Netflix’s upcoming film Chupa is a re-imagination of a creature that has haunted the nightmares of many Latin American children for at least three decades: el chupacabras. Aka the goat sucker.
The movie is going to hit the streaming platform in early April. It’s about Alex, a shy Kansas teen who travels to Mexico to visit his family. He finds a baby chupacabra in a barn. It looks like an adorable cross between a kitten and bird, and so Alex decides to name it “chupa.” This discovery sends him on the adventure of a lifetime. Somewhere in the trailer, a girl tells the protagonist that the name Chupa means “sucker.”
But the word “chupa” by itself doesn’t mean sucker—it means “suck” or “to suck.” And… it has some raunchy connotations for many Spanish speakers. There are several definitions on Urban Dictionary that outline how chupa by itself is used to describe a sexual act for many Filipinos, Spanish speakers, and Portuguese speakers.
The Hollywood Handle tweeted the Netflix movie poster this week and was ratioed with 13,700 likes to over 16,000 quote retweets reacting to the comedy gold. Twitter users have demanded to know if Netflix ran the movie title by any Spanish speakers before announcing the new film. Others have tweeted a variation of “I should call him/her.” Some simply posted JAJAJAJAJA, which is them laughing in Spanish.
Author Vanessa Angélica Villarreal tweeted, “Imagine the sheer amount of people this title went through at @netflix all the way to ‘release promo movie poster’ for no one to tell them that you can’t shorten the word ‘chupacabra’ with ‘chupa’ because it literally means ‘to suck off’ … like kids should not google this word.” Joanna Hausmann, a Venezuelan writer and comedian, tweeted “I’ve got some notes.”
People have also pointed out that they’re confused about the setting. The movie is set in Mexico, not in the Caribbean. Some of the earliest supposed sightings of chupacabras are based in the Puerto Rican countryside around the early 1990s, according to an NPR thread about the mythical creature. There’s archival footage from the Associated Press that shows dead animals with puncture wounds in Puerto Rico. One comment on the video suggested that this may have been around Orocovis, a centralized mountain town.
Reports have apparently spread from there. Tabloid TV news like Al Rojo Vivo has featured news of the chupacabra terrorizing communities in several countries including Guatemala and Mexico.
When I first saw a tweet with the title of the movie, I screamed. Then I laughed. I then scream-laughed and spent over an hour reading reaction tweets. Here are some of my favorites: