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UFOs in the High Andes

The Journal of Hispanic Ufology
September 2, 2007

Scott Corrales
(c) 2006

So long ago that it seems like a fairy tale, the Spanish viceroyalty of Perú was divided into two regions – the land known to every man and woman in the 16th and 17th centuries and which prompted the prayer “God take me to Perú!” and its loftier inland region, el Alto Perú (Upper Perú), which we now know as the landlocked nation of Bolivia. It was here, far from the coast and in the place where oxygen grew thin as men’s dreams burned even brighter, that the bleeding silver heart of South America could be found – Mount Potosí and its seemingly inexhaustible supplies of silver. According to author Eduardo Galeano, the silver of Potosí that created a local aristocracy that wealthier and more decadent than that of any European court of the time was extracted at a terrible human cost estimated at 8 million lives. “It only left Bolivia,” he writes, “with the vague memories of its splendor, among the ruins of its churches and palaces.”

Among the millions of enslaved natives forced to work the mines were Inca astrologers and wizards who could have perhaps told the silver-crazed conquistadors about the strange land they had so ruthlessly occupied – the strange ruins of Tiahuanaco that predated the arrival of the Incas by millennia, the beliefs of the savage Araucanian tribes to the south, and very possibly the nature of the strange lights that darted around the night sky. These lights, of course, were interpreted by the occupiers as signs that pointed to the presence of buried treasure, and hence greater wealth to be exploited.

A History of UFO Sightings

In a 2002 article titled “Ovnis en Jujuy”, the editors of Gaceta OVNI magazine, while discussing UFO-prone northern Argentina, allowed for a slight trans-border detour to discuss unknown phenomena in Bolivia. One of these cases was the story provided by a young woman named Dina Angulo, concerning the UFO experiences of her grandfather near Villazón, Bolivia, some seventy years ago.

In the spring of 1930, Ms. Angulo’s grandfather lived on a remote farm in a mountain valley near the community of Tupiza, a hundred miles away from where the 1978 Tarija UFO crash occurred. Part of the hard, unrelenting life of an Andean farmer required going to find his animals along steep mountain trails to bring them home and to butcher. As ice from the thawing glaciers caused rivers to swell, the farmer found himself cut off by a swollen river, requiring him to spend the night under the cold stars. Accompanied by his dog, the man erected a hasty shelter and lit a fire, and soon found himself surrounded by the very goats and jackasses he had gone to find.

Suddenly, Ms. Angulo’s grandfather saw the entire mountain landscape lit up by a powerful light. He had never seen such brightness, not even by daylight. Terrified, he ran off to find cover under some low-lying trees. His animals scattered in every direction while the odd light source engulfed everything in its supernatural radiance. Some twenty meters away from his place of concealment, the farmer was able to see four humanoid figures, which he described as nimble and able to make long jumps. The light suddenly went off and the odd little men vanished with it. According to Dina Angulo, her grandfather was found two days later, rooted to the site in fear, gripped by a nervous condition. It was only with the passing of time that he was able to recall the details of his ordeal, which predated the start of the modern UFO age by seventeen years.

Pedro Serrate was walking along the banks of the Mamoré River in 1953 when he became aware of a discoidal object some hundred and fifty away from him. The strange vehicle appeared to be fashioned of an azure, vitreous material. Curiosity getting the better of him, Serrate got closer to the craft and was able to catch a glimpse of its human-looking crew complement. When the uniformed humanoids caught off-guard, became aware of Serrate's presence, the vehicle rose silently into the air, disappearing in a matter of seconds.

Patricio Parente’s monograph “De Luces y Criaturas IV: La Conexión OVNI” (Of Lights and Creatures: the UFO Connection”) mentions that the Aymara mythology of Bolivia still makes mention of the “auchanchos”, described as bald, potbellied little men who leaped about in the night, creating whirlwinds and braying like donkeys. One particular Aymara tradition holds that these little men had once been seen running down the streets of Chuchuito, riding tongues of fire, heading toward Lake Titicaca and crossing it, vanishing thereafter. Could these entities have been the ones witnessed by Dina Angulo’s grandfather? Stories of lights emerging from the waters of Lake Titicaca have also been reported. In 1968, according to Sebastian Robiou, the Bolivian army had been forced to interrupt its heated pursuit of Communist ideologue Ernesto “Che” Guevara to investigate a truly unusual case: a farmer had reported the landing of a “strange craft filled with little men” who proceeded to blind the sheep he looked after in an Andean meadow.

The editors of Gaceta OVNI also mention another Bolivian UFO hotspot: the salt desert known as Salar de Uyuni, a vast uninhabited expanse between the Cordillera Real and the Western Andes. According to locals, there is a “dark depression” somewhere within these salt flats that appears to be a focus for intense light, and strange luminous bodies can be seen entering and leaving the desert at this point.

When Mercedes Casas, correspondent for the Institute of Hispanic Ufology in Salta, Argentina, was approached for comment on these manifestations, she had this to say: “Ever since the famous 1978 crash on the border between Bolivia and the province of Salta, UFO activity never ceased in the Tarija region. Reports of nocturnal lights moving in odd patterns – zig-zags rather than straight lines – continued for months after the crash when everything had ostensibly quieted down. This is what the people I interviewed in Yacuiba had to say.”

“There is a tremendous inflow of Bolivians into Salta, looking for better opportunities,” she continues. “They all have stories to tell involving bizarre nocturnal lights, particularly those hailing from the rural areas.”

In early October 2005, UFOs were reported over Eastern Oruro, becoming a source of bemusement for thousands of onlookers. The flying objects appeared in the sky at 22:30 hours and consisted of were two strange objects located in the East, drawing attention due to their red, green and blue lights, sequentially, and they also appeared and vanished in the firmament.

Abel Flores Mujica, one of the witnesses, manifested his surprise at having seen the unidentified object in space.

"I refer to it as an artifact, since I couldn't believe what I was seeing. My daughter went outside and I told her: "That's a UFO. She replied that it it wasn't a UFO, that it was the planet Mars that was delayed in covering space (sic). But that object had lights and it wasn't a star. Last night's event startled me and then my daughter said: "Look, it's not the only one, there are others there", and it was evident," he said.

Channel 39 journalist and show host, Pedro Rubin de Celis, said that Wednesday night's sighting confirms the theory that we are not alone in the Universe. "This has been a marvelous presence of UFOs in the firmament, and many people stepped out onto their balconies to observe this spectacle. The camera zoom has shown us, beyond the vehicle's flashes, a circle making concentric movements within other circles around the vessel and with a black dot at the center. The objects also had their own movement," he explained.

On October 18, 2005, local newspaper “La Patria” reported that two journalists from a Bolivian television station had managed to capture two UFOs on film as the strange objects flew over the city of Oruro, Two men and a woman – names given as Julio Espinoza, José Romero and Paola Medina – had stepped out of the ATB television station at 8:30 p.m. to see if they could find the reported presence of a UFO. The broadcaster’s news team had been following up on the October 10 sighting made by Gustavo Ponce, and as fate would have it, their impromptu skywatch paid off. By 9:00 p.m., they had managed to pick up a strange, rhomboidal object in the heavens, with lights that changed colors.

Paola Medina mentioned that the object “ also changed shape, since it transformed from a rhomboidal shape into a perfect square and into a classic flying saucer." ATB-TV’s switchboard was soon flooded with phone calls from members of the public who corroborated the news team’s sighting with observations of their own, coinciding in that the object was circular-shaped, traveled with an oscillating motion and disappeared half an hour later. Several days later, other skywatchers reportedly saw strange objects over the city once again: one of the UFOs reportedly hovered above the cluster of radio and television antennas that occupied one of the city’s hills.

But these incidents, spectacular though they might have been, could not compare to the encounters between the Bolivian Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Boliviana, or FAB) and unidentified flying objects.

Four years earlier, in March 2001, the sighting of an unidentified spherical object over the city of Cochabamba and Tunari National Park prompted the military to dispatch a T-33 fighter to intercept the object. The interceptor’s pilot, Maj. Luis Arzabe, told his superiors that the sphere was “brilliant and metallic”, yet he had been unable to determine the exact nature of the unknown device. Arzabe reached an altitude of forty-two thousand feet before breaking off his pursuit; by the time he returned to the base at El Alto, the strange sphere had disappeared altogether. "It's shape [could not be] clearly made out. It was a brilliant sphere with a metallic sheen we believe comes from solar reflections. The object type has not been determined despite having reached the 4.25 level,” explained Major Arzabe. Col. Carlos Antelo of the Second Air Brigade of the Bolivian Air Force headquartered at Cochabamba was also at a loss to explain the event.

The sighting had not been lost on residents of El Alto. One local eyewitness said: "I have no idea of what it could be, perhaps with more sophisiticated instruments available to the human eye, we could provide evidence as to its nature.” Others marvelled at the object’s shape, which they compared to a diamond.

The sighting would be further corroborated by passenger airliner crews flying the Lima (Perú) to La Paz (Bolivia) air routes, who reported visual contact with a sizeable object back to the air traffic controllers at El Alto. A number of aviation experts suggested at the time that the object could have been a weather balloon, part of a worldwide French project launched from Brazil, although the object’s speed and altitude did not correspond to that of a balloon.

Tarija and Other Crashes

In July 1962, while the U.S. and USSR where taking their first steps into Earth's orbit, a "space capsule" landed in the Bolivian town of Ayo-Ayo, some thirty miles from the city of La Paz. The object fell into a deep ravine not far from the town, and its fall from the heavens was followed by the remarkable appearance of a feline never seen in Bolivia--a puma, which was assumed to have been disgorged by the "space capsule". The hapless feline was bludgeoned to death by the townspeople and its pelt sold to the U.S. Air Attaché, one Col. Wymer. As can be seen next, this would not be the last time that the U.S. would play a significant role.

The American embassy in La Paz was informed of the collision of another small artificial vehicle on Bolivian soil on August 20 1979. The unknown device had crashed on a large private hacienda near the village of Buen Retiro in the vicinity of Tarija. Gonzalo Menacho, a local farmer, attested to having seen "a fireball falling from the sky" in the early hours of August 19th. After sunrise, Menacho was surprised to see a small military airplane circling the area, as if looking for something. Accompanied by a friend, Menacho discovered a lightweight sphere made of some unknown metal, roughly three times the size of a basketball. When the men tried to retrieve the object, they were prevented from doing so by government authorities. A Bolivian Air Force colone lstated that the object was not extraterrestrial, merely "a fuel cell from a satellite." A film on the recovery effort was presented to the U.S. Air Force.

The AFP news service reported that a luminous device "the size and shape of a metal suitcase" had fallen from the sky in January 1991, not far from Tiahuanaco. The unconfirmed report went on to say that the odd apparatus landed on the slopes of Cerro Guarayo, some eight kilometers away from the megalithic ruins, and was still emitting a strange light that terrified the local villagers and peasants. This report was also echoed by Radio Panamericana in its regular broadcast from the Bolivian capital of La Paz, some sixty kilometers away from where the event took place.

Unlike the rest of Bolivia, the province of Santa Cruz is a lush Amazonian region with extraordinary wildlife and vegetation. Dense forests conceal ruined temples that can be reached through a number of navigable rivers. It was in this jungle paradise that another high-strangeness event was added to the UFO annals of South America’s only landlocked country.

In the early hours of December 30, 2002, an unidentified flying object made itself visible over Santa Cruz’s 18 de Marzo sector. The still and hot pre-dawn air was broken by the incessant barking of a dog belonging to Marina Bazán, who fearing that a burglary was about to take place, got up out of bed to take a guarded look out the window, only to see something she’d never witnessed before – a disk-shaped, metallic object floating in the sky 45 degrees over the horizon and emitting a powerful beam of light. Her first instinct was to think some kind of plane or helicopter was flying over the city, but a second glance told her that the wingless, silent form was anything but an airplane. The disk balanced on its axis like a top as it hovered in place as Mrs. Bazán shouted for her children to get out of bed and come to the window. Then, over an adjoining neighborhood, she could suddenly see another vehicle putting forth bright yellow light from cleary visible portholes; shortly afterward a third similar craft appeared, forming a triangle in the morning sky. A glance at her clock prior to the start of the sighting placed the time at three twenty-five a.m.

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UFOINFO would like to thank Scott Corrales (Inexplicata & Inexplicata Blog) and UFO UpDates for granting permission to use this article. To keep up to date with follow-up reports and discussions you are advised to subscribe to UFO UpDates by writing to Errol Bruce-Knapp at: