[Author’s note: This feature appeared originally in the United Kingdom‘s sadly defunct UFO MATRIX magazine and formed part of my regular Orbis Tertius column — its title being a nod to that extraordinary Argentinean author and translator, Jorge Luis Borges. The “incredible decade”, too, is a nod to M.K. Jessup and his description of abnormal activity in the late 19th century. Some of the information presented may be “old hat” to readers of my work in Tim Beckley’s UFO UNIVERSE or FATE magazine, but it might give new readers an appreciation of what was going on two decades ago in the Caribbean. — SC]
Looking back at major outbreaks of UFO activity always has a dream-like effect. In later years it becomes hard to believe that perfectly ordinary parts of our world can be swept up in a frenzy over unusual activity, bordering on hysteria. Perhaps for this reason, the Spanish-speaking countries have used the term “psychosis” to characterize the atmosphere surrounding a saucer flap, for example. The image that best characterizes this is the tabloid cover photo of a police officer and a knot of teenagers looking up at the night sky, with the screaming headline “¡platillera psicósis!” referring, in this case, to the 1991 UFO events in Mexico City.
Similar circumstances occurred in Puerto Rico, an island known for its heavy UFO activity, usually centering on two specific areas: El Yunque Rainforest in the northeastern corner of the island, within a stone’s throw of the capital city of San Juan, and the island’s southwestern corner, where unusual events centered around the communities of Cabo Rojo and Lajas. Unidentified flying objects had made themselves at home in the Seventies, resulting in localized “flaps” the received worldwide attention, and even prompted politicians to call for an official study into the nature of the phenomenon. The leading theory explaining the recurrent UFO appearances over that particular zone involves the unusual magnetic fields found in the vicinity of Maricao State Forest, which has been a notorious materialization point for unidentified vehicles over the years. Laguna Cartagena is in the state forest’s vicinity, and excessive interest in Laguna Cartagena prompted police and Civil Defense authorities to cordon off the area and have discouraged investigators from visiting the area, citing “disruptions to the lagoon’s fragile ecology”.
The southwestern corner of the roughly rectangular island has for centuries been the stage for paranormal events. In the 1600, the Blessed Virgin appeared in the town of Hormigueros, where many Lourdes-like cures have taken place; in 1953, a boy named Juan Collado had been visited by an entity claiming to be the Virgin, who instructed him to tell his parents and other adults that she would re-appear near a well on a given date. Thousands of people from around the island flocked to the site of the “miraculous” well, standing in hurricane-season rain to wait for the Blessed Virgin to appear. The situation, reminiscent of Fátima in 1917, led to many sudden healings, and although there was no “miracle of the sun”, many observed a glowing UFO land upon a hill not distant from the well. In spite of the torrential rain, the UFO managed to set the dense tropical vegetation on fire. In 1974, a UFO flap coincidental with the wave taking place stateside produced hundreds of sightings, abduction reports, mysterious human disappearances, numerous mutilations of cattle and, oddly enough, the Blessed Virgin staged a reappearance, producing more miracles. The Eighties, however, were quiet – a silence that was in step with the lack of UFO activity worldwide – and many researchers who had been active during the previous decade returned to “civilian” life.
Dawn of a New Saucer Age An incident in Cabo Rojo on May 31, 1987 served as the metaphorical starters pistol for the resurgence of a decade of UFO and paranormal activity in the island. Puerto Rico’s south-western coast was rocked by an explosion and an earthquake at a reported depth of some 80,000 feet.
Witnesses reported plumes of bluish smoke emerging from cracks in the ground along with a series of aftershocks. Seismographs soon issued conflicting reports: originally, the tremor’s epicenter was under Laguna Cartagena at a depth of 8000 feet. Later, it was moved out to sea, somewhere in the Mona Passage.
The earthquake had a most unusual aftermath: those living in the immediate area of Laguna Cartagena were evacuated by military personnel while figures garbed in decontamination gear conducted a thorough survey of the area, including samples of earth, water and vegetable matter. The day following the event, rural residents saw what appeared to be a military helicopter hovering above the lagoon, lowering what appeared to be sensitive equipment into the water. This unknown instrumentation package proved to be of great interest to someone else: on June 3, 1987, at 10:30 p.m., a cylindrical object resembling a giant hot-water tank with red and blue “navigation” lights on either end emerged from the Caribbean and positioned itself directly over the lagoon, to the consternation of onlookers. The silent UFO repeated its manoeuvre at the same time of night on June 4th and 5th. Unidentified flying objects in myriad configurations would become, from then on, a staple of south-western Puerto Rico Whatever the strange objects in the sky were, and whatever unexplained intelligence was behind them, returned to the scene with an intensity that exceeded earlier flap events. The phenomenon was now chronicled in the press – daily papers and specialized publications alike – and recent sightings, encounters and abductions competed for space with older stories that could now finally be told as experiencers felt encouraged to share them with the public. And some of the newer cases were mind-boggling: jet interceptors absorbed by menacing, behemoth triangular craft, the whereabouts of their pilots unknown; diminutive humanoids reported at road crossings, streams, beaches and — most disturbingly — bedrooms; rumors of an increase in activity by U.S. military personnel and Federal agents aimed at maintaining a “cover-up” merged seamlessly with intense official action against native terrorist groups (the so-called “Macheteros”) creating a palpable atmosphere of excitement tinged with fear.