By Scott Corrales
[Last week we reported on Jose Manuel García Bautista’s latest ufological endeavor, the Ufologia Historica website. This week we’ve managed to secure an interview with him, and it is indeed a fitting way to end 2009! – SC]
Jose Manuel, since the mid-‘90s the concept of “regional ufology” has become very popular, not only when discussing the UFO/paranormal case histories of countries, but of the regions within countries. In what way can Andalusian ufology be said to differ from that of the rest of Spain?
Andalusian ufology bears little similarity with that of the rest of the nation’s territory, and perhaps the main difference can be found within the researcher himself or herself. The idiosyncrasies of the Andalusian researchers makes him or her more open, and with a vision of the UFO phenomenon that is highly influenced by foreign trends. This can be stressed even further when we appraise the work performed by those early pioneers of ufology to whom “Ufologia Historica” is devoted. These were researchers by their very nature – field researchers, boots on the ground types who would visit a location and spend months following on phenomena in real time. Their only defect was to believe in that which they investigated, therefore the impartiality of some of their research is questionable, but by no means less valuable or significant.
Many of those pioneering researchers followed the French trends of Aimée Michel or Jacques Vallée, as well as that of Antonio Ribera i Jordá, with whom many maintained correspondence, or with journalist Carlos Murciano. There can be no question that this was a highly valuable and cultured “UFO line of thought”, which made it highly contemplative, aimed at looking beyond ufology itself. This gave rise to Trans-Ufology or ufological philosophers such as Ignacio Darnaude.
Those pioneers blazed the trail for a form a UFO study regardless of its level. It also guided the formation of associations, whether formal or informal, between researchers and the importance of having a good network of correspondents and sources, or the value of interview forms and files of sightings.
Contemporary ufology in this region of Spain is highly analytical. Far from chasing lights, we are also interested in finding out what lies behind this intriguing phenomenon, whether because it is apparently frozen and not developing, or because there is the false presumption that it is not evolving. There is a great deal of analysis, documentation and comparison between sightings, creating the databases for studying a phenomenon as elusive as the UFO. Yet today, we can barely find differences between researchers nationwide. A change of methodology may be possible, but the purpose of research will remain the same. It has not changed in over 50 years.
SC: Could you tell us what is the oldest case recorded in Andalucia?
JM: It would be necessary to consult the files, but offhand I can remember a luminous phenomenon mentioned by Diego Torres de Villaroel, a court chronicler to the Spanish king, in the 15th century. It’s a very interesting case. It occurred in 1464 and is featured in the chronicles of our city, Seville, witnessed by hundreds of churchgoers who were exiting the Cathedral. King Enrique IV’s chroniclers, the priest Diego Enriques del Castillo and Alonso de Palencia documented it for posterity. It reads thus: “In the city of Seville there was a wonderful phenomenon never seen before. Without there being any wind or hurricane, some of the trees of the Alcazar’s grove were drawn upward, uprooted and hurled over the city walls. One of the Alcazar’s towers was sliced as though by a knife. A statue of King Don Pedro, carved in stone and bearing a metal diadem, standing on a pedestal in the gardens, vanished and was never seen again. Numerous arches of the aqueduct, known as Caños de Carmona, plummeted without their sudden collapse causing any noise. This all happened at noon, at the time when people left the Cathedral after hearing Mass. Religious people bearing the stamp of age, as well as innocent children, claim having seen armed men riding through the air.” This eyewitness account is from 1464. An author of magic realism might say to all this that “yesterday’s gods are tomorrows astronauts”, and they are perhaps right, although other scholars and theologians tried to construe this manifestation of winged, armed beings in the skies over Seville as a vision of guardian angels insuring the integrity of the city’s faith. This chronicle was promptly delivered to Enrique IV, who was hunting near Jaén, and he marveled at the miraculous event that occurred along the banks of the Guadalquivir River.
Another event, considered miraculous at the time, took place in our skies toward the first half of the 18th century. A heavenly phenomenon, considered supernatural, an omen from heaven or from the angels themselves. It seems that luminous orbs of flashing light appeared over Seville “with a glow”. Many witnesses in the city’s center believed that they saw the faces of the city’s male and female patron saints within the orbs, and other saints from the Catholic church calendar of the time, which was as devout as it was fearful.
The Dean of the School of Mathematics of the University of Salamanca, Diego Torres de Villarroel, an astrologer, priest and man of letters, endeavored to explain the curious phenomenon of “Unidentified Religious Objects” that startled residents of the city at the time. There is evidence that the former president of Seville’s Royal Academy of Medicine, Gabriel Sanchez de la Cuesta, owned a copy of the astrological interpretation or explanation offered by Diego Torres de Villarroel, even when the phenomenon never received a satisfactory explanation. Was it an illusion, mass suggestion, a chimerical vision of the devout, or a miracle? Difficult answers to a hard question.
Researcher and author Jesus Callejo was telling me about this phenomenon: ‘There is a very little-known work by Villarroel that he published in 1730. It has a somewhat lengthy title but it could be translated as “The Judgment and Forecast of the Orb and Three Columns of Fire that were Seen in Our Spanish Horizon.” This monograph, more than a work of literature, describes three flying objects that puzzled our stalwart chronicler, but none of them corresponds to Seville.” Perhaps contemporary scholars would classify these same strange flying objects in the sky as “unidentified flying objects”. But to people of that time, the Seville of the 18th century, it was a matter of faith and miracles. Therefore, why not discuss it as an “Unidentified Religious Object”? It’s an unusual term, but it speaks to the fact of unidentified luminous phenomena in the sky prior to 1947, when Kenneth Arnold came across a flotilla of unidentified flying objects.
SC: What is the perspective of your region’s researchers with regard to the worldwide UFO phenomenon?
JM: You’ll find a little of everything, from a critical perception of the phenomenon, which is the most negative toward its reality, to the one that argues for the extraterrestrial hypothesis, which is perhaps the opposite pole, the most uncritical vision of this phenomenon. The middle ground includes more carefully weighted, studied, reflective and analytical perspectives, the ones that argue for researching the phenomenon, gleaning information on what was seen, collecting eyewitness accounts, visiting the site, securing “evidence” if any, having it analyzed, summarize facts, request further information and make comparisons with other cases, analyze the witness’s credibility, check for other incidents at the time, and subsequently study it all, issuing a report, sharing it and holding a round table discussion on the particular case and others. This is perhaps the most fulsome version of UFO research, but the most valid one, in the end.
Regarding other cases worldwide, such as ones in Great Britain, Norway, China or Argentina in recent times, we analyze all the information we receive in this regard, although there is great mistrust in UFO videos given the number of frauds and hoaxes, and the same goes for photographs, although these are taken into consideration. The phenomenon is perceived as analogous to what is going on within our own territory, but we also notice how the various cultures or beliefs of the area where the sighting or encounter took place inform conclusions about them. From the information that reaches us, the perception of a UFO sighting in Capilla del Monte, Argentina is not the same as [a similar sighting] in Xi’an or Shaanxi in China. There can be a greater belief in the ETH in one than in the other, where aside from the difficulty of getting information, it can be seen from a military standpoint (very fashionable nowadays) or the resurgence of legends or millennia-old traditions in the remotest Chinese villages. Visions or perceptions suggest that the manner of understanding the UFO phenomenon is specific to each region of the planet, and to each culture.
SC: What’s the most intriguing case in your files?
JM: The most intriguing case is a recent one that once more displays the military’s interest in this subject. The case occurred within an air force base and is [covered] by the slab of official secrecy. The most intriguing fact is that despite this official secrecy, career officers are willing to discuss their UFO encounter and their experiences.
But it’s not the only one. We can also find cases involving abductions, contactees, and certain details of the UMMO case that are also to be found in my files. Perhaps the most curious of these concerns a “victim” or “witness” to an encounter having the chance of entering into a dialogue with one of the alleged alien machine’s occupants, and whose experience was repeated days later at his own home. A deliberate event or a matter of chance? I don’t believe in chance...
SC: What would you like to tell the English-reading audience about UFO/paranormal research in Spain?
JM: Well, first of all, that we are following the same phenomenon that is taking place in different parts of our world; that we share the same interest; that there is very good UFO research being conducted in Spain, and that we are always willing to share this information with researchers in other countries to expand our knowledge and widen our databases (and there ought to be a world-wide one, free to all); that the phenomenology is the same, and that cultures influence the manner of seeing, studying and analyzing the phenomenon, which is a very interesting fact.
It would be a source of considerable satisfaction to get in touch with other researchers to make this information known, to compare case histories, draw common conclusions in both and find other ways of researching this phenomenon. We might perhaps make a little headway in ascertaining its source and origin to move into the field of Trans-Ufology.
The United States is where the major researchers of the UFO field can be found, and the same goes for the United Kingdom. These are conscientious scholars whose vision is very important to Spanish ufologists, as they have outlined a path to be followed, a manner of thinking, understanding and studying the phenomenon.
I closely follow the information that reaches me from the U.S., and as you know, I speak and read English rather well, and thanks to this I’m abreast of UFO information “over there”, which is so important, and as well as the dissemination efforts carried out by publications such as yours, Scott, and the fantastic work you do. I would like to get in touch with anyone interested in e-mailing me, and to expand their knowledge of the UFO phenomenon in Spain and Andalusia as much as they wish, and I would equally like to drink from their own sources. You can reach me at email@example.com
SC: Jose Manuel, thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions with the readers of INEXPLICATA, and we look forward to hearing from you in 2010!