The 1971 Aznalcollar Incident Revisited
The 1971 Aznalcollar Incident Revisited
By Scott Corrales © 2014
There are cases in the long, winding saga of ufology that demand suspension of disbelief on the part of the researcher and the subsequent reader. Events involving “pie-pan-faced aliens”, space pancakes and Lycra-sheathed cosmic beauties fall under this classification, but so do others that for some reason or another have not reached a wider readership, such as the Spain’s Aznalcollar Incident of the 1970s.
Aside from an article by Gordon Creighton in Flying Saucer Review, there is little information in English on the case, and it has been largely overlooked – a situation that isn’t likely to change under the revisionist model of UFO research prevalent today. Nevertheless, we have original documents in our possession courtesy of researcher and radio/TV personality José Manuel García Bautista nearly ten years ago, and perhaps now is the time to make readers of Inexplicata aware of this bemusing affair.
A Journey into High Strangeness
[Note: The following report was written by Ignacio Darnaude and was included in the files of the Gerena UFO Group]
The Scene of the Events: “Los Lunarejos” farm, a rustic property devoted to cereal crops, owned by lieutenant general Gabriel Tassara Buiza, located some two kilometers from the locality of Aznalcollar, some 40 kilometers from the city of Seville. It is a vast expanse of agricultural land of the highest quality, with many artesian wells and crossed by the Pilar Viejo stream. The subsoil lacks minerals despite the proximity of the rich veins of Aznalcollar (the world’s largest deposit of pyrite), according to Juan Manuel Turmo, an engineer with Andaluza de Piritas, S.A., a company that works the nearby Banco Central fields. At the time, this property was cultivated with melons in a sharehold with the Pérez Miranda brothers, known by their nickname “Los Chícharos” (the Peas), well known in Aznalcollar for their seriousness and moral character.
Date of the Event: It has not been precisely determined. It took place in September 1971, probably somewhere between the 11th, 12th and 13th, as the town appeared to be celebrating its holidays, which and these are the three days of the local Romería.
The Protagonist: Juan Rodríguez Domínguez, 82, better known in Aznalcollar as “Juan el de la Palmareña”, lives with his only married son on Martín Ruiz street, next to the Guardia Civil barracks. A former miner and quarryman, he has been living from many years “as best he can” as a farm worker. We know him well because he worked for us as a shepherd some fifteen years ago. He is a good worker, serious and diligent, not overly fond of trouble. He tends to croon Flamenco tunes, and is exceedingly devoted to hunting. His lover isn’t his guitar, as his admired Manolo Caracol used to sing, but his shotgun certainly is. He is an illiterate operator with few intellectual skills: his contemporaries tell others that he is “as dumb as a bag of rocks”. A standoffish and lonely man, with few social contacts and a bad temper, he “is liable to smack God in the chops” when he’s angry. We are willing to bet our right arm that he absolutely unable to make up as creative a story as the one he has told, being so far beyond the coordinates of his everyday experiences.
In September 1971 he was providing auxiliary services in the melon field planted by los Chícharos, and would remain as a night watchman in a shack at “Los Palmarejos”. Although he’s not overly fond of the town, he would sleep nights in Aznalcollar when he chose to.
I. The First Report: Around ten o’clock that evening, Juan Palmareña’s fellow sharecroppers and work companions – Antonio El Chícharo (who lives at No.3 Lepanto Street) and his brother Felipe were enjoying the night air outside the “El Letra” bar on the way into town, having arrived from “Los Lunarejos”. They were stunned to see Juan approaching them, looking “all torn up, sweating like a little duck, with a bandana around his neck and a truncheon in his hand” in a state of nervous excitement. The conversation between the men took place in roughly the following terms:
“What the hell’s a-matter, Juan? Did someone steal the melons?”
“No, I’ve come to get you. Something as big as a Pegaso (the bus serving the Seville-Aznalcollar route) has landed, and people are getting out of it. They’ve gestured at me with a flashlight and I’ve had to come running here, stumbling over the hills.”
“Oh, come on, what are you talking about? You’re just scared witless. You fell asleep, you woke up and you’ve seen the lights of Don Juan’s tractor (Don Juan Tassara, a neighboring owner) or burning mattocks on Cerro el Be (a hill that can be seen in the distance from “Los Lunarejos”).”
“Hell no! It was as big as the viajero (The Pegaso bus). It landed hard and they blinded my eyes with a light. I saw the men on the ground”
The two brothers reaction was utter disbelief. They thought the man had suffered a nightmare or hallucination, was going senile or had gone insane. They were not the least bit curious, or afraid that someone could be stealing their melon harvest, and we unwilling to go to the plantation to ascertain the “foolishness” that Juan was going on about. Subsequently, when the news spread all over the town, people “paid no mind” to Juan, and no one took the time to verify his strange story.
Juan had been singing to himself when he suddenly saw a large machine land near one of the artesian wells on the “Los Lunarejos” farm. An unspecified number of people – a large number of them – descended from it, possibly more than 50 individuals, by Juan’s reckoning. Their height and appearance was normal, with nothing special to distinguish them. The wore blue uniforms without helmets or hats, walking single file in formation and did not speak or exchange gestures among themselves. Perhaps on account of this uniform, and his own military service, the witness has always referred to them as the “soldiers”, dubbing them “the troops”. The “soldiers” headed for the artesian well, and Palmareña lost sight of them shortly after, suggesting they descended to a pool of water known as La Alberca, whose bottom could not be seen from Juan’s guard shack. Five or six “bosses” (literally) remained outside on an edge, looking toward Juan. The “bosses” took out something resembling a flashlight, whose light they shone at the watchman’s eyes. Juan hid behind the shack to avoid the bothersome beam, but whenever he looked out, the “bosses” pointed the “flashlight” at him.
It was nighttime, and Juan realized in fright that he had to get back to Aznalcollar in view of the situation. Tripping and falling in the darkness, he made his way back to the town. Two of the “bosses” followed him with the flashlight to the outskirts of town, where he arrived “in disarray”, talking about the “regiment”, and was dismissed as insane. Palmareña knows nothing about aliens, and has privately admitted to believing that this was some secret military operation: “they were plotting something, a raid or a political conspiracy against the Regime.”
The Following Days: During the following days, Juan el de La Palmareña walked around the landing area, coming back to say: “Anyone can go there and see the traces they left behind.” Incredible though it may seem, neither Los Chícharos nor anyone else bothered to walk the scant meters that separated the melon field from the artesian well to see the marks on the ground that their co-woker was referring to. They did not take him seriously, and quite the contrary, began joking and contradicting everything he said. They had to change their attitude, given Palmareña’s irritability, as he even pulled a knife on them after they contradicted him, laughing and saying he hadn’t seen anything at all. The man was frightened and would not let go of his shotgun, to the extent that Los Chícharos, fearing that “he might blow someone away”, chose to relieve him of his shotgun shells.
Juan retold his story informally and unofficially to the Guardia Civil on duty in the neighboring barracks. Once more, the security forces shrugged, thinking he was deranged, and refused to file an official report.
Investigating the Case: A few days later, during the olive harvest in September 1971, we would see Los Chícharos on a daily basis, but they never told us anything, nor did the word spread among the squad of workers – proof that no importance had been given to Palmareña’s “yarn”. The first news of what happened reached us two years later, in the spring of 1974, during a wake held in Aznalcollar. The first interview with the sole witness was carried out by Manuel Osuna and Felipe Laffite, and the latter still has the audiotape in his possession. On April 19, 1974, Manuel Osuna and this author visited the scene of the events with Juan el de La Palmareña and his grandson. A few days later, we toured “Los Lunarejos” with Antonio el Chícharo, taking down his statement. Subsequently, Pedro del Prado, Justice of the Peace of Aznalcollar, questioned Felipe el Chícharo, whose statements fully coincided with those of his brother Antonio, in Seville on July 23, 1974.
Aftermath at Aznalcollar
The case went on to become a perennial entry in books on UFOs, which stressed the fact that “fifty humanoids” had been seen emerging from a craft as long as a bus, or perhaps larger. Juan José Benítez, the journalist turned ufologist whose books dominated the Spanish market of the ‘70s and ‘80s, managed to interview Juan el de La Palmereña (Benítez refers to him as Juan el Palmareño) years later for a newspaper article that later appear in La Gaceta del Norte in July 20, 1975. During this subsequent interview, the aged peasant noted that he described the figures descending from the object he identified as a bus as “little men” due to their short stature. He contradicted Darnaude’s report above, saying that he never described them as “soldiers” – having seen many in his lifetime – and that they didn’t wear any caps, weapons or backpacks that would identify them as such. When asked by Benítez why he didn’t avail himself of the shotgun to open fire against the intruders, the witness replied: “Do you take me for a fool? If I’d fired at them, they would’ve surrounded me, and I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.” He stressed that the object’s shape had been elongated like that of a bus and with lights, and could not have been a helicopter as some had suggested.
Benítez wrote the following opinion as a result of his interview with the lone witness of the events at Aznalcollar: “In my opinion, this case involving the watchman at the Aznalcollar melon field has been one of the most important and meaningful ones involving landings by extraterrestrials. The description given by Juan el Palmareño, who never held a UFO book in his hands, was perfect and consonant with hundreds of other eyewitness accounts regarding the presence of humanoid entities standing between one meter and one meter twenty in height in various locations across the planet.”
It is likely that Aznalcollar would have never been remembered had it not been for one of the most devastating ecological disasters in Europe. In April 1998, a containment wall at the Boliden-Apirsa company gave way, unleashing a tidal wave of hazardous waste that washed throughout the area, stopping at the Doñana State Park. The oozing mass of mercury, led and iron derived from iron pyrite washing operations also contained chemical and toxical residue from other industrial parks. According to Jose Manuel García Bautista, who wrote a lengthy article about the subject ("Avistamientos OVNI en Aznalcollar Tras la Reapertura de la Explotación Minera de la Empresa Boliden-Apirsa"), a witness driving along the N-433 highway had seen a UFO directly over this containment pond on the night of the disaster, with additional sightings of craft on April 30th.