Alligator centaur

El Hombre Caimán is a popular Colombian myth about a man who is half man, half alligator – the result of an accident while peeping on bathing women.

Alligator man
Felviper, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Local myths and legends can be quite fun if they have a good story behind them – and the legend of the Colombian alligator man has a good story behind it.

In the town of Plato, on the shore of Magdalena River, a guy named Saúl Montenegro likes to spy on women bathing in the river. In order to avoid being caught, he had a magician make him two potions: one to turn him into an alligator, and one to turn him back into a human. (Not explained by the legend: why exactly seeing an alligator in the river is less alarming to the bathing women. But I digress.)

Montenegro had a friend come along to administer the second potion, and this worked fine for a while. But then his friend couldn’t come and Montenegro had to replace him with another, and this replacement was not as brave as his predecessor. When he saw Montenegro returning as an alligator he jumped in fright and spilled the restorative potion. A few drops landed on Montenegro’s head, the rest was lost.

The potion still worked… except it only worked on the peeping tom’s upper half. Montenegro was henceforth a kind of alligator centaur – half man, half reptile. Shunned by the people of Plato, and unable to find more of the potion, he supposedly roams the Magdalena River in menace and despair.

Plato has a few nice statues of El Hombre Caimán (as pictured above), and for a quarter of a century the city has held a festival to celebrate this unique slice of local legend.

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