It was in the mid-Nineties when my sister Verónica, who was working for an important Mexican bank at the time, was picked to attend a seminar in beautiful Puerto Rico. When she asked the family what kind of souvenir we would like her to bring us back, I knew exactly what I wanted: A Chupacabras t-shirt.
During my last years in college I used to spend whatever free time I could spare at the campus’s computer laboratory, learning how to use this new thing called the ‘world wide web’ to read UFO newsletters, and find out about the latest sightings of this alien beast set loose in the hills of that Caribbean island, decimating the fowl and herds of the desperate Puerto Rican farmers, and a lot of them were not shy of blaming some American military experiment run amok for their misfortune –many of the original sightings occurred very close to secret bases. These same areas were also active UFO hot spots back in those days, and some people were quick to connect the elusive creature with extraterrestrial visitation.
Mainstream media was quick to take notice of the unique appeal this new monster had among the public. Famous cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has written how the Chupacabras entered popular culture just in time to join the Latin wave sweeping across the United States, spearheaded by artists like Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan. Personally I suspect that, despite it’s morbid connotations, Americans simply like the excuse to say the damn word out loud because it’s quite euphonic (even if they forget to include the ‘s’ at the end). Because everything was bolder in the 90’s –including children shows– the chupacabras even made an appearance in one of Dexter’s Lab episodes, in which it turned out the goat-sucking critter had in fact been created as an experiment –not by nefarious military scientists, but by Dexter himself– yet he had managed to escape and fled to South America. This cultural example is notable not only because Dexter and Didi were simply awesome, but also because this is probably the one and only time the Chupacabras was accurately portrayed, according to the original reports from Puerto Rico.
And of course, The X-Files had to have their own Chupacabras story in one of their ‘monster-of-the-week’ episodes, El Mundo Gira, by the show’s eleventh season. In this case, Chris Carter chose to deviate completely from the ‘cannon’ lore of the creature, and instead the Chupacabras (plural not only because they sucked more than one goat, but also because there were more than one) are hapless men living in a bordertown, mutated by a parasitic fungus from outer space –sort of like Lovecraft meets Terence McKenna to fight El Mariachi.
As years went by, the views about the Chupacabras in American pop culture changed: from an alien lizard with red eyes and powerful hind legs capable of great leaps –as it was described in the first Puerto Rican reports– to a giant bat-like creature in Mexican reports, to a mangy coyote with blue eyes which may be the result of hybridization caused by climate change, in the latest reports from Texas and the United States Southwest. By then, the goat-sucking fiend had become another popular Spanish word added to the American vocabulary (like Corona or Habanero).
But now comes word that Jonás Cuarón, eldest son of Mexican film maker Alfonso Cuarón (who also co-wrote with his father the script for the multi-awarded movie Gravity), has signed a deal with Netflix to direct a movie based on the Chupacabras. Details on the project are very scarce at this point, but some of the few things already revealed is that the script –which was written by Marcus Rinehart, Sean Kennedy Moore and Joe Barnathan– will tell the story of Alex, a young man coming to rural Mexico to visit his grandfather, and it’s in the old house’s shed that Alex and his cousins find the mythical goatsucker, and they’ll embark in a great adventure in order to save it; from what or whom we don’t know at this point, yet it’s clear Jonás and Netflix are more interested in creating a sort of 80’s-type movie like E.T. the Extraterrestrial or Mac and Me with (with some possible social comments on the modern illegal immigration problem) instead of a horror monster flick like Critters.
Listen, I’m a huge Stranger Things fan so I don’t care if Netflix continues to exploit my mid-life crisis and childhood nostalgia –just please, PLEASE stay away from the mangy coyotes…