it kills livestock, particularly goats—its name means “goatsucker” in Spanish. It has been known to kill hundreds of livestock at one time. If the legend is in fact not real, then it was most likely thought up as a way to explain the slaughter of hundreds of animals, either by some animals or even humans themselves. Now, whenever there is an attack of this nature in the Americas, and even elsewhere in the world, the Chupacabra is to blame.

There are some beneficial side effects to this legend. It can now be used to warn off bad children, that if they misbehave, the Chupacabra will come and eat them. This struck the informant the most, saying multiple times that it will eat children, especially children who wander off at night when they should be in bed asleep. The Chupacabra may even start to transform into a tale, with the moral being to never break curfew. This is a nice example of urban legends being used by parents to get their kids to behave in the right way.

Legends

Chupacabra

Primary Informant: “The Chupacabra, which is one that I heard from my dad all the time ‘cause he thinks it’s hilarious, um and basically, Chupacabra is like, like “goat sucker” and so, I don’t know if it’s just specifically from people in, like, the rancho or, like, the more, um, I don’t know, pueblo, village, type of areas that talk about this because they own animals. And it’s basically this kind of— they can’t, no one has seen it, but they have seen—or people have said they’ve seen it, you know, speculation – um, but it’s this kind of animal that comes and it, like, literally just, like, sucks or, like, sucks the blood out of and kills goats and other small animals like that, and so there was, I think there was an article recently where some guy was like, ‘Yeah I totally caught it.’ And it was just like a big ol’ rat or something, but that’s basically what it is, the Chupacabra. And so that’s the one he always talks about because he thinks it’s hilarious and thinks he can, like, scare us with that, you know.”

Secondary Informant: “The one that I grew up with was, ah, the Chupacabra was like this fucking, um, government, um, experiment gone wrong that escaped and, uh, is this alien, this half-breed alien thing, you know and, that’s what I got…”

Primary Informant: “And, like, no one can find it?”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah, no one can find it, it’s just, like, this fucking thing…”

Primary Informant: “Roaming Mexico and Latin America.”

Secondary Informant: “Yeah, it’s like—it’s an abomination.”

Primary Informant: “Right.”

Secondary Informant: “To life.”

 

Both informants who shared information about the Chupacabra are of Mexican descent and heard this story from their families. This story was shared in the primary informant’s apartment. We spent the afternoon sharing stories and combining the information we all had about each legend. These stories are important to the informants because they have been passed on from the older generations in their families. Because they value their older relatives, they value and enjoy the stories they’ve been told.

The Chupacabra is a legend that has been around Latin American for innumerable years and almost anyone from a Latin country could tell you the story. It’s primary purpose is to explain away bizarre disappearances of animals on rural farms, but in all likelihood those animals were probably harmed by a coyote or a bobcat. Now the Chupacabra just serves as a tale to help scare children into proper behavior.

For more information on the Chupacabra:

http://www.princeton.edu/~accion/chupa.html

http://animal.discovery.com/tv-shows/weird-true-and-freaky/videos/legend-of-the-chupacabra.htm

general
Legends
Narrative

Georgetown Chupacabra

There was a guy in Georgetown who heard noises outside of his trailer. He grabbed a gun that for some reason he kept in his run-down trailer, he ran outside to find a chupacabra. A chupacabra is like a goat-eater, is what it’s also called. I don’t really know what it looks like. But in this case I hear that what he shot at might have actually been a sick, hairless, bear cub, which is pretty sad. Anyway, the guy shoots at it and misses, then shoots again and kills the thing. He said when he shot it, it was screaming “like a four year old girl.” Which is a really disturbing analogy, because, how, precisely, would he know? Anyway, that’s what I heard. It happened in the town just over from ours. The guy was a big hick, and he went to high school, I think, with our high school economics teacher.

This is a FOAF story that happened in the performer’s hometown. It definitely gives a feel for the town identity. As the performer of this story lives nearby the town where the chupacabra was allegedly found, she knows the area and is familiar with what bear cubs look like. She is fond of the story, because it is quickly becoming a town legend, and has apparently made the town infamous, where before the town was too small to be of any note. The story has become part of the town identity.

general
Myths
Narrative

Myth – Mexico

In Northern Mexico the farmers tell the story of a blood-sucking beast known as the Chupacabra. The farmers claim to have found their goats with all of their blood drained from their bodies. The only bite marks present are two, circular, vampire-fang like holes, usually close to the neck. These bite marks are said to be from the Chupacabra. The beast is said to only strike at night, after sundown.

Ryan, my brother, said he first heard this story when he was in elementary school. He heard the story from his Mexican friends who were told the story by their parents. Ryan said that the story also circulated in the rural southern parts of Arizona close to the border, where the communities were predominantly Mexican.

Ryan believes that parents told these stories to their kids to keep them from staying out late at night. Even though he didn’t know of any variations that said the Chupacabra would attack kids the thought of a blood-sucking animal was scary enough to keep the kids in at night. Ironically baby goats are called kids, and perhaps the Chupacabra would want the blood of any type of kid, goat or human.

This myth has close similarities to a traditional vampire story often found in eastern Europe. In these stories a vampire can never be seen during the daylight and sucks the blood of his victims by biting their necks. Because goat farming is a common practice in Mexico and goats are necessary to make cheeses and milks used in the diet the loss of a goat could be detrimental to a farming family. My brother said that some people believe the Chupacabra is responsible for the disappearance of livestock in rural areas.

Ryan has spend a lot of time in Spanish speaking countries and has heard differing descriptions of the Chupacabra and says that a form of the myth is found throughout Spanish speaking countries in the Americas but he prefers the story he was first told as opposed a different version of the story. The Chupacabra myth is widespread and therefore has many believers and skeptics.

An online search brought up thousands of websites about the creature as well as videos depicting alleged sightings. On one website I also found unofficial Chupacabra merchandise including t-shirts, street signs and mugs. This popular myth has been exploited to make a profit and provoke questions of its existence, including conspiracy theories. Personally, I agree that it was started as an explanation for missing cattle and a means for parents to keep their children from staying out at night.

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