you travel out to el campo, and poll a handful of native local farmers
and campesinos, chances are you’ll run into someone who has
heard of the Alicante snake. The Alicante is a mythological creature
of Mexican folklore—or is it? Like most snakes, the Alicante
is said to feed off of rats, field mice and other small rodents
and scavengers. But unlike most snakes, Alicantes supposedly don’t
drag and crawl upon their entire bodies, but move in a tall and
erect fashion, with the majority of their body upright. They hunt
their prey in this fashion until they are ready strike, pecking
down like a fierce chicken. By some accounts, it has the form of
a cobra, complete with the classical cobra “hood”, but
with distinctly different characteristics.
But some of the Alicante’s most legendary feats are quite
unique to itself. Sucking milk out of goats and hypnotizing birds
are some of the more common myths. A nocturnal hunter, the Alicante
makes a sound like the whistle of a male construction worker issuing
catcalls on 57th Street. This whistle comes in handy, for when the
Alicante finds a target of its liking, it has been known to seduce
women from the safety of her countryside homes, like a siren luring
a sailor’s ship to certain death. And when women are recovering
from the miracle of childbirth, the Alicante has been known to sneak
into the new mother’s bedroom under cover of darkness, often
while she is in a state of lactation and nursing her newborn child.
The viper first hypnotizes the newborn with its rattle tail, eventually
pacifying the child and placing the rattle in the kid’s mouth,
keeping it entertained and quiet, as the asp sucks the milk out
of the nursing mother’s breast. Yes, the Alicante seems to
take after many of the finest male attributes. And after falling
in love with a woman, it is purported to insert its rattle into
a woman’s sleeping mouth, while inserting it’s own mouth
into the woman’s nether region.
Alicante is most likely based on the real life Durango Mountain
Pine Snake (aka: Mexican Bullsnake, Mexican Pine Snake, Durango
Mountain Gopher snake and El cincuate), or Pituophis deppei deppei.
This snake is basically tan-colored with very dark, fairly well
defined blotches ranging in color from dark brown to black with
a slightly lighter head and averaging about 5.5 feet in length.
In the state of Hidalgo it is called El cincuate, which roughly
translates to “serpent of the corn” or “corn snake”.
Probably dubbed so because it frequents the cornfields in Mexico
where it preys upon the rodents found there. In other areas of Mexico
the name most often encountered is Alicante, and even corallilo,
which translates to coral snake. This is probably based upon the
fear that rural people have for the display this snake puts on when
disturbed, and the mistaken belief that it is poisonous like the
coral snake. Like a typical Pituophis when disturbed in the field,
the deppei deppei buzzes its tail, exhales air loudly through the
epiglottis, and arches the neck into the typical S-shaped threat
display. (This could explain the hypnotizing rattle, woman-seducing
whistle and upright posture.) This species will commonly (more than
any other species of Pituophis) follow this display with immediate
action. Its bite is NOT a closed-mouth defensive bite and the deppei
deppei are said to mean business. Although it is known to be a fairly
common snake throughout the region, rural people, who attribute
many mythic qualities to it, usually kill it on sight.