Honestly, there’s not a lot to feel hopeful about lately. Between COVID surges, simultaneous climate catastrophes, and an endless series of depressing and maddening news events, the end of the world feels both more inevitable and closer than ever.
But!! Against all odds, there are still moments of levity and things that provide a bit of hope in whatever circle of hell this is. This week, one of those things is the majestic capybara. Or more accurately, a large group of capybara punks.
Now, just to be clear, capybaras have long been a continuous font of glee both on the planet and inside the internet, but this development takes them from simply beloved to absolutely god-tier.
Here’s the full scoop: Basically, an ever-growing population of capybaras in Buenos Aires, Argentina (where they’re known as carpinchos) have “invaded” the wealthy, gated community of Nordelta. “Invaded” is in quotation marks here because it’s not as though the animals are attempting to conquer a new and unfamiliar territory—they are just returning to land that was theirs to begin with. You see, the upscale Nordelta neighborhood was constructed on the wetlands of the Paraná River, which pushed the area’s resident capybara community out. Now it seems that the capybaras have convened, said a collective “hell no” to that, and are taking back their land. In the process, they’ve reportedly wrecked lawns and gardens, shat everywhere, attacked pets and caused car crashes.
In other words, the capybaras are forging their very own socialist revolution. You love to see it!!
What you don’t love to see is the fully psychotic human ire that’s followed the capybara occupation. As the conflict has gained recognition, there’s been a glut of annoying interviews with residents who say they “want” to peacefully coexist with the animals but insist that things have just gotten out of hand. The rodents are now the subject of Nordelta NIMBY rage. Some locals have threatened to shoot the capybaras, while others want officials to remove them or build fences as a deterrent. To which I say, seriously?? Look at these kings:
The irreverent anthropomorphizing of these animals and their purpose is entertaining and cathartic for those of us who are championing a world in which the oppressed are empowered to rise up to antagonize and unseat the status quo, but it’s also serving a broader function in Buenos Aires. Argentina’s left-leaning Peronists have adopted the capybara as a mascot of sorts—a representative symbol of the movement’s stance against the rich and in support of the working class. Activists have organized protests urging the government to protect the animals and allow them to stay, with attendees actually wearing cardboard capybara headpieces and masks. The campaign is also naturally very big on social media, where capybaras already run wild with reckless abandon.
And even more broadly, the story of Nordelta’s capybaras reflects the global nightmare of vanishing wilderness, and very real battles over land rights and environmentalism. The Paraná River—the second largest river in South America—and the animals who call it home have been under attack from urban development, wildfires, and agricultural developers for some time. Earlier this year, Argentina declared a state of water emergency because rivers are at their lowest water level in 77 years. But yes, by all means, build your neighborhoods on the wetlands.
And as always, it’s not just the country’s animals or the land that pay the price of industrialization, people do as well. Quite specifically, poor people, who are displaced by development and suffer the most when climate disasters hit. All in service of the rich, who seem intent on building a world that doesn’t and couldn’t exist sustainably.
As ecologist Enrique Viale told The Guardian: “Wealthy real-estate developers with government backing have to destroy nature to sell clients the dream of living in the wild – because the people who buy those homes want nature, but without the mosquitoes, snakes, or carpinchos.”
It’s a grim microcosm of the horrors that capitalism and human exceptionalism have put on our planet and our fellow animals at risk. And it’s frankly devastating to see these small horrors play out against ecosystems that have little to no recourse. While it feels good to see that the largest rodents in the world fighting back and to know that they’d be on the right side of history in class war, it’s also impossible not to see the dark and logical endpoint of this and every climate battle if we don’t drastically change the way we operate on a broad scale and act.
In the meantime, I’ll find some peace in the capybara as a socialist hero. After all, they’re cute as all get-out, gregarious, highly social, live in packs, are semi-aquatic (which is why they’re also known as water hogs), are vegetarians (okay herbivores, whatever), and can weigh as much an adult human. These guys are a huge asset!! Their numbers in Nordelta are also rapidly increasing (a single female capybara can birth over a dozen pups a year) and they’ve seen a population boom in the last year alone to the tune of 17 percent. That boom was aided in part by the fact that the area’s building developments also eliminated the capybara’s natural predators. Truly, there’s nothing quite like a human to screw things up on every level.
I sincerely hope that one day when the human race has completely destroyed itself, animals will take over the earth once again (okay maybe Gen Z will be there) and fully reclaim the ruins of our cities and gated communities. From our graves we’ll whisper “nature is healing, etc,” and when that day comes I hope our capybara comrades are leading the charge. For now, they’re setting an example for the rest of us: Eat the rich… or at least shit on their lawn.