I have a sweet tooth. Every time I go to the store, I buy candy; they’re not really for me, though. You see, during my wanderings around Yucatán, I’ve noticed the presence of small, doll-sized houses located in cities and towns alike. However, these are not toys.
They’re simply there; you might come across them on a street corner, on a sidewalk, at the back of a courtyard, or outside a construction site.
What’s up with these tiny homes?
What are these little houses that populate the rural and urban landscape of the entire Yucatán Peninsula? Because I’ve even seen them in Cancún’s hotel zone.
The answer lies in Maya mythology, where the Aluxes exist: small beings that guard the forests, caves, and cenotes. Endowed with magical powers and a mischievous personality, Aluxes live among us without being seen, but we can sense their presence: a shadow or a gentle breeze can give it away.
They’re usually amicable, but it’s best not to disturb them. In rural areas, farmers seek their help to protect their crops from animals or intruders. They perform ceremonies where they offer drinks and food as offerings to the Aluxes. This practice is also observed in urban environments. Perhaps there are no ceremonies, but people build these tiny homes that I mentioned earlier in order to gain the favor of the Alux, protect their homes, or allow construction on certain land.
Why are these tiny homes built?
There isn’t, as far as I know, a manual for construction or a one single model for these houses. Sometimes they look like traditional Maya homes (what you might describe as a hut), while others are elaborate pyramids, complete with their own Chac Mool statue.
There are stories of construction projects that experienced mysterious delays until a little home for the guardian Alux of the land was built. Once the house was in place, the construction would continue without any issues. That’s why sweets—or fruits, also a good option—are offered to Aluxes as a sign of respect and gratitude for their presence, and protection.
Some may consider this custom superstitious, but there are countless stories of people who have suffered the consequences of not believing or, worse, disrespecting the Alux of a cave or a property. In addition, Alux houses are beautiful and, in my opinion, a way to keep alive a worldview that distinguishes us as Yucatecos.
Just like fairies, Aluxes exist as long as people believe in them. Besides, what would the Mayab be without its mythology and magical beings?
That’s why I buy sweets, to leave them in the tiny homes I find along the way so that the Alux who lives there knows that they are respected.
By Alberto Chuc
I like to travel through books and in the real world, activities that I combine whenever I can.
Photography by Alberto Chuc for use in Yucatán Today.
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