Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he has proof that the cheeky woodland sprites exist, but is it too good to be true?
This is a pivotal moment for the popular Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AKA Amlo). Although he won’t be able to run for reelection when the country takes to the polling booths next year, since the constitution limits presidents to a single term, he’s made it his mission to drum up support for a political successor from inside his own party. Making life harder, tens of thousands of Mexicans took to the streets on Sunday, to protest his proposed electoral reforms.
In between his populist rallies and attempts to upend the voting system, though, we’re pleased to report that Amlo still finds time to explore topics he’s passionate about, like the existence of “mystical” elves.
Yes, elves. More specifically, a variety of Maya elf called an alux. Over the weekend, Amlo tweeted a picture that appeared to show one such alux – a spooky, hooded being with glowing eyes – perched on a tree branch. Another picture (presumably shared for comparison) showed a pre-Hispanic sculpture in the Maya archeological site of Ek’ Balam, depicting a similar woodland sprite.
Needless to say, where elves are concerned, people have some questions for the Mexican president. Like, how did Amlo stumble across this image of a mythical creature? Does it have any significance within his ongoing political campaign? Is he soft launching a career as a paranormal investigator for when his presidency ends, à la Kesha in Conjuring Kesha? Is the whimsical little creature actually Amlo when he was a baby? Below, we attempt to answer some of these pressing concerns.
Les comparto dos fotos de nuestra supervisión a las obras del Tren Maya: una, tomada por un ingeniero hace tres días, al parecer de un aluxe; otra, de Diego Prieto de una espléndida escultura prehispánica en Ek Balam. Todo es místico. pic.twitter.com/Tr5OP2EqmU— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) February 25, 2023
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ALUX
An alux is a type of nature spirit in Maya mythology, thought to inhabit Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, as well as Guatemala. According to tradition, they mostly appear invisible, but when they do appear to humans they’re around knee-height and wear the traditional clothing of Maya people.
When, and why, do they appear to humans at all? Well, it’s believed that they can be summoned by farmers who build small houses in their fields, and will help crops grow, summon rain, and ward off predators. If the farmer doesn’t board up their house after seven years, though, the alux is likely to escape and roam around the countryside playing tricks on people.
HOW DID AMLO SPOT AN ALUX?
Andrés Manuel López Obrador was born in a small village in Tabasco, close to the Yucatán Peninsula, so it’s not out of the question that he’s well-acquainted with the alux. The picture shared on Twitter, though, was supposedly taken three days prior to posting – this date will become important later – by an engineer supervising the construction of the Maya Train.
The Maya Train project was announced by Amlo in 2018, before he was officially sworn in as president, and is scheduled to be completed by 2024. You won’t be surprised to hear that it traverses the Yucatán Peninsula, and aims to invigorate the inland economy by bringing more tourists to ancient Maya sites.
SO... THE WHOLE THING IS A TOURISM PLOY?
The Maya Train has been described as Amlo’s “pet project”, upon which he’s staking his political legacy, and he’s already proven that he’ll go to great lengths to protect that legacy, ignoring the warnings of construction experts and ecological activists, as well as his own projected budget (which is now estimated at $20 billion). It seems pretty obvious that he could have an ulterior motive for peppering the train line with stories of mythical creatures, like a magical safari.
But would Amlo really fake an elf sighting – and exploit Maya traditions – for political gain? Well…
THE PHOTO IS A LIE
“I share two photos of our supervision of the Mayan Train works: one, taken by an engineer three days ago,” Amlo said, when posting the photo of the supposed alux on February 25. A little bit of internet detective work, however, has uncovered that the image is at least three years old, shared by Mexican news outlets after a sighting in Nuevo León, northeast Mexico, in 2021.
In fact, the blurry black-and-white might not even depict an alux at all. At the time, the man who captured the photo instead claimed that what he’d seen was a different breed of supernatural entity... a witch. Sure, he was laughed off the internet for his claim, but is it any more far-fetched than Amlo’s alux?
It wouldn’t be the first time that a spooky little guy was captured on camera, of course, or that the footage had been met with a sceptical response. Take, for example, the 2008 Sun article that claimed a “creepy gnome” was terrorising an Argentinian town, after a bunch of teenagers caught it on camera. In sketchy video footage, the duende (a kind of goblin or gnome) was seen doddling across the street, but was eventually dismissed by fact checkers as a “silly prank”. At least, that’s what they’d like us to think.
“TODO ES MÍSTICO”
Whether the picture shows a woodland spirit or a witch, whether it’s a spooky eyewitness account, or a cynical tourism scheme, or someone’s Photoshop prank just blew up on an international scale, the important thing to remember is that the president of Mexico is tweeting about elf sightings. The president of Mexico is telling us that “todo es místico” (“everything is mystical”) and that’s kind of beautiful. If British politicians were prepared to embrace mystery, and started insisting on the existence of Cornish piskies or mischievous boggarts, then I would personally have a lot more respect for them.