La Quinta Avenida is the main touristic street of the resort city of Playa del Carmen. As such, walking along, you will find many expected sights such as fast food restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops. Looking into the gardened courtyard of the San Pedro Hotel, you can also find a very unexpected sight: a small wooden structure, similar to a doghouse, painted in bright colors. Above the entrance, the word “ALUX” is spelled out in big letters, as if the house had been built for it.
Aluxes (alux is the most common singular, although aluxe is sometimes used) are spirits in Maya mythology, usually not downright evil or good. Normally depicted as humanoids but much smaller, their mischievous nature and appearance make them roughly similar to other cultures’ mythological creatures, such as imps and elves. Despite major cultural trends such as Christianity and globalization, genuine belief in aluxes is still commonplace in the Maya homeland.
While alux houses like the one at this hotel are not uncommon in small towns and neighborhoods, the presence of this single example in such a cosmopolitan area is fairly unique. It stands as more than decoration, since people will often leave coins, painted rocks, and treats for the alux inside. It is believed that placating aluxes is important for good luck and prosperity; An alux house was built for the completion of a bridge leading to the Cancún airport.
The alux has become one of the best-known elements of Maya folklore, with an animated series called La Gruta del Alux (The Alux’s Grotto) often credited with these creatures’ revival in modern Yucatán pop culture. References to aluxes extend even outside of the Maya homeland in Mexico. Likely born in Guadalajara (on the opposite side of the country) and currently going by the name KeMonito, the man who is likely Mexico’s best-known lucha libre wrestler with dwarfism formerly went by the stage names Alushe/Aluche and Duende Maya (Maya Elf).
Know Before You Go
Although private property, the courtyard where the house is located is accessible at practically all times.