Dozens of residents of Soledad del Doblado, a town located about 30 kilometers inland from the port of Veracruz, went on the hunt for a nahual Monday night.
Men, women and children armed with rocks, shovels and guns left their homes to kill or drive away the mythical creature that according to legend is half-human, half-animal, drinks human blood, and causes all manner of ills, including disease.
The search for the shape-shifter was broadcast on Facebook live as frightened residents congregated around a palm tree where someone said the creature was hiding.
Dogs barked frantically as people pointed flashlights into the fronds. When one person said he saw the nahual, identifying it as a grey mass, another began firing a pistol into the area in which the imaginary creature was said to be hiding. “Be careful, he can do something to you!I don’t know what might happen!” shouted a frightened woman.
At one point, the man filming the 28-minute-long video, which has recorded more than 35,000 views, exclaimed that the nahual had flown away.
Meanwhile, the gunshots drew the attention of police who asked people not to fire guns into the air and to return to their homes and respect coronavirus protocols.
The legend of the nahual is linked to pre-Columbian shamanism, and the word is derived from the word naualli, which means sorcerer or magician. In Mayan, Toltec and Mexica cultures the mythical creature plays different roles, and can appear as a jaguar, coyote, hummingbird or owl, among other animals.
Sightings of nahuals and other mythical creatures are relatively common across Mexico.
In April of this year, residents of Ocozocoautla de Espinosa, Chiapas, were kept awake for several nights by the howling of a nahual they claim is half man and half wolf, and offered photos of claw marks on the ground as proof.
And in June, residents of Arriaga, also in Chiapas, captured a man who ran on all fours as they chased him through town. Video footage showed the partially clothed man in what appeared to be a jail cell making strange braying noises and attempting to bite the bars.
Residents say he was a nahual and used witchcraft to turn himself into a wolf at night. While some internet users believe the video is proof that the creature exists, others suggest drugs, not witchcraft, were responsible for his odd behavior.