Thread: Capybara = fish
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Old 31 March 2009, 09:13 PM
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Bonnie Bonnie is offline
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 148
Beaver Capybara = fish

Lent [in Venezuela] is to capybaras as Christmas is to turkeys: a season of terror and slaughter. It has been for nearly 500 years, ever since the first Spanish colonists, noticing that this ungainly creature spent much of its life in the water, secured a ruling from the papacy defining it as a fish.


The annual hunt comes before Easter, when capybara has a status in Venezuela similar to that of turkey during Thanksgiving. While the Roman Catholic Church generally forbids eating meat during certain days of Lent, many Venezuelans insist that the capybara is more akin to fish than to meat. That may have something to do with how salted capybara tastes, resembling a mixture of sardines and pork. Legend has it that eating capybara, known here as chigüire (pronounced chee-GWEE-reh), got a boost in the 18th century when the local clergy asked the lace Vatican to give capybara the status of fish.

That's an oft-repeated assertion, but I've never been able to find anything in the historical record (at least in English) to support the notion that the Vatican at some point – for the purpose of Venezuelan Lent – declared the capybara to be fish. Does anyone happen to know more about this?

-- Bonnie
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