Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mexico: 19th Century Mysteries

In the late 19th century, Mexico emerged from a turbulent seventy year period of warfare, civil disturbance and foreign occupation to become a well-ordered, prosperous nation under the firm hand of the dictator Porfirio Díaz. In the nearly three decades that Díaz ruled Mexico, his country rubbed shoulders economically with France and Germany, although his centralized policies created unrest and discontent that would eventually lead to the 1911 revolution. Growth was not restricted to industry and finance; the sciences and arts prospered as well. Interest in the supernatural was also to be found, mainly among the well-read leisure classes. The first “sociedades espíritas” (spiritist lodges) had opened their doors by 1870, and a “spiritist newspaper” had been established in 1868 in the city of Guadalajara by a former general, Refugio Gonzalez. Ironically, Francisco I. Madero, the president elected after Porfirio Díaz, was an avowed spiritist who’d benefitted from the openess of his predecessor’s tenure, who had also been a Freemason. A portrait of Díaz in masonic gear hangs in Alexandria’s National Masonic Temple – proof perhaps of the questing intellectual and metaphysical spirit of the times.

Astronomer Morris K. Jessup, whose study of strange crater-like formations in Mexico formed part of his interest in the UFO phenomenon, characterized the final decades of the 19th century as the "Incredible Decade" due to the heightened amount of UFO activity world-wide during this point in time. Renowned Mexican Fortean researcher Dr. Rafael A. Lara has carefully chronicled some of the strange phenomena which occurred in Mexico during the same period of time chronicled by Jessup.
On March 5, 1871, the state of Oaxaca, was puzzled by the appearance of "a burst of light followed by a clap of thunder." Since it occurred in the early morning hours (11:30 a.m.), the sun should have outshone it, yet it was so readily visible that its size was calculated at two and a half rods long by one rod in diameter. "The frequency with which these incidents have taken place in the past year is truly remarkable," reads the entry in the almanac known as Calendario Galván del Más Antiguo.

In the wake of a heavy rainstorm on January 19, 1873, red stains were found both on the grass and rocks in Papantla, Veracruz. This has been attributed to the fact that water raining down was actually red in color. Ten days later, on January 29, there was a shower of mercury over the village of San Ignacio in Sinaloa. Samples of the material, allegedly collected for posterity, were lost in the turmoil of the revolutionary war.

Three months later, on March 27, 1873, a meteor passed over the city of Querétaro between 6 and 7 p.m., leaving a glowing wake that issued sparks and roiled into twin clouds which later exploded like a bomb, scattering fiery fragments in every direction. An entry for November 7, 1878 states that for ten days, the town of Tula de Tamaulipas has witnessed "the passage of an infinite number of flies from noon until five o'clock in the evening." According to the almanac, the flies' shape was very strange and they dropped strands of material resembling gossamer.

More strange phenomena troubled Mexico as it entered into the 1880's. On September 2, 1881, a brilliant meteor crossed the skies from one end to another, traversing the Veracruz meridian. Its light was greenish and its wake formed a white "head". Green meteors or fireballs would fall in the American Southwest during the 1950's leading many to associate them with the UFO phenomenon.

Three different kinds of hailstone fell over Zongolica, Veracruz on May 9, 1883: one shaped like stars, others square, still other rounded like peaches and with a hole in the middle...the hailstorm over Oaxaca was notable for the fall of several chunks of extraordinary shapes, larger than has ever been seen before.

José Vasconcelos -- father of the “indigenismo” movement and author of the landmark La raza cósmica – was one of those landmark figures that the 19th century appeared to produce with ease in every single country. This philosopher and metaphysician, equally at home in Washington D.C. or in Paris, where he spent his exile, retold an unusual experience in his 1935 autobiography Ulises criollo (A Creole Ulysses). Raised in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Vasconcelos attended school in neighboring Eagle Pass, Texas, and the transnational, transcultural atmosphere permeated his work and thoughts. Among his experiences at an early age was an encounter in 1890 with something seemingly out of this world. One morning, while returning from Texas across the Rio Grande, young Vasconcelos and his parents and siblings were startled by the sight of points of light that became larger and wider as they approached, turning into disks with a reddish golden hue. He thought at first that the objects were simply an aftereffect of being blinded by sun, emerging from the dense morning fog. All five witnesses agreed that the disks spun and turned into “orbs of light, rising and falling over the plain,” adding: “It made us shout for joy, as those who looked upon a revelation.”

On November 9, 1894, the townsfolk of Zacatlán, Puebla were distressed by the appearance of a tremendously large bird that which had been reported elsewhere in the area. The almanac further indicates that "a hurricane blew a multitude of never-seen-before birds from the unexplored Chilá Mountains, it is not impossible that some monster, such as the one being seen these days, should figure among their number."