Politics

Meet The Cop-Hating Stray Dog That Has Become A Symbol Of Revolution

Negro Matapacos -- which translates to 'black cop-killer' -- has become the face of Chile's revolution.

Negro Matapacos Chile

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Over the last few months, a curious figure has emerged at the forefront of the democratic protests in Chile.

While concerned citizens have taken to the streets, demanding an overthrow of the discriminatory practices that ensure the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, they have carried with them the image of a true socialist hero: a black, bandana-wearing dog named Negro Matapacos.

The dog has been spray-painted onto the side of buildings; printed on t-shirts; distributed on flyers. He is, for so many of the protestors, a symbol of resistance — of the desperate need to speak truth to power.

But who is Negro Matapacos, and why has he become the canine face of reform?

The Black Cop-Killer

Negro Matapacos first hit the news back in 2011.

Back then, Chile was in the midst of a wave of student protests, as young people across the country fought against the privatisation of universities and demanded education became more accessible for everybody, regardless of social class.

During one of these protests, a stray dog joined the demonstrators. Kindly and affable to the students, but gruff and aggressive towards the Chilean police officers, he immediately established himself as a friend to socialism.

In fact, that’s where his nickname comes from — Negro Matapacos is slang for black cop-killer.

Over the next few years, Negro Matapacos continued to join in on student demonstrations. Though he was nominally free to go wherever he pleased — throughout his entire life, he was the servant of no master — he was closely cared for.

A woman named Maria Campos gave him a bed, food, and cycled him through his distinctive bandanas. During the night, he would sleep at her room in the university, and during the day he would trot about the streets, keeping his eyes close on his hated police.

In fact, by 2013, Negro Matapacos was already such an icon that he became the star of a short documentary. Filmed in Spanish, Matapaco documents the dog during his daily routine, establishing him as something of a protector of the underclass.

When he trots off into the distance at the documentary’s end, it’s like John Wayne hitting out for the horizon in The Searchers.

Well-looked after, Matapacos lived a long and happy life — reports estimated that he had sired some thirty-odd children. And when he passed, in August of 2017, the country’s political class genuinely mourned him. Tributes to him appeared in major newspapers. His image was emblazoned across walls.

A poem published on the Chilean website La Izquierda to commiserate his passing sums up the mourning well. It begins with this line: “The Black Matapacos is pissing from the sky about military helmets, turning off gas pumps.

The Return of Negro Matapacos

In October of this year, protestors took to the Chilean streets en masse. Armed with molotov cocktails, they set fire to a train, swarmed the subway, carried banners, and clashed with the police.

Nominally, the demonstration was sparked by a rise in prices for the metro system. But in actuality, the issues ran much deeper than mere train tickets. “This is not a simple protest over the rise of metro fares,” one Chilean student told Reuters. “This is an outpouring for years of oppression that have hit mainly the poorest. The illusion of the model Chile is over.”

Amidst these difficult times, demonstrators needed hope. And so they turned again to Matapacos.

An image of the dog dancing over a metro’s barrier, the words “EVADE” printed below him, went viral. In turn, that illustration kicked off a new wave of Matapacos imagery, a deluge of posters and stencils depicting him as a fiery saviour, and the worst enemy of cops the world over.

Suddenly, two years after his death, the dog was once again everywhere.

It is not hard to see why. These are difficult times. Thanks to climate change, they will only get harder. Protests can sometimes feel aimless, and protestors can feel utterly alienated from one another — pressure doesn’t just come from a cop’s baton, but from societal forces designed to make you feel afraid, and lonely, and hopeless.

Negro Matapacos is a salve to all that. The dog made no bold speeches; printed no op-eds; won no awards. His protests happened every day. And they weren’t performative, or exclusionary. They were a natural byproduct of his simply being alive.

He didn’t practice socialism. He embodied it.


Joseph Earp is a Negro Matapacos stan and staff writer at Junkee who Tweets @Joseph_O_Earp.

Lead image: Negro Matapacos Facebook page