Chilean Mayor Declares Region
A UFO Tourism Zone
By Kevin G. Hall
Knight Ridder Newspapers

SAN JOSE DE MAIPO, Chile (KRT) - The snowcapped Andes have long attracted globetrotters, but the mayor of this picturesque Chilean mountain district insists visitors are coming from even farther away - other galaxies and solar systems.

Villagers have reported so many UFO sightings during the past two decades that on Saturday, Mayor Miguel Marquez is declaring his Maipo River region just outside the capital of Santiago an official UFO tourism zone.

He plans to erect two observation centers, place signs where there have been sightings and offer workshops on, among other topics, how best to photograph alien visitors.

He believes the nearby mountains contain a "natural energy" that attracts visitors, even those from another world.

"This zone is the UFO capital of Chile," Marquez said in an interview. "Many people have made sightings, including me personally.

"I'm not going to say I've seen aliens," he added carefully. "But I've seen objects."

Chile's Corporation for the Investigation of UFOs, a band of believers based in the capital, approached the mayor with the UFO tourism concept several months ago.

Since tourists were already coming to the region to relax, the group's leaders suggested, why not encourage them to scan the skies for alien beings?

The idea is to have "foreigners come and see this zone for themselves and speak about UFOs," said Eric Martinez, a Santiago salesman who heads investigations for the UFO group in his spare time.

He currently is looking into a report that a Chilean woman was abducted by aliens, or as Martinez prefers to call them, "unidentified biological entities."

Martinez said his group has videotape of actual UFOs that will be released "at the appropriate time."

Mayor Marquez didn't need much convincing from Martinez's group, having witnessed two UFOs himself. And if you don't believe him, ask Jose Ruben Guajardo, a truck driver who works for the mayor.

Guajardo, 61, who prefaced his remarks by saying that he does not drink alcohol, said that on March 26 at 4:30 a.m. he was riding in a truck near the San Jose volcano.

Coming toward the truck alongside a river, he recalled with great animation, was a huge object lit up in orange. He drew it on paper for a curious reporter. It looked like a giant fish with antennas.

"I didn't tell anyone because no one would believe it. My wife told me I was lying," Guajardo said. "It was with us for about half a minute to a minute, then we lost sight of it. Before that, I'd only seen them (UFOs) at a distance, but this one was real close."

Up the icy mountain road a few miles in San Gabriel, farmer Beno Vergara stopped unloading hay for a minute. Yes, he's seen UFOs, too.

"We wanted to get closer to see it," he said, describing a round object emitting beams of red, white and yellow light.

Nearby, on horseback and wearing a colorful poncho and wide-brimmed hat, goat herder Pedro Antonio Tobar was unimpressed.

"I don't believe in them," he said. Then he galloped off.

A conservative country characterized by Germanic discipline and the British stiff upper lip of its immigrant forefathers, Chile would hardly seem a nation of UFO spotters.

Yet Chilean newspapers, radio shows and television programs report UFO sightings regularly and lavishly.

One explanation is that Chile's location far down the southern hemisphere places it under the center of the Milky Way. This draws astronomers worldwide to Chilean observatories and gives the country a certain cosmic consciousness.

In addition, the Southern Lights - just like the Northern Lights that produce rich colored displays over Alaska and Canada - play richly in Chile's nighttime sky.

To the naive eye, the aurora's glow behind a hilltop can look a lot like something around the bend giving off a weird light.

"If you don't know how to explain it, you have a UFO," said Jorge Ianischewezki, author of a popular Chilean astronomy guide.

"People from the city, they don't know the sky. The sky is something strange to them," he said.

"The southern sky is rich in objects." ___
© 2002, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.



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