Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has found himself at the center of controversy following a recent social media hoax that involved a supposed elf sighting. On February 25 the president, who is known for his populism and quirkiness, tweeted “I’m sharing two photos from our directorship of the Mayan Train project: one taken by an engineer three days ago, it appears to be an Aluxe; the other (photo) by Diego Prieto of a splendid pre-Hispanic sculpture at Ek Balam. Everything is mystical.”
The photo posted by AMLO, however, is actually more than two years old. The same image was shared on Twitter on February 9, 2021 with the claim that many thought it was a witch that had appeared atop a tree in the northern state of Nuevo León. And a few days before that post an Indonesian media outlet ran a story asserting the photo was taken on February 4, 2021.
AMLO’s comments were met with criticism from many quarters, with some accusing him of being out of touch with reality. Others accused him of mystifying his $15 billion pet project, the Mayan Train, in order to win over opponents, especially the Mayas of the Yucatan peninsula, many of whom argue that the tourist train will lead to further environmental degradation of the region. Other critics have accused AMLO of using the controversy as a distraction from more pressing issues facing the country, such as recent massive street protests of a new law that threatens to eviscerate the national electoral institute, economic malaise, and escalating narco-violence. However, Lopez Obrador’s supporters have praised his willingness to entertain the possibility of the existence of magical creatures, seeing it as a sign of his open-mindedness and respect for Mexico’s cultural heritage.
Aluxes are believed by some to live across the Yucatan peninsula. They are typically invisible to humans, although legend has it they are capable of becoming visible when they want to be mischievous or are feeling playful. They are typically found in natural areas including jungles, forests, fields, caves, and even stones. However, they are able to make a home anywhere they wish, as long as they have food, water, and shelter. When visible, Aluxes (or Aluxob, in the Mayan language) are only knee-high and have wide, owl-like eyes. They are also quick in their movements, and some have even been said to have the body parts of other animals including iguanas, deer, macaws, or coati. Other physical descriptions are similar to those of sprites, spiritual fairy-like creatures. In some regions, Yucatan locals say Aluxes can appear in more frightening forms, including dark shadows or shapes with glowing red eyes
President Lopez Obrador found himself facing criticism from both domestic and international media outlets. Some accused him of promoting superstition and anti-scientific beliefs, while others suggested that his comments had damaged Mexico’s reputation on the global stage. Despite the criticism, Lopez Obrador refused to back down from his comments, insisting that he was simply expressing an opinion and that everyone was entitled to their own beliefs. “I respect those who believe in the existence of magical creatures, just as I respect those who do not,” he said. “We live in a diverse and complex world, and it’s important to have an open mind and be willing to learn from each other.”