Thursday, October 09, 2014

Chile: UFOs Over San Clemente

Source: La Tercera
Date: October 5, 2014

Chile: UFOs Over San Clemente
By Ignacio Bazán (for La

A wooden table and an open bag of potato chips with a knife in the middle. Three muleteers are chatting at a store in Vilches, a community located in the pre-Cordilleran area of the Seventh Region - the San Clemente Commune, some 50 kilometers east of Talca. The men also share three beverages at the end of a day darkened by the shade of trees.

"Have you ever witnessed any UFOs hereabouts?"

"No, that's all a lie," replies Eladio Gajardo, a middle-aged muleteer with a three-day growth of beard and wearing a bandana around his neck. "The municipality authorities say it to draw in tourists."


The trip to Vilches had a reason. An article in British Airways' High Life in-flight magazine had proclaimed in its September issue, with all certainty, that San Clemente is the best place in the world to bump into an alien. In the entire world. It was necessary to see this.

The muleteers went about their business. They spoke of horseback tours to the CONAF reserve, Altos de Lircay, and talk about an increase in the number of foreigners: Germans, Spaniards and French making their way into the cordillera on horse or on foot. Eladio Gajardo mentions - while chewing on a chip - that the weather is unsuitable for an excursion on the following day. There will be rain and fog. As the minutes go by, the men's sentences become longer, and their words become more fluid.

"You know something?" Eladio Gajardo says without a warning. " I saw something four years ago. I was at the reserve and in the cordillera, among the mountains. I saw a whirlwind going up and down with a powerful light. It wasn't something that an airplane or helicopter could do, and furthermore, it took a long time. I watched the light go up and down for some 20 minutes."

The two other men listened. When Gajardo was through, his brother Manuel declassified another story.

"Three months ago, I saw a little monkey walking in mid-air," he says. He later explained that it was a small figure levitating above the treetops, walking up the cordillera in the air, swinging its shoulders from one side to the other. "A humanoid," Ufologist Rodrigo Fuenzalida, director of Aion Chile, would say later about Gajardo's sighting. The muleteer also discusses another experience, this one six years ago, when he saw a large, bright light amid the mountains.

Finally, the youngest of the three - Sebastian Riquelme - decides to tell his own story. "I was in my pickup truck here in Vilches with my pregnant girlfriend," he says. "This was only a few months ago. Suddenly, we see this red light in the sky, only a few meters over the ground. I stopped the truck and flashed my lights at it. At that very same moment, the light became larger, began to expand. It was a long period of time - can't tell you how many minutes - but one is sort of paralyzed. No taking pictures with the cellphone or anything. All one can do is watch."

"And why didn't you say any of this before?"

Eladio Gajardo: "Because people will think we're nuts, or wonder what we're smoking." The other two men nod earnestly.

There was a time when the authorities of the Vilches region did not know what to do about all the sightings. People spoke about the subject, but there was no thought of using the subject as a tourist attraction. Among the first to mention the area as a UFO 'hot spot" was Swiss author Erich Von Daniken, who mentioned El Enladrillado in the Vilches Range in the mid '70s, comparing it with Peru's Nazca as a runway for spaceships to land.

In Vilches, they say that the Enladrillado is special. Located in the Altos de Lircay reserve, it takes a five hour walk to reach it. Its name is a clear reference to the area's construction: a plateau between the mountains, measuring 100 meters long by 80 meters wide, made up of brick-shaped rectangular stones measuring three meters by one meter and a half. This gives it its name: El Enladrillado (The Brickwork).

Then came a period in the mid-90s, recalls Rodrigo Fuenzalida, in which ufologists themselves began recording a large number of events. The story was crafted since then with the aid of residents of Vilches and Lake Colbún, as well as well as the Carabineros (state police) of the area's barracks and the forest rangers of the national parks. Foreign media began arriving in recent years, ranging from Japanese and Brazilian newspapers to specialized magazines. In late 2012, Fuenzalida accompanied the History Channel for a documentary on UFOs. The series, hosted by Shaun Ryder, vocalist for the Happy Mondays, was called "Shaun Ryder on UFOs" and showed its host visiting several countries for a twelve chapter series. According to Fuenzalida, something happened during a skywatch at Lake Colbún near Vilches and in the San Clemente commune itself. At the end of a 45-minute chapter (Ryder also visited the Atacama Desert and Santiago) a photographer can be seen capturing an irregular object in the skies of Maule. Ryder is impressed. He had already had his first UFO experience when he saw a large yellow ball in the air in England at age 15. This was his second. The chapter can be found on line.

All of this notoriety has caused San Clemente to get ready for a new industry. In 2007, the town hall of Juan Rojas decided to create a UFO tourist route in the commune, which includes El Enladrillado, Lake Colbún and Maule Lagoon. The mayor himself - now in his second non-consecutive term - decided to boost tourism in this way. One reason is that he too is a witness. His first sighting was in 1976 at age 15. "I was in Vilches on a school trip. One of my classmates was injured and it was necessary to carry him away on foot, in the middle of the night. We were then followed by an oval-shaped object, luminous and with many points. It followed us practically the entire night, until exhaustion forced us to stop for a rest, and we fell asleep."

The second episode occurred in 1990. Rojas was with his family in the El Colorado sector, near Lake Colbún. "We all saw a luminous object emerge from the water. It was impressive." According to experts, what the mayor saw was a USO - an unidentified submarine object.

But Mayor Rojas has no doubts about the area's attractiveness to tourists thanks to UFOs. He says that capital is being secured to build a quality hotel, build a road crossing the Vilches area and also erect an observatory.

"Have you ever seen any UFOs?

Maria Elena, who leases horses for outings to Altos de Lircay, is walking toward her home in Vilches, which more than a town, is a long road with houses and plots of land on either side of the road, home to some 800 people according to the Municipality of San Clemente's own calculations. Maria Elena smiles and says: "I've never seen a thing. I think they're doing it to bring in tourists."

A conversation of some 15 to 20 minutes on what life in Vilches is like - the subject of isolation in the Cordillera.

"Seriously, you've never seen UFOs?

"No, I've never had the opportunity."

While the skies are clear and unclouded in the pre-Cordilelra, residents of Vilches claim to know that the next day will be cloudy and rainy, without any need for weather forecasts. Alberto Moreno is working outdoors on the property of his log cabins, known as El Roble. Moreno says he's from Talca, but always spent summers in Vilches, until his family built the cabins he now manages. When asked about sightings, he is hesitant at first, but then conveys what he knows: "It was in the late 80s and I was 10 years old. It was at night and we went out for a stroll with my family. Some hippies were playing guitar on the road when we saw a large flattened cloud emitting multi-colored lights. It lasted a long time and we all agreed about what we had seen. We asked the hippies over to the house for some coffee and chatted. Years later I found out that what we had seen was a mothership."

Moreno never had another sighting in spite of having lived in Vilches for four years. He does remember the experiences of some Talca schoolteachers who were camped near Maule Lagoon. "It was during the February 27th earthquake, and while the ground shook, they told me they saw vehicles exiting the lagoon and vanishing into the sky. They were truly overwhelmed by it."

Theories accounting for the presence of UFOs in the area are many. Fuenzalida, the ufologist, says that aliens are drawn by the energy of the hydroelectric plants in the area, such as Colbún, as well as the large concentrations of freshwater in the lakes. There is also the theory that this area marks the end of the Inca Road, making a link with Nazca and its space legends. There are also stories about El Enladrillado having been built by a past civilization, while ufologists do not dismiss the likelihood of a natural phenomenon caused by activity in the nearby Descabezado Volcano.

Juan Claudio Cerro, current director of Public Relations for the Municipality of San Clemente, and director of tourism during the period in which Mayor Rojas worked on the UFO Route, says it is now necessary to consolidate the stories of the residents in these UFO hotspots. There is a consensus in the municipality that sightings cannot be guaranteed, but it must be made clear that these have actually occurred. "Fearing ridicule, people feeling uncomfortable about discussing their sightings poses a problem. It isn't good to have tourists engaging in a long trip only to be told by locals that there's nothing going on. It isn't a matter of everyone thinking alike, but we should proceed from the basis that many people have had sightings."

It is for this reason that the San Clemente Tourist Board is organizing a seminar in November for residents of Vilches which seeks to standardize the story, among other things.

Before this happens, Juan Rojas, mayor of the commune, has no doubt that what is happening in the skies overhead is momentous. "We are a commune that is very close to God," he says with conviction.

[Translation (c) 2014, Scott Corrales, IHU with thanks to Guillermo Giménez, Planeta UFO and Ignacio Bazán