Most of my late-night shifts end with bloodshot eyes after staring at a screen for eight hours, coming home at an hour where most people would be found in bed.
In order to lure the Sandman, my routine usually consists of changing into some jammies, taking a shot of the trustworthy ZzzQuil and streaming “The X-Files” on Hulu.
Puts me to sleep every time.
I’ll be quite honest and say that after the first episode, I’m usually dozing off. Almost like a pre-nap before the real deal.
Except for the other night, after finishing “Paper Hearts,” which is arguably one of the most difficult episodes I’ve watched.
Wide awake, I hit the button to skip to the next episode, in hopes that something lighter involving aliens or monsters would follow.
“El Mundo Gira,” began with Flakita, a Hispanic woman in a migrant camp, claiming she knew it was real because she had seen it.
“The Chupacabra …” I whispered to myself. I snuggled into my couch and blanket, hoping to fall into slumber.
For those who don’t know, the Chupacabra is an Hispanic folktale. It’s a monster that kills goats, which is where its name comes from. Chupa is “to suck” and cabra is a goat. Goat sucker. As a kid, it was told to me as a scary story. It was a spooky tale then, and after watching this episode, I remained spooked.
I was ready to be spooked.
The episode continues with two brothers, Eladio and Soledad Buentes, in a love triangle with Maria Dorantes, based in a migrant camp.
At the camp, while Eladio flirts with his brother’s girl, Maria, the goats at the camp escape. Maria goes to catch them. Then, suddenly, there was a flash of light followed by yellow rain.
The residents of the camp search for Maria and Eladio after the strange rain. Maria’s dead, with eyes gouged, covered in yellow gunk and mold. All the goats are dead. Eladio, who is nowhere to be found, becomes a suspect.
The migrants believe he’s the Chupacabra.
Of course, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, special FBI agents of the X-Files, show up to investigate.
Throughout the whole episode they search looking for Eladio with the help of INS Agent Conrad Lozano. And of course Mulder believes the migrants when they say Eladio is the Chupacabra.
Still, Lozano helps Mulder. However, he reminds Mulder the story of the Chupacabra is merely folklore.
“I believe these people. But their lives are small. So they have to make these fantasies just to keep on going — to feel alive,” Lozano said.
“Because they are strangers here. They feel hated, unwanted. Whenever their passions become inflamed, they resort to violence. And then they cannot turn to the law, so they make up these fantastic tales. Call it anything you want, but this is an age old story.”
We’re shown images of the migrant life in the camps. We see migrants waiting in an alley for some American employer to pick them for the day. We see them enduring blatant racism. And still, Eladio and his brother are nowhere to be found.
Mulder is frustrated from the lack of help from Lozano, and Scully is incredibly worried about the contagion spread from Eladio. It seemed as though no one cared about the virus, much less the migrant.
“These people are invisible. You look at them and you don’t see them. They’re just workers — cheap labor to pick crops and clean houses. To most people they are aliens in the true sense of the word,” Lozano said.
Only the viewer at home can see Eladio and his brother walking down the highway, as they’ve fully transformed into Chupacabras.
And as Scully and Mulder are talking to Special Agent Skinner to report the case, he’s in disbelief that they hadn’t been able to find the men.
“Well, sir, they, um...They have a way of being almost invisible,” Scully said.
In a voice-over, Mulder says, “The truth is, nobody cares.”
My TV goes black, running credits as :”The X-Files” theme goes off. I just kept staring at the screen.
“Holy crap …” I muttered to myself. “What the hell did I just watch?”
Instead of droning into dreamland, I lie awake thinking of the episode. And not because of the Chupacabra.
This episode aired in 1997 — 23 years ago — but seemed as though it could have been filmed today. Set aside the Chupacabra, these feelings toward immigrants remain incredibly, and sadly, the same.
Those kids in cages, alone.
Those families separated, leaving kids without parents.
Those in the “La Hielera,” a detention center known for its low temperatures in Arizona.
Those heading to work at camps or construction sites or cleaning jobs, living in fear each day that they’ll be sent back without a way to provide for their family.
Twenty-three years … do we still not care about these people? Are these people still just “aliens,” without an identity, without importance? Do immigrants’ lives still not matter? Are we just faceless and disposable?
Man, I was ready to get spooked by the folklore I knew as a kid. I just wasn’t ready to be that spooked by the painful reality.
I let Hulu autoplay to the next episode … maybe the next episode would be something less terrifying.
Diana Rojo-Garcia can be reached at 507.344.6305 or email@example.com.