Halloween is not celebrated widely in the Caribbean. Actually, outside of the U.S. islands, it’s really not celebrated at all. Even there you won’t see too many trick-or-treaters on the streets during the twilight hours of October 31st. It’s just not our thing.
There does exist, however, a very vibrant cultural heritage of spirits, ghosts, duppies, jumbies and other supernatural creatures in the Caribbean that could give the likes of Jason and Freddy Krueger nightmares. This heritage extends throughout the region, kept alive in colorful stories, myths and legends. Some of the stories are very old, having been passed down through the generations as part of the Caribbean’s rich storytelling tradition. Others, like the Chupacabra, are more recent.
The legend of the Chupacabra, a blood-sucking creature originating in Puerto Rico, started in the mid-1990’s. I remember it really well as I was part of the team handling the island’s tourism PR at the time. You might not think that a government tourist board would take a myth like this very seriously, but we did. I mean, something really was killing livestock and domesticated animals throughout the island on a fairly regular basis; always at night, always in strange ways… and no one could explain it.
People in rural parts of Puerto Rico, as you’ll see in the video above, were also really scared. You would be too if you saw one. Check out this description from Wikipedia:
- The most common description of chupacabras is a reptile-like being, appearing to have leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp spines or quills running down its back. This form stands approximately 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.2 m) high, and stands and hops in a similar fashion to a kangaroo. In at least one sighting, the creature was reported to hop 20 feet (6 m). This variety is said to have a dog or panther-like nose and face, a forked tongue, and large fangs. It is said to hiss and screech when alarmed, as well as leave behind a sulfuric stench.When it screeches, some reports assert that the chupacabras’ eyes glow an unusual red which gives the witnesses nausea.
Chupacabra incidents led the local newscasts in San Juan so regularly that the rumors eventually started making their way into the mainland U.S. media. Similarly, sightings of the creature were soon reported in the southwestern U.S., Mexico and other parts of Latin America, giving the mysterious creature a global mythical status as the Latino Bigfoot.
Did tales of the Chupacabra lead fearful travelers to avoid trips to Puerto Rico? I don’t know about that. But, it did spawn a series of bad movies (Chupacabra on a cruise ship?!), and another great legend to share on dark and spooky nights…