NEVER MIND THE ALUX
The Mexican President shares a 'mystical' snap
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador raised eyebrows on 25 February by posting a photo to his social media allegedly showing an alux, a Mexican woodland spirit. His Twitter post, which did not appear to be a joke, read: “I share two photos of our supervision of the Maya Train works: one, taken by an engineer three days ago, apparently of an alux; another, by Diego Prieto of a splendid pre-Hispanic sculpture in Ek Balam. Everything is mystical.” The Maya Train works referred to is a railway being built on the Yucatan peninsula, which is a pet project of the President, intended to open the region for tourism. Pronounced “a-looshez”, aluxes are classic trickster spirits not unlike British brownies or boggarts.
Local legend has it that if a landowner builds a small house for aluxes, they will look after the family’s land for seven years and encourage the corn to grow. At the end of the seven years, the house needs to be sealed to keep the aluxes inside. Like brownies and boggarts, they can be helpful, but become vengeful and problematic if offended. In 2010, Elton John’s stage collapsed during preparations for his concert at the sacred site of Chichén Itzá, and this was widely believed to have been due to the promoters skipping the tradition of asking the aluxes on the site for permission to hold the show on sacred ground. Rituals were duly performed, and the rest of the event went off without a hitch, as did those with Plácido Domingo and Sarah Brightman, for which proper permission was asked.
Many commenters dismissed the photo as just a fortuitous combination of tree branches and stars, or possibly an owl, but some felt it was an alux disturbed by the incursion of the railway into its territory. After Obrador posted the image there was concern that he, too, might have angered the aluxes by posting it without their permission. One commenter said: “You need to ask permission and offer tobacco, wine, water, and honey, following the ritual of our ancestors and the culture of our original peoples”. Other commenters though suggested the engineer was making it up, as the said photo had been doing the rounds on social media since February 2021, and had been previously “used in Indonesia, Thailand and other countries”, with its actual origin being unclear.
While it is accepted that aluxes are part of the local Mayan spirit world, there is no direct evidence that pre-Columbian communities believed in them, apart from artworks that possibly represent something like an alux. It has been suggested that they resemble British spirits because they were adopted by the local culture after interactions with British pirates in the 17th century, although they could equally have been derived from the folklore of the Spanish colonisers, as similar entities are found across Europe. This may not have been necessary however, as spirits that behave in similar ways are found independently in folklore across the globe, for example the Orang Bunian of Malaysia. yucatanmagazine.com, 26 Feb; yahoo.com, 26 Feb; independent. co.uk, 27 Feb 2023.
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