UFOlogy In Cuba

From Scott Corrales
INEXPLICATA - The Journal of Hispanic Ufology
We seldom receive information from the island nation of Cuba on matters of ufology or the paranormal. For this reason we have chosen to feature this article by an unknown author - identifying himself only by his e-mail address - in INEXPLICATA. Although the thoughts presented in the article are of skeptical nature, the document represents an interesting perspective on ufology from within a "closed society. --Scott ]
UFOlogy In Cuba
Regarding the highs and lows of Cuban ufology. A striking document on the current conditions of this discipline on the Caribbean island of Cuba and the misfortunes experienced by those who devote themselves to the subject of UFOs.
There is little propaganda on Cuban ufology in comparison with what goes on in the rest of the world and in the neighboring countries bathed by the waters of the Caribbean, such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic or Mexico. Ufolatry is scarce in Cuba.
The first reports on this pseudoscience appeared in the 1950's through American magazines such as "Life", "Readers Digest", comic books and American motion pictures. The Cuban magazine "Bohemia" and the national press echoed these reports.
The UFO myth has represented a prodigious source for artistic imagination: hundreds of comics, novels and motion pictures, and in Cuba there was even a chá-chá-chá dance number called "Los marcianos llegaron ya" (the Martians are already here).
After the triumph of the 1959 Revolution, the government forbade the entry of all manner of popular capitalist literature. Only reading materials from Communist bloc countries were allowed. Newspaper and magazine publishing houses and presses were de-privatized and fell under the Government's absolute control. Censure was developed against anything issuing out of the USA and the capitalist European countries. Only UNESCO's magazine was allowed in from this part of the world, and then only to very few and specific subscribers. "Carta de España" was allowed to reach some Spaniards who remained on the island. For this reason, pro-UFO propaganda seldom made it into the country through foreign magazines and newspapers, as well as books and short-wave radio broadcasts, etc. We were flooded with magazines from the USSR, the GDR (German Democratic Republic), Poland, Hungary, China, etc. where commercial propaganda was completely replaced by political-ideological propaganda, whether Marxist-Leninist or Marxist-Maoist.
Ufologists speak in terms of several UFO flaps, with the fourth one being placed in 1962. And it involves us, since it took place during the October Missile Crisis, when the world stood on the verge of a terrible nuclear war. Lights in the sky were seen in the Atlantic, as well as on the sea and under its surface. Without a doubt, [this was due to] the manoeuvres of US and NATO aircraft, ships and submarines.
In the 1960s, Oscar Hurtado, a Cuban author classified as a science fiction writer, published articles and gave presentations in which he strongly supported "the unquestionable" existence of UFOs. He was the most intense and passionate advocate of the existence of this subject in our country.
An example of this can be found in his article published in the "Revolución" newspaper on July 9, 1965, bearing the title Algo sobre platillos voladores ("Something about flying saucers"). The author accused those who did not believe in UFOs of being medieval-minded and ignorant, yet he never produced a scientific analysis of the phenomenon. He never sought evidence; he only promoted and fed the myth. Hurtado espoused the ideas of Soviet pseudo-scientific speculators M.N. Agrest and A. Kazantsev. A sample of this can be found in the prologue to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, published in Cuba in 1965 by Ediciones Huracán (a publisher that lived up to its name, since the lousy binding caused the pages of the book to fly off as though swept away by a hurricane).
In Bohemia, historically the most widely-read magazine in the country, the "Panorama de la Ciencia" section featured a two-part article in its December 7 and 14 1973 issues, respectively, exposing the subject without a scientific analysis of same and indicating the existence of two groups of scientists: those who believe and those who do not, and that the CIA was engaged in a disinformation campaign against UFOs in order to eliminate them. The author states that the subject is highly controversial, is worthy of investigation, and that avoiding the methods hitherto employed would be greatly advisable.
Despite the appearance of impartiality, dividing the article into two faction - believers and non-believers - the author does not apply the true method to ascertain the truth of any phenomenon, which is to say, determine if there is scientific evidence for it, rather than the existence of pro-and-con factions. Science does not function based on a simple discussion between opponents, nor does it determine the truth based on a majority vote. In this case, it would have to ask if even a single shred of scientific proof exists, and is it verifiable.
Science is based on testing or verification. The article in question highlights that in April 1967, American physicist James McDonald of the Arizona Atmospheric Physics Institute told the American Newspaper Publishers Association that the CIA had demanded, since 1966, that UFOs be discredited in order to diminish public interest in this groundless issue. Bear in minds that in Cuba the "Yankees" are blamed on a daily basis for blocking the development of natural traditional medicine and Bioenergetics (the Cuban terms for alternative medicine) by means of its pharmaceutical multinationals. Since all Cubans are indoctrinated with a fierce anti-Yankee hostility, the CIA is pointed out in the article as responsible for concealing all matters related to UFOs. Anything that speaks poorly about the "Yankees" is welcome (in Cuba, rain or the absence thereof is pinned on the Yankees).
The Bohemia article also mentions the expulsion of two UFO supporters from the Condon Committee, among them Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who established the first ufology course in the world at Northwestern University. The Bohemia article also mentions that Edward U. Condon published a book titled A Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, stating that there is no proof for the existence of UFOs. This article supports the alleged existence of UFOs.
The URSS provided us with information favorable to the pseudosciences, such as three-curve biorhythms, parapsychology, radiesthesia, etc. and UFOs. M.M. Agrest added that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was the consequence of a nuclear explosion, that the angles and the ascension of Enoch were astronauts, that the Iron Pillar of Delhi in India was made by aliens, along with the giant stone terrace of Baalbek in Lebanon. He went as far as to say that aliens had left traces and materials of their visit on the far side of the Moon. All of this appeared in Literaturnaya Gazeta, Moscow, 1959 and February 1960.
Another soviet, Alexander Kazantsev, former director of the Rocket Nozzle Studies Institute, had stated years earlier that the Tunguska event of June 30, 1908 was the result of an atomic-engined spacecraft colliding in Siberia, and that the Japanese "dogu" statues, over 4,500 years old, were representations of space aliens.
Since the 1960's (more so in the '60s and '70s), Cuba has occasionally witnessed on cloudless nights some lights that have been interpreted by some as being UFOs, when they are in fact launchings of spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the luminous gases of the separations of rocket stages. The Cuban press frame it as a phenomenon known as a sundog or relate it to UFOs, or else leave it unexplained. The news media have never told the public that the cause of the lights could be American rockets. This truth is kept from the population so that Cubans won't feel a loss of status, particularly in a country that was developing its military arsenal and was becoming the second military power in the Americas. There existed a missile launch test pathway or "corridor" with an eastward arc trajectory that passed between the north of Cuba and the Bahamas and followed the seas over Puerto Rico toward Ascension Island (see National Geographic, Oct. 1959).
UFOs have been discussed in several sessions at the United Nations. It is said that in the 30th session of the UN in 1975, Eric Gairy, prime minister of Grenada, posed the need to construct a UFO landing strip in his country-a UFOport-since sightings and landings were frequent in his island (did Gairy really say this?). Perhaps he said so to secure an airport and improve Grenada's economy. Time passed by and it was the Cubans who wound up building an airport in Grenada.
In the 1980s, the now-defunct USSR created a UFO study center attached to the Academy of Sciences. Subsequently the Ufological Commission and the UFO Center (much like years before in the USA) were created in Moscow, directed by the Soviet scientist Azhazhi.
For many years, Soviet military intelligence has devoted itself to investigating the UFO phenomenon in secret for the very same reasons as the Pentagon.
In the popular science magazine Juventud Tecnica (Technical Youth) dated May 1985, in the articels Universo Engimas Cognosibles (Knowable Enigmas of the Universe) and Extraterrestrial Phenomena dated May-June 1986, the Cuban people were informed for the first time ever of the scientific perspective of the UFO phenomenon. But contrary to what it published about UFOs, this publication has propagandised pyramidology, alternative medicine, the Yeti and other myths and pseudoscience.
In its December 20, 1989 issue, the Juventud Rebelde article ¿Nos vigilan los extraterrestres? (Are Aliens Watching Us?) exposes and publicizes, without any scientific analysis, the ideas of French physicist Jean Pierre Petit, who supports the existence of UFOS and is a pseudoscientific speculator. The article by J.P. Petit is a watered-down and improved version of the Tunguska event.
Our country echoed the Danikenistic pseudoscientific movement through the works of author Daina Chaviano, titled ¿Existieron los gigantes en la antiguedad? (Did giants exist in antiquity?) in Somos Jóvenes magazine (Jan. 1988) and in Los mundos que amo (The Worlds That I Love), wrongly classified as science fiction by some Cuban critics. Her work "Did Giants Exist in Antiquity?" is a plagiarized-summarized version of the writings of Hans Hoerbiger.
On September 23, 1988, the film La nave de los dioses (Chariots of the Gods)(Germany, 1970) was screened on Cuban television's Cine Vivo program. Incredibly, the panel of experts proved that it had no knowledge whatsoever about the pseudoscientific or anti-scientific genre. Nor did any Cuban film critic or scientist unmask it, and the population took it in as though it had been a scientific documentary.
The November 18, 1988 issue of Bohemia (p.56) features an article titled ¿Extraterrestres? - Its author supports the myth of the statues of Easter Island and lucubrates about one of the native stone pictographs found in the cave of Punta del Este, Youth Island, under the influence of the recently screened Chariots of the Gods? He also infers a UFO sighting off the Cuban coast from the writings of Alexander Von Humboldt. As always, scientific arguments are unknown or evaded to wallow in pseudo-scientific impressionism.
The February 11, 1989 issue of Granma, the official gazette of the Communist Party, features the article Las pirámides de Egipto ¿Transferencia tecnológica de extraterrestres remotos? (The Egyptian Pyramids - Technological Transfer by Distant Aliens?) which is practically a copy-summary of the article Plastic Megaliths by Douglas Starr in the February 1983 issue of OMNI. The Granma writer does a highly superficial summary and does not mention scientific fact, since it has been solidly confirmed that the blocks of the Egyptian pyramids were not molded, but cut or carved. There is no scientific-archaeological evidence that supports A.J. Davidovits. Articles like this appear in commercial publications and never in scientific ones; I sent them a critique on the article and never received a reply.
In the book Vivir en el espacio (Living in Space) by Cuban author P. Gutierrez, 1989, there is a chapter favorable to UFOs without any criticism whatsoever or scientific exposition of the subject, only a journalistic approach lacking rigorous analysis.
The Voronezh UFO incident in the USSR received much exposure in Cuba. A TASS news agency dispatch dated October 9, 1989 stated that an alien spaceship had landed on September 27 in Voronezh, some 500 km.from Moscow, before numerous witnesses. Three beings measuring 3 - 4 meters in height had descended from the craft; they had three eyes and very small heads. It was claimed that the landing site had been located by means of radiesthesia or biolocation, and that the fact had been confirmed by Soviet "scientists" and Genrikh Silanov, director of the Voronezh Geophysical Laboratory, claimed that two reddish stones of a kind not found on Earth were discovered at the site.
But the press ignored what came afterward, since it wasn't nearly as sensational. Little was published about it and no mention of it was made in Cuba. The "Soviet scientists" who validated the case were in fact members of a group promoting the paranormal and named "The Amateur Voronezh Section for the Study of Anomalous Phenomena". Nor were there dozens of witnesses: only three children were identified, and the more interviews they gave, the more sensational their tales became.
On the other hand, Genrikh Silanov stated that the rocks were made of hematite, a form of iron oxide very common in the USSR. He further added: "Don't believe everything that TASS says. We never contributed information to what they published."
As a response to this phenomenon, I managed to get provincial newspaper Ahora to publish several articles of mine against pseudoscience, among them two against ufology: OVNI sobre la ciudad (UFO Over the City) on November 19, 1989, which shows a photo of a UFO over our city, a deliberately hoaxed photo to show how easily one can deceive, plus an extensive article unmasking ufology, Von Daniken and similar.
At the time I hadn't made contact with CSICOP, nor did I know anything about skeptics. Cuba had hitherto not spawned any hysterical UFO stories, as had occurred elsewhere; nor do sensationalist news items appear frequently. However, with the collapse of the Communist bloc in our country, the economic crisis worsened - a crisis dubbed Periodo Especial (the Special period) by the government. Several UFO reports appeared in 1994, five of them between October 15 and 26, which received great coverage in the press and TV.
It is important to note that certain ideological or thought crises take place during times of political and economic uncertainty: the pseudosciences increase their diffusion by the masses, a state of easy credulity is created among persons of low culture and especially those lacking scientific knowledge. Astute politicians take advantage of the situation to distract the people amidst the crisis. But scientific thinking remains unchanged. As in the USA, when the pseudoscienes were rife during its Vietnam Syndrome (sic), Cuba faced an increase in pseudosciences and myths during the decline and fall of the Soviet Empire.
The opening of international tourism in late '98 and '99 allowed the entry of more materials regarding this and other pseudosciences.
The Pasaje a lo Desconocido (Ticket to the Unknown) television show, which presents some documentaries from the Discovery and Learning Channels, features a section in which presenter Reinaldo Taladrid interviews an expert on the subject. Rigorous materials are often exposed and experts and scientists are invited, but at times, a mediocre, pseudo-scientific documentary is presented and a ufologist is invited. On November 3, 1999 a pro-UFO documentary was aired and Taladrid invited a ufologist and atlantologist to the debate - a former physics instructor named Enrique Pérez. No scientist was invited to unmask this pseudoscience. The journalist in charge of the program knows me very well on account of the harsh criticism I have levelled against his show, in the same way that the editors of Bohemia and some Cuban newspapers have come to know me as a result of pseudoscience promoted by this media. These critiques are never published.
For many decades our bookstores have not sold books like Don Quixote. Since the 1980s, the great scarcity of paper and ink commenced at the presses. The works of exobiologists such as Sagan have never been published; only a Soviet book by I.S. Shklovski, from 1977, Universe, Life and Intellect, has been sold. It mentions Sagan first as a believer and then as a skeptic on matters of ET contact. The Cosmos series was presented only once on TV using very low quality copies. There are no books against the pseudosciences in our libraries.
In spite of the fact that to some "experts" we are squarely in the middle or next to the Bermuda Triangle, we have neither anecdotes nor news accounts about disappearances. Cuban ships, yachts and boats vanish not through alien abduction, but through clandestine flight from the northern coast, taking advantage of the powerful Gulf Stream. From every five Cubans who flee, three drown or wind up in the bellies of sharks. Bear in mind that since 1959, no Cuban may visit an airport or seaport and buy a ticket to visit or tour the USA or any other country in the world.
If a flying saucer landed in our country, it is very likely that the government would try to convince ETs that this is the best country in the world. They would be taken to our beaches and historic-political centers and then indoctrinated with the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Meanwhile, if the people get a chance, they would ask the ETs for something to eat or to wear, perhaps even swapping goods. At the same time, thousands of Cubans would try to get into the spaceship to leave the country for any other place in the universe.
(This article originally appeared in Revista Anomalía, Spain (No.1, Vol.2, 2002))
Translation (c) 2005. Scott Corrales, Institute of Hispanic Ufology. Special thanks to Mario Luis Bracamonte, S.I.O.-- Servicio de Informaciones Ovnilógicas Río Cuarto, Córdoba, Argentina



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