Hi, @agmoore! I've had a great time reading this. It's nice to find posts like this one, interesting and well crafted.
Here in Venezuela it's zarigüeya or, most commonly, rabipelado (which means they have a hairless tail).I have seen them quite a lot; the common variety here has dark fur.
With the coming of the crisis in my country, many people started to raise chickens in their backyards, but not everyone has been able to install fences to protect them, so the opossums (among other small predators like rats, or the snakes which the opossums happen to eat, too) eat the young; they also steal fruit, rummage through garbage and make small messes in yards and gardens, so no doubt some people really hate them. In fact, many still believe that they are giant rats; poor opossums are lucky to be a bit ugly and have those defense mechanisms that you tell us about, because surely their luck would be even worse if people were not a bit afraid of them.
Here in my town, there is an opossum who visits a tobacco factory frequently. The employees give him food and water and let him do his "pest control" work; they treat him with affection but from a distance, lol, because he's really not pretty.
Thanks for sharing your knowledege and for a good read :)