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Book Reviews movements from the nineteenth century to the present, but especially since 1996, the editors lament that “more than ten years after the end of the war, much of the political agenda of the postwar Pan-Maya Movement has stalled” (503). A final chapter offers conclusions and a view of the present and future possibilities for Guatemala. With an appeal to travelers, students, and scholars, The Guatemala Reader is a useful volume. As an introduction to the country and its people, it drives home some of the stark realities behind its beautiful facade. Ralph Lee Woodward, Jr. Emeritus Professor of History Tulane University TRACKING THE CHUPACABRA: THE VAMPIRE BEAST IN FACT, FICTION, AND FOLKLORE. By Benjamin Radford. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2011, p. 216, $24.95. For more than fifteen years, reports of the chupacabra–a blood-sucking beast of varying descriptions–have captured the imagination of people around the world. First “sighted” in Puerto Rico in 1995, subsequent claims have occurred all over the Americas. Intrigued by the phenomenon, Benjamin Radford, managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer, set out on a five-year journey to discover the truth about the creature. The result, Tracking the Chupacabra, is an insightful and entertaining book in which Radford sets the record straight, debunking many of the myths about the goatsucker. The book tackles a number of themes and secondary goals. Radford strives to expose the sloppy scholarship of previous authors, especially Scott Corrales, who wrote ChupaCabra and Other Mysteries (1997). Radford discusses the origins of the chupacabra myth, its connection to past representations of vampirism, its personification as a Christian symbol of end times, and its place in conspiracy theories involving the United States. In the end, Radford argues that the chupacabra is mostly the product of magical thinking stemming from the influence of science fiction movies. The multiple angles that Radford approaches the topic from exhibit a greater level of intricacy than provided by previous authors. However, the book at times reads somewhat disjointed. Transitions are not always smooth as Radford goes from “A Brief History of Vampires,” to “Chupacabras in Popular Culture,” to his research trips, then back to an analysis of the influence of popular culture on human psychology (23, 39). He also tends to change his writing style, switching back and forth between a concise and analytical word structure to a very journalistic and descriptive prose about his personal actions and feelings. Sometimes this works well, other times it does not. 123 The Latin Americanist, September 2012 Similarly, some of Radford’s arguments are stronger than others. His claim that chupacabra vampirism is a manifestation of U.S. exploitation of Puerto Rico is largely unfounded. The author states the Puerto Ricans “feel that their cultural and social riches have been exploited and taken from them often by external forces, including the U.S. government. The vampires may be metaphorical, but they are no less real” (33). He continues that “In a land where vampirism was perceived to take many forms, literal blood may have seemed an unsurprising next step” (33). While there is a history of exploitation on the island, that does not make it a direct cause of chupacabra sightings. Radford takes this causal link too far with too little evidence. He unfairly paints Puerto Ricans solely as objects of vampiric exploitation, ridding the islanders of agency and over generalizing Puerto Rican beliefs. His concluding arguments, on the other hand, are more viable. He makes a strong case that cinema greatly influenced the chupacabra phenomenon . Radford shows that there is an “uncanny similarity” between the chupacabra and the main character “Sil” in the sci-fi thriller Species, which came out a month before the first sightings (129). The resemblance is rather amazing. Radford argues, and with good supporting evidence, that much of the original chupacabra hysteria boiled down to confabulation, the psychological term for confusing events seen on television or on the movies as actual experiences. To explore whether there is any truth to the myth, Radford treks to Nicaragua in search of the animal and to Texas in order to examine “chupacabra ” carcasses. Radford interviews a number of wildlife and medical experts who destroy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1557-203X
Print ISSN
1557-2021
Pages
pp. 123-124
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-25
Open Access
No
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