Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Rodents of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."

"Have you seen one?" they asked, "they're huge, they live in the river, eat garbage, and they can be as big as a cat; in fact, they eat cats!!" And so I was first warned of Chile's inferior rodent species, the guarén. Given that curiosity is one of the largest contributing factors to my personality and being, I was instantly set on a mission to track one of these pseudomythological creatures down.

When I first arrived in Chile, I lived close to the estero Marga Marga, which was supposedly an optimal location for tracking down a guarén. I would extend every bridge crossing to double its required time, eyes glued to the water and marshy banks looking for a beastly creature of sorts which I imagined was a small version of the ROUS featured in Princess Bride.

As my goal drained on and on, I collected more and more stories and information about the animal, and its cousins around South America (capybara/carpincho, coipo, pacarana). The nanas told me about how the guarenes sometimes enter in the kitchen of houses, host families claimed they can crawl through the plumbing pipes, and friends told me stories of their sightings.

And finally, it was my turn! Crossing over to the Plaza Miraflores, I saw something causing ripples in the water and a small animal climb onto the bank. Camera in hand, I tore down through the weeds to get a closer look at this animal that turned out to be... actually kind of cute!! It wasn't eating metal or poodles or baring teeth and my fear of attack or deadly disease turned into a condescending "awwwww." It looked like a guinea pig! Though the most popular photo on the internet remains rather ugly, I'm not sure if its because of the bad quality or they found a particularly creepy one. Plus, I must say I still wouldn't want this animal in my trash, kitchen, or having its tail brush my bottom from inside the toilet bowl (as one of my English students told me recently happened to his mother).

Later, my roommates parents showed me a photo they took of a seemingly related animal in Argentina and I was amazed at the size, which looked almost like a hog. But that was nothing compared to the news article last year that blew me away. They found fossils in Uruguay of the worlds largest rodent weighing over 2,000 pounds and appearing 3 meters long!!!


Isabel said...

i feel like you were just inducted into some secret chilean society because of your sighting, hah! that's awesome, though. i'd be pretty proud to have finally spotted chile's loch ness rodent. i guess maybe i should believe my old host mother about giant rodents now. im stll not sold on the ghosts and UFOs, though!

lydia said...

haha oh no its definitely not that hidden and this was a couple years ago. i´ve seen a few since, i still keep my eye out for them. ;-)
I just laugh how much everybody played them up and in the end it turned out to be this little furry thing rather than some fanged killer rat.

keep your eye out or you might get eaten before you´ve got the chance to join the club. ;-)

Sara said...

I thought the giant rodents were some weird mythological creature as well, sort of like in the Princess Bride. But, I guess there isn't a really sweet fire swamp to find them.


  1. do you mean, perhaps, in a culinary sense of the word? (hehehe. i've heard they eat guinea pigs in peru!)

  2. I´m always nervous when a Peruvian is near! If they mistake me for a Cuy (a Peruvian guinea Pig), I´m doomed.
    Bringing your old posts here must be interesting, maybe you have some different perspective about what you wrote in the past in some subjects.

  3. Marmo-
    I do have a modified opinion on some. I really only brought over a couple of my more specific posts that I know I'll want to link back to at some point or remember because its useful information (tramite processes, my take on the earthquake, etc).

    In a lot of them I do have an evolved opinion on what I wrote, but I feel its not really fair to go back and edit after the fact (other than punctuation or spelling errors) while keeping the same date and everything. I think my opinions at any specific time should remain as they were then, and if i want to retouch on the topic with a new opinion i should do it now with todays date rather than pretending my new view was the view i've had all along.

    On the topic of river animals, no, haha, my opinion has not evolved, though I have had more recent sightings! If I ever get a good picture I supposed I could insert it in this post...

    haha i dont think anybody would mistake you for potential peruvian cuisine... but you never know, good to be on guard just in case!