Legend- Puerto Rico (Chupacabra)

Legend: There’s a creature that lives in the wild, called the Chupacabra, or goat-sucker, that comes out at night to prey upon all kinds of livestock (not just goats, but also cows, for example) in Puerto Rico. The creature comes from some kind of area where it can be easily hidden like a forest. Oftentimes, farmers will come out early in the morning to find one of their livestock dead and the markings of the dead livestock will have two deep puncture wounds that look like they were created by big fangs. All that is left of the animal is a carcass completely sucked dry of its blood, and with all other parts of its flesh left intact. It’s believed that the creature is “vampiric” in nature: it needs blood in order to sustain itself. It has fangs and glowing eyes.

The informant is uncertain whether the Chupacabra is only believed to exist in Puerto Rico or in other countries as well, and thinks that other features may be added to it, which vary according to the person telling the story. Some of these features, which he believes may also be included and that he may have heard of, include horns, wings, and a distinct howl. The informant learned the legend of the Chupacabra from his mother, who was born in Puerto Rico, during childhood, perhaps around 7 years of age. He is pretty sure the story was told to him while visiting grandparents in Puerto Rico, probably late at night, and in a cautionary way (“Look-out for the Chupacabra; he may get you!”).

The legend of the Chupacabra would be told at night in Puerto Rico. It is probably told most often to children to prevent them from being bad (“Don’t do this or the Chupacabra will get you”), but could also be told to an older individual. According to the informant, besides this, there is “no purpose to the legend” and he doesn’t “see what farmers have to gain by telling a story about the Chupacabra.” He doesn’t think the story has any literal truth, and he notes that the Chupacabra “hasn’t been scientifically proven to exist.” He supposes that it may in fact be some other type of animal, such as “a mountain lion or coyote.” He thinks that this legend puts Puerto Rico “on the radar” and “adds tradition” to Puerto Rico which “otherwise is a region of the world that many people don’t care much about.” The main use of the story, however, the informant reiterates, is probably to scare children.

Though the informant states at one point that he doesn’t think the legend of the Chupacabra serves any purpose, he does offer two distinct and, in my opinion, quite plausible reasons for why the story is continually told: first, that the scary figure of the Chupacabra can serve as a way to prevent bad behavior among impressionable children and second, that the story can be a way of distinguishing Puerto Rico, perhaps an otherwise small and insignificant country, as the place where this extraordinary creature exists. To this latter understanding I think it may also be added that the Chupacabra legend can provide a way of consolidating identity for Puerto Ricans and knowledge or lack thereof of the story provides an easy way of figuring out if one is an insider (a Puerto Rican, or someone of similar heritage), or a nescient (at least with respect to this common story) outsider. Likewise, his other reason for why the story is told—namely, to frighten misbehaving children, or to prevent future misconduct—seems to me to be just as practical and probable reason to pass along the Chupacabra legend. I can, for instance, remember my own parents reminding my young sister every time we passed an old, dilapidated house that it was inhabited by an old witch who, much like the Chupacabra, would come and take her from us if she didn’t behave.

One respect in which I disagree with the informant’s understanding of the legend involves his statement that Puerto Rican farmers (who he believes are the originators of the story) would have no reason to invent the insidious figure of the Chupacabra. The problem with this, first, is that by stating this he assumes that Puerto Rican farmers could (and did) only conjure up this tale in order to serve some hidden agenda, and thus envisions that the story could only be a rather less than ingenious (since it serves no purpose) ploy used by a lot of conspiring farmers. It seems clear that the informant resorts to an interpretation of the story’s origin whereby it must have been made-up by farmers for a certain reason because he views the legend of the Chupacabra as quite patently false; put otherwise, because the story is false, there must have been some other motive for the farmers’ telling it, since it could not be on account of its truth. Here, I think the informant misses an important and quite likely possibility for the origin of the story which seems common to the genesis of many legends, namely, that the beings and events they invoke serve some type of explanatory purpose; they are often extraordinary precisely because the phenomena they are meant to elucidate cannot be understood in terms of what is merely ordinary.  If viewed in this way, the legend could have a very real, and in no way conniving, purpose which was only for farmers to explain why their livestock were being consumed in such a peculiar manner.


Radford, Benjamin. Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore. University of New Mexico Press, 2011.