The axolotl, the mythical creature that united Mexico and Argentina, faces extinction

“It is a small amphibian animal that is endemic to Mexico, specifically to the lake on which one of the largest cities in the world is located today. Its small and peculiar face has humanized it to the degree that looking at it is like observing someone similar to us, a strange being who could have been human, but perhaps he knew the tragedies he would experience as a person and he preferred to stay in the water, where, perhaps, he would be a little happier.”

This is the axolotl, or āxōlōtl according to Nahuatl, a name that means smooth-skinned animal. Sadly, only 20 years ago it was estimated that there were 6,000 specimens of the axolotl for every square kilometer in Xochimilco, the part of Mexico City that still preserves its precious lake, however, due to pollution and loss of its habitat, today it is believed that there are only 35 axolotls per square kilometer.


The axolotl is an ancient animal that has been important to the local culture since pre-Hispanic times. The Aztecs believed that he was related to the god Xolotl, brother of Quetzalcoatl, one of the most important deities in their cosmology. However, one of the most important characteristics of this animal was mentioned by Fray Bernandino de Sahagún.

He said that Xolotl refused death, so he hid in the cornfields turning into corn, then he was discovered and hid in a maguey and again when he was discovered he jumped into the water and turned into an axolotl. This reminds us that the axolotl is an animal that survives death and is famous throughout the world for its regenerative powers, managing to grow parts of its body if it loses them, including parts of the brain.

Although the animal is in danger of extinction and there are even programs to save it, where it is famous and popular is in laboratories around the world where its genome, 10 times larger than that of the human being, is studied and it is hoped that a cure will be found for it. many diseases, because that characteristic of the axolotl makes it really special.

It is enough to read a little of Julio Cortázar to understand the importance of the axolotl. His story “Axolotl” is based on these little creatures that he claims to have observed on his way through France, however, the writer’s nationality makes the bond between Mexicans and Argentines grow when Cortázar’s words become almost prophetic:

“His blind gaze, the tiny inexpressive and yet terribly lucid golden disc, penetrated me like a message: «Save us, save us». He surprised me muttering words of comfort, transmitting childish hopes. They continued to look at me motionless; suddenly the pink twigs The gills straightened. At that moment I felt a dull ache; perhaps they saw me, sensed my effort to penetrate the impenetrableness of their lives. They were not human beings, but in no animal had I found such a deep relationship with me. The axolotls were like witnesses to something, and sometimes like horrible judges.”


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