Espanto is a Spanish word meaning frighten/frightening. Twenty five years ago if someone were to invite you to spend the night at Cayo Espanto, you would ponder whether you would or not because of the presence of the Alux (pronounced Aloosh) on that island.
Let me tell you about the Alux first of all. An Alux is the name given to a type of spirit among the Maya people in Yucatan, Belize and Guatemala. The Alux was said to be very small, about knee-high and in appearance resembling the traditionally dressed Maya people. They were usually invisible, but could assume a physical form in order to communicate with people, whether to help or to frighten them. They lived in the forest, caves, rocky terrain or even fields. Sometimes a whole group of them would be seen as they were very playful little people.
When the Maya built a new house in the corn field, The Alux suddenly appeared and for seven years he would help grow the corn summoning the rain, patrolling the fields and scaring away predators or thieves by the use of a penetrating whistle. At the end of seven years, the Maya farmer was supposed to vacate the house and leave it for the Alux as his permanent home. Failure to do so would mean that the Alux would become angry and started playing tricks and frightening people.
It was said that the Alux stopped farmers or travelers and asked them for help. If they refused, the Alux would wreak havoc and spread illness. If you were kind to them, they would protect you from thieves, wild animals or even bring you good luck.
And here is where Cayo Espanto comes into play. That small island or caye just off the mainland of Ambergris Caye on the south western end was infested with Alux, who had made it their domain. If a fisherman built a fish trap there, in the morning he would find the wire and poses all ripped off and destroyed. Some fishermen placed thier wood lobster traps there to dry during the off season, but the Alux would break them up or throw them back into the sea so that no humans would inhabit the island. They refused to cohabit with humans. Their loud whistle would be heard from a distance to ward off any human from trying to use the island.
Cayo Espanto got its name way back then when fishermen and coconut farmers of San Pedro were frightened and scared off. My grandfather, Don Cruz Nuñez Sr. told us that he was kind to the Alux and once gave them food and water when he met them in the bush and as a consequence he could go to Cayo Espanto and spend the night there without any fear. Other villagers had similar experiences, but the majority of people had a terrible fear for Cayo Espanto and the Alux that lived there. It was also said that when Graniel’s Construction was building Cayo Espanto’s villas the Alux played tricks on them. They couldn’t start the generator and then hours later it would start on its own. Security guards were frightened at night was said that one security guard was so frightened that he swam all the way back to Town. Now there is total peace at Cayo Espanto. I wonder what the owners and staff at Cayo Espanto has done to mitigate their wicked tricks and to make them kind and hospitable. For a small fee, you too can go and enjoy Cayo Espanto today, quite unlike twenty five years ago.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist