By Scott Corrales
Inexplicata-The Journal of Hispanic UFOlogy
UFO Digest Latin America Correspondent
On the last day of the year in 1968, an uncle and nephew were driving from the town of Isabela on the island’s north shore to a family get-together in San Juan, and were in very high spirits. They did not know, however, that their otherwise routine journey would become a landmark case in UFO history.
At seven thirty in the evening, both men had reached the city of Vega Baja when their car’s headlights lit up an object on the roadside. Thinking it was a motorist in distress, they slowed down, only to realize that the car was no car, and the figure standing outside was not an unlucky driver on New Year’s Eve: a small entity was standing right next to a light colored object that rose from the ground exactly as both men reacted in alarm. According to the nephew’s description, the diminutive figure had shining eyes “like a cat”, and that it reacted with the same degree of surprise that he and his uncle had experienced. Neither party expected to come across the other, it would seem, on a holiday evening.
While this event is generally acknowledged to be the first UFO landing case in Puerto Rico, incidents involving small humanoids reach back into the island’s history, and are quite common in the lore of the Caribbean and the countries of Mesoamerica and South America.
The “contemporary age” of the UFO phenomenon hadn’t even started when Luis Villafañe was a boy living in the town of Utuado in the mountainous heartland of Puerto Rico. But one morning in 1946, while his mother cooked dinner, Luis saw a small creature, some three feet in height, approach the door to his house. He recalls that the enigmatic being wore coveralls of a brownish hue, had large black eyes, and long fingers that reached down to its knees.
When he alerted his mother and siblings to the unusual presence, they were gripped by a sudden paralysis: the diminutive being regarded them for what seemed to be an eternity before dashing off at high speed into the dense tropical vegetation.
Villafañe states that his mother gave both him and his brothers "a sound whupping", believing that their childish pranks had attracted the attention of un duende--an elf.
A Persistent Belief
Beings of diminutive stature were not confined to the tropics, either: the native Americans living in what is now Connecticut believed in the Makiawisag, who would come into people's houses demanding food. If their demands were not met, these dwarfs would point their fingers and immobilize their targets, proceeding to ransack homes. An antiquarian, F.G. Speck, gathered such stories for presentation in a formal paper.
And the cases go on and on, from one country to another and spanning the centuries. That societies around the globe believe in impish creatures that can be good or bad, if not both, is certainly not new. The connection between these "little people" of human tradition and the UFO phenomenon has been the subject of many authoritative works, Jacques Vallée's Dimensions among them. In our times of saucer-flying "greys" this could hardly be something new, but the fact of the matter is that diminutive hominid creatures continue to appear throughout the world, particularly in Central America and the Caribbean, much in the same way as they did centuries ago.
In the Chiapas region of Mexico we find the chaneques, which are widespread in this jungle region south of the Yucatan. An investigator who spent some time in that part of the country spoke to a number of shy peasant girls, who described how the creatures, standing no taller than a hand, would have a good time playing in the water basin behind their homes: the elusive beings would cause the crockery left to soak in the basin to rattle. The chaneques were aquatic beings, swimming in and out of the basin through its drainpipe. It is also worth remembering that the ancient Mayan ruins of Uxmal, which are in the area, were founded, in legend, by a dwarf born to a witch. The jungles of Central America and the desertic coastal plains of Perú and Chile contain the ruins of structures which could have only served the purposes of diminutive creatures. The aluxoob or “aluches” of the Yucatan Peninsula are considered downright beneficial to the small farmer working his milpa in the water-scarce Yucatan, but others have declared the supposedly mythical entities an outright menace. Tradition describes them as the ultimate pranksters, given to pushing people out of hammocks at night (a very anti-social thing to do), throw rocks against structures and people in the dark of the night, and tormenting dogs, which they hate. The aluxoob can inflict illness, usually in the form of high fevers which are hard to abate. The Mayan farmer who is wise enough to have not forsaken the lore of his forefathers will take care of these entities much in the same way that their Celtic counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic did--by leaving small gifts of food outdoors at night as a peace offering. This will turn the Aluxoob from disagreeable to outright helpful, looking over the farmers crops and home, and even harassing burglars.
The study of elves, fairies and their kin leaped out of the pages of childrens' books and the oral traditions of rural folk into the realm of scientific study in the late 1800s, when Walter Evans-Wentz, who received the first doctorate in comparative religion, published The Fairy Faith in Celtic Country. On the other side of the Atlantic, Arthur Conan Doyle and Lady Augusta Gregory delved into the study of the elusive elves and fairies. Conan Doyle would often go to France to discuss the subject with astronomer/spiritist Camille Flammarion.
The descriptions provided by those who were witnesses to the arrival of small "spacemen" during the early days of the UFO phenomenon reawakened interest in the possibility that dwarfish "aliens" could merely be the creatures we called elves or fairies under a different guise.
What evidence we have that this could be the case is even less than circumstantial, but the testimonies continue to surface: In May of 1991, a few boys in the coastal town of Medianía Alta, P.R., attempted the capture of a "a little green man" during a crab-hunting expedition. Two of the boys indicated that they had chased the green creature until it disappeared into a sewer hole. The boys followed, but their quarry was gone. The creature was described as having "ugly red eyes, a pointy head like an ear of corn, equally pointed ears and thin long arms". One of the boys, Wilhelm Cordero, stated that the creature made sibilant noises and grabbed his arm. That action caused the boys to panic and run away. Other residents of the community had isolated encounters with the tiny "elf", which corroborated the boys' tale. The diminutive creature went as far as attempting to make contact with a child at the local kindergarten.
While advocates of the nuts-and-bolts origin of UFOs lend no credence at all to these reports, the fairy theory, as proposed by a number of authors, might possibly account for incidents involving "missing time" (a component of almost all the traditional fairy stories) and the strange foods and beverages given to abductees (such as the emerald-colored draught given to the Brazilian soldier José Antonio by the dwarves who captured him in a 1969 case). It has also been suggested that the UFO phenomenon as a whole is but an extension of traditional fairy mythology.
Some of these cases involving dwarfish beings border the unreal. In his book Ellos: Los dueños invisibles de este mundo, Spanish investigator Salvador Freixedo discusses the case of "Julio", a man known to him and living in Puerto Rico, whose life has been made a living hell by "imps".
According to the version appearing in Frexiedo’s book, “Julio”, a contactee since childhood, entered a landed UFO where he engaged in play with a human-looking girl. Before leaving, the girl gave him a present (the mythical overtones become evident) that would change his life: a box that produced ugly, simian little creatures, who would appear suddenly and disappear on command. The boy accepted this "fairy gift" and embarked on a path of ruin: he soon discovered that he was unable to put the imps back into their box (or, as the author suggests, the device which summoned them from their dimension into ours). The imps would then run away in a flash, disappearing into the wooded area in which he lived.
Over the years, Julio summoned well over fifty of these creatures to amuse friends and neighbors, some of whom still recall the initial fright they received from the imps. The story becomes even more mind-bending. Julio soon discovered that the imps, unable to return to their "box", turned against him, spying on him from the brush and racing up to touch him when he was outdoors. In his conversations with Freixedo, Julio stated a belief that many of the tragedies that had taken place in his rural area were produced by the imps. He believes that they still lurk to this day in a mountainous region in which he had hidden the box prior to destroying it. A number of unexplained deaths had occured in that vicinity.
In the late 1990s, Freixedo’s wife – Magdalena del Amo-Freixedo – reopened the case and provided some new insight into this high-strangeness event. “Julio” turned out to be Juan Rivera Feliberti, the son of a well-to-do landowner in western Puerto Rico. In 1929, when Feliberti was only nine years old, he decided to build a kite – seen as a rite of passage in those bygone days – and was testing his new contraption when he noticed the kite had become stuck to “something”, and the guideliene was perfectly stiff. “That thing was really big,” Feliberti told the researcher. “It gave off a lot of sparks and was very round. I couldn’t compare it to anything. That’s when they pulled me up to that place.”
According to his own testimony, an unknown force drew him up to the object – not merely to its exterior, but actuall through its seemingly solid surface. The nine-year-old found himself in an unknown environment, scanning the unfamiliar surroundings with more than a touch of trepidation. It was at this point that the original version of the “Julio” narrative dovetails with the new information obtained by Magdalena del Amo: standing before young Feliberti was a girl, who held his kite in her small hands.
“She was slightly shorter than me, like our six-year-old girls, and had bronzed white skin. She held my kite and I was very angry, enough to charge at her and struggle for [the kite], which was mine, but she wouldn’t let go. There was also a very big man, some six feet tall, not fat, but well-built and somewhat blonde. He loooked human, but didn’t do anything. I just wanted my kite back.”
At that point, the young female figure showed him “many toys” that were in her possession, some of them “with colored lights” (certainly not something one would expect to see in rural Puerto Rico in the late 1920s), and asked if he would like to play with her. But the headstrong boy wanted no part of her or the unusual wonders being profferred – just his kite. The girl touched some buttons on a box in front of her and spiral wisps of “smoke” began to form in the air, coalescing into a sort of monkey. She kept producing these creatures, which would then obediently return to their box as wisps of smoke again. The girl asked young Feliberti if he was willing to trade the kite for the object, to which he agreed. The rest of the story played out as in the original “Julio” narrative in Salvador Freixedo’s Ellos.
In September of 1977, Luis Sandoval, who lived on the outskirts of the town of Corozal, Puerto Rico, encountered an improbable creature that would have fit equally well in a modern Ufology book or in a turn of the century fairy text. Sandoval, who lived on a hilltop with his wife, was resting on a neighboring peak one afternoon, taking in a spectacular view ofthe island's northern coast, when he unexpectedly heard a loud report and huge ball of light hurtling down toward him. The light faded away to reveal a little creature with yellowish skin, large black eyes and unpleasant facial features, clad "as if for a wedding" in a grey tuxedo, yellow shirt with a white collar and a green cravat. Its head was covered by a helmet. Sandoval states that the being told him not to be afraid, for it was an "ultraterrestrial being". It then proceeded to check the stunned human's feet, knees and chest with a device resembling a stethoscope. The medical exam continued as the gaily-clad ultraterrestrial auscultated Sandoval's back and placed its hands on his temples and head. When the bizarre exam was over, the being turned around and was once again enveloped in the sphere of light that had brought him there.
The dog that had accompanied Sandoval "howled throughout the incident", a fact which frightened him the most, as he expressed a belief that dogs howl when the dead appear. The animal ran away after the encounter, and was found dead days later by its owner.
Gnomes, dwarves, elves and their cohorts have always been described as wearing colorful garments, and Sandoval's "ultraterrestrial MD" was undoubtedly dressed to kill. In a classic case which took place in Everittstown, NJ in 1957, John Trasco confronted a putty-faced little man who wanted to take his dog. The entity was sternly rebuked ("Get the hell out of here!") and promptly made itself scarce. It was described as wearing "a green suit with shiny buttons, with a green tam-o'-shanter-like cap, and gloves with a shiny object at the tip of each." It vanished in a brilliant egg-shaped object.
Far from Puerto Rico, in the Mexican coastal state of Veracruz, trucker Miguel Angel Garcia, transporting 50 sheets of asbestos and cement, had his own brush with the unknown on May 18, 1973. As he drove along Highway 95 from the towns of La Tinaja to Tierra Blanca, he found a knot of “very small men” standing in the middle of the lanes, flagging him down near the outskirts of the village of Cintalapa.
When he came within a hundred feet of them, he realized that the “small men” weren’t even human, but “chaneques”. The driver then decided to pull over, leave his vehicle, and pursue the small, fleet figures into the woods, coming up emptyhanded. Upon returning to his truck, he found that it was enveloped in blue flames, with even the flame-resistant asbestos burning to ash, according to contemporary newspaper accounts (Mexico’s Novedades tabloid, in June 1973). The losses were estimated at some thirty-five thousand US Dollars.
The Mexico Leyendas website (www.mexicoleyendas.com) includes a verbatim account by the confused truck driver: “I was driving along Kilometer 18 of the road from La Tinaja to Tierra Blanca, approaching the village of Cintalapa, when I suddenly saw a group of people standing in the middle of the road, and that’s why I slowed down. When they were a short distance from me, I could see that they were very small men, not even the size of a dwarf. They were strangely dressed. They looked like goblins or gnomes that had come out to meet me with their arms in the air. Once I got near them, I stopped the truck. It seems that upon descending from the cab, I startled the little men with my presence. They fled in a rush and became lost in the vegetation.
“After a fruitless search, I decided to return , and you can imagine my surprise when I saw the truck engulfed in gigantic blue flames. Even though I couldn’t feel the heat, the flames devoured the truck and its load, even though what I was hauling was cement and asbestos sheeting.” Some varieties of asbestos are flame-resistant to 5000 centigrade (9000 Fahrenheit) so the reported heatless fire Garcia reported was in itself an episode of high-strangeness.
Are these diminutive creatures in any way related to the UFO phenomenon? There is no clear-cut answer. Some of them have been seen emerging from odd vehicles while in other cases there has been no object present. They clearly predate the vast number of sightings of "Greys" which generally began in the late 70's, and their aims appear to be different from those of the latter. Perhaps we are waging a war on two fronts.
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