The mayor of the Mexican town of San Pedro Huamelula, in the state of Oaxaca, has just done something pretty extraordinary. In a special wedding ceremony steeped in deep traditional beliefs, Mayor Victor Hugo Sosa tied the knot with a small female alligator, who was dressed in a beautiful white gown, custom-made for the occasion.
The alligator’s snout was temporarily wrapped shut to prevent her from biting her new husband or any of the wedding guests. This made it possible for the groom to safely kiss the alligator bride once the ceremony was completed, thereby making the union “official.”
Mayor Victor Hugo Sosa recently tied the knot with this small female alligator in a tradition that is possibly one thousand years old. (YouTube screenshot / SCMP)
Man Joins Alligator in Sacred Mother Earth Union
While it might appear to have been some sort of spoof, this unusual event actually has a serious purpose. It is a traditional custom practiced by the Chontal and Huave people, who lived in Oaxaca long before it was seized by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadores in 1521.
These indigenous residents of southwestern Mexico have been performing different versions of this wedding ceremony for many centuries, possibly for more than 1,000 years. Its intent is to create an intimate link between man and nature that will bring favor from the divine realm, thereby ensuring perpetual good harvests on the land and at sea.
It isn’t clear how the tradition got started, or why an urge to appease the gods would veer off in such an odd direction. But the tradition has been around long enough and is sufficiently well-known that any political leader who refused to participate in the ceremony would be rejected by his people.
Fortunately, this was not an issue for Sosa. “We ask nature for enough rain, for enough food, that we have fish in the river,” Sosa explained to Reuters .
Sosa’s new bride is a seven-year-old alligator known as “Little Princess.” She is said to be an earthly representative of a Mother Earth -style deity, which means the mayor has actually married a powerful goddess rather than a simple reptile.
The surviving indigenous people of the Americas have done their best to preserve their most sacred ancient traditions. Their indigenous beliefs have been liberally mixed with Catholicism, creating blended spiritual traditions that include an eclectic combination of both ancient and Christian practices.
In this instance the wedding ritual is known to have begun before the people of ancient Oaxaca had any contact with Europeans, but the form it currently takes mimics the traditional Christian marriage ceremony .
Mayor Victor Hugo Sosa, who married an alligator this month, playing the drums in a festival in San Pedro Huamelula, Oaxaca in 2015. (San Pedro Huamelula community )
A Ritual of Gratitude and Survival
San Pedro Huamelula, Oaxaca is a medium-sized fishing village with a population of approximately 9,000 people. It is located on the Pacific Coast, in a hot and steamy part of Mexico where the traditional languages of the Chontal and Huave people are still spoken by descendants of those groups. There were 16 separate ethnic indigenous groups in the Oaxaca region before the Spanish invasion of the 16th century. And more of the incredible cultural diversity that once defined life in the indigenous Americas has been preserved in Oaxaca than anywhere else.
Rituals and ceremonies like the one that just occurred in San Pedro Huamelula help maintain a vital psychological and spiritual connection between modern indigenous people and their exalted ancestors, who built complex and thriving cultures that were tragically destroyed by unnatural forces.
In recognition of the deeper meaning of the ceremony, indigenous revelers who attended celebrated with enthusiasm. Throughout the day they played music and sang and danced, and immediately after the wedding they carried the alligator bride in their arms throughout the village as men fanned her with their hats to help keep her from getting overheated by the hot sun.
“It gives me so much happiness and makes me proud of my roots,” said Elia Edith Aguilar, a respected elder who organized the wedding. She was charged with selecting the gown and other items that were to be worn by the bride during the ceremony. “It’s a very beautiful tradition,” she said, smiling.
Sosa, Aguilar, and the villagers who attended the ceremony understand that this marriage might be interpreted by some as a joke, or as a publicity stunt by a village that would do anything to boost tourism. But they also know that their people have managed to survive to the present day, despite the epidemics and violence that has caused such a heavy loss of life among indigenous people over the past 500-plus years.
They would attribute their survival to good fortune, and they would attribute that good fortune at least in part to their determination to uphold their most sacred traditions, which are central to their identities and which they believe have been protecting them from total annihilation all along.
Top image: This alligator in San Pedro Huamelula, Oaxaca, Mexico is about to be “married” to the mayor! Source: YouTube screenshot / SCMP
By Nathan Falde