What is chupa? What the Netflix film about the chupacabra myth gets right

What is a Chupacabra (or Chupacabras)?

The word comes from Spanish and means “goat suckers” because they are believed to suckle goat blood (and other livestock) in a vampiric way. Chupacabras are a relatively new part of folklore, with reports from farmers in Puerto Rico of cattle being killed by a vampiric creature dating back to the 1970s, with the first “official” case attributed to the chupacabra occurring in 1995. Chupa takes place in 1996, which fits with the idea that this may be the time of the US government’s greatest interest in the creatures.

In the film, the creatures are referred to as “Chupacabras” — which was the original name (reportedly coined by Puerto Rican comedian Silverio Pérez) — which later became Chupacabra.


Chupacabras are sometimes described as being dog-like with red eyes and fangs (and indeed some suggest that chupacabras, particularly those that are sighted, are actually mangy coyotes). Other descriptions give them scaly skin, an alien appearance, and a long tail with spikes on it, and suggest they are the size of a small bear. The book On the trail of the Chupacabra by Benjamin Radford, suggests that the eyewitness who described the chupacabra after cattle were killed in Puerto Rico was heavily influenced by the film species, with her description that makes up the main character, Sil. Radford felt that this had completely distorted serious investigations of its existence as a true species.

All this ultimately leaves a lot of leeway for the display on the screen. Chupa is quite canine (and a bit feline) and has fangs and a tail. But he’s a lot cuter than the mythical versions. He is super fluffy and notably he also has wings and can fly which is not a trait associated with chupacabra.

Chupa is a children’s fantasy film, not a tale of a vicious otherworldly predator, so Chupa is a total cuddler who would clearly make a wonderful pet. He is friendly and once they make friends he is loyal to Alex. He also eats a sausage that Alex brings him, suggesting it’s not all about goat blood for the species. These chupacabras appear to be pack animals (which would be fitting if they are canine-like) and have a distinctive call that they identify with one another. Adult chupacabras (in the film) are quite massive, suggesting that keeping the secret of their existence would be quite difficult.

But then again, spaceships and Sasquatches are pretty big too, so you never know…


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