Myths, Magic and Mahekal

Do you believe in trolls? Not the cartoon characters from the recent Dreamworks movie or the mythological figures  your Norwegian grandfather warned you about. I’m talking about Alux (or Aluxob if there’s more than one); Mexican trolls.Impish little beings who vandalize things and play tricks on humans. They are usually dressed in traditional Mayan garb and stand only a few feet tall. Sometimes they change into animals. Often they render themselves invisible. These legendary creatures are well known throughout the Mayan world and a surprising number of  locals believe in them.

I recently had a press trip in Playa del Carmen and  hosting my adventures was Mahekal Beach Resort. Many people imagine a white sandy beach, a hammock, infinity pools, and palm trees when considering a dream vacation. Mahekal delivers that and much more. While staying at this lovely resort, I decided to delve into the mysteries of the Alux  and learn a little bit more about the mythology of which few tourists are aware.

Across the street from Mahekal, I had been told about a pyramid built for the Alux. Not much bigger than a doghouse, the building was built to keep the little guys happy. Several locals gave me the location, but because of  construction, my attempts to find it were fruitless. It probably didn’t help that I began looking right after Mahekal’s tequila tasting. Not to worry. There were others.

The resort was the perfect location for exploring the Mexican Riviera and Playa del Carmen. It’s right on the beach and only a few blocks from Avenida Cinco, the epic Mexican street jammed with hundreds of shops, bars and restaurants. I  never needed the car I rented. When I felt like getting out of Playa, Mahekal set up a cenote snorkeling trip and a Tulum adventure and took care of everything. I’m usually extremely independent and insist on driving myself. However, it was nice to let someone else deal with speed bumps and la polica for a change.

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring Mexico, but on this trip I found myself mostly chilling at my resort, enjoying the balcony, savoring my million dollar view, and reading everything I could find about the Aluxob.  The waves were my soundtrack . Green coconuts ripened in a wooden box adjacent to my hammock and outdoor bamboo shower. Fresh flowers were on my canopy bed and scattered throughout the room and there was a colorful basket full of ripe fruit. I thought it was ironic that in the same way the hotel kept me happy with little treats and Mexican candies in my room, many local businesses were known to leave water and sweets for the Alux . The belief is that these creatures are generally good-natured, but can turn nasty in a moment if you don’t give them what they want. That sounds like some hotel guests I’ve run into before.

The more I talked to the locals, the more stories I heard about the Alux.  An American friend of my relocated to Mexico and got married about a year ago at the Alux Cenote restaurant. Shortly afterwards, she noticed that the mates of her shoes were consistently missing. At first she didn’t believe in mythological foul play, until she was left with almost 100 single shoes. She started putting a pair under her pillow at night in a plastic bag to keep them away from the Alux. Another friend told me of a security guard she knows who charges his phone inside the building where he works and  has repeatedly found it disconnected and hidden on the other side of the building. Coincidence? There were stories everywhere and nothing to disprove them, except…well, logic and science.

The indigenous people in Yucatan and Quintana Roo are very different than the inhabitants of Mexico City or northern Mexico. Though the Spanish conquest united them and they share some of that culture, the Mayans still have different language,  foods and beliefs.   At the Mahekal resort, we were treated to an authentic Mayan meal. Our lunch was prepared in front of us in a traditional  fire pit and included fresh grouper mixed with local spices and wrapped in banana leaves. The chef only spoke Mayan and everything had to be translated .  We drank an indigenous flower tea out of a coconut shell. The meal was rustic but upscale at the same time. We felt like we were being spoiled, but we were eating food prepared with cooking techniques from hundreds of years ago. The workers all seemed to know quite a bit about their Mayan heritage. I asked them about Alux. Were they believers? I couldn’t find anyone who wasn’t. I tried to think of an equivalent figure in our culture that many believe in, but is unproven.  The best comparison I could think of is the belief our culture has in ghosts. Maybe we don’t really see them or think about them usually, but if they do exist, we certainly don’t want to piss them off. We might avoid anything that might be haunted, yet hundreds of TV shows prove that we have a fascination and healthy respect for ghosts.

There’s lots of niches scattered around Mahekal resort that you can explore when you’re taking a break from sun worshiping and want to stretch your legs. Besides the beautiful strip of beach that the resort straddles, there’s a lush jungle. It’s hard to believe when you are walking through the trees that there is a bustling downtown city within five minutes  of walking distance.The  Alux has their mystical origins from forested areas so you’re just as likely to spot one here as anywhere else.  There have been stories of people lost in the brush that reportedly survived on food and water given to them by little people. Like most legends, there’s little evidence to support the stories, but there are enough of them turn the uninitiated into believers. As a tourist, you don’t really have to worry about them. You’re not going to be around long enough to make them mad. However, farmers and businesses in Mexico go to great lengths to appease the mythological figures.

The overpass by the Cancun airport is a great example. The construction company building the structure was supposedly warned by a Mayan shaman to make sure that the Aluxob approved of the bridge. They didn’t and the bridge collapsed. They rebuilt the bridge again and for no apparent reason, it fell again. The construction company reconsidered their position and a small Alux temple was built below the structure so the Aluxob wouldn’t . The bridge has remained perfectly fine ever since.