Deep in the desert in northern Mexico, between the states of Durango, Chihuahua and Coahuila, is an area known as zona del silencio or the "zone of silence", also known as Mapimí Silent Zone for its close proximity to the city of Mapimi. Legend says that in this area electromagnetic transmissions cannot be received, radio doesn’t work, compasses do not point to magnetic north, and the flora and fauna have abnormal mutations. Over the years stories of alien encounters, falling "hot pebbles" and all sorts of paranormal activities have been drawing tourists and curiosity-seekers from all over the world.
The myth started in July, 1970, when the U.S. military base near Green River, Utah fired an Athena test missile toward White Sands Missile Range. The missile lost control and instead of landing on the intended target continued 400 miles south and fell in the Mapimí Desert region. Immediately, a team of specialists arrived to find the fallen rocket. When the rocket was found after three weeks of intense search, an airstrip was built to transport the wreckage. The entire operation was very hush-hush, consistent with governmental common sense, and nobody was told anything or asked. The secretive nature of the operation was already spurring rumors among the residents.
One version of the story tells about a certain local named Jamie who was hired by the military to guard the missile from vandals and sight-seers. Jaime rather liked the attention and money that the missile had brought, and when the military left, he along with two local landowners began to talk of the possibility of building a hotel in the area to encourage tourism. Some say that it was Jamie who began playing up the importance of the region to generate interest in the area, and together with his new friends started creating a story with lots of pseudo-science and local folklore, and fed it to the regional media. The media swallowed it hook, line and sinker, and a legend was born.
According to this bizarre story, strange magnetic anomalies of the atmosphere prevent radio transmission in specific points and make the needles spin on magnetic compasses. The magnetic waves are so unique that they create a vortex that draws in material from the upper atmosphere, including the ill-fated missile. The Allende meteorite, which fell in the general region of the Zone in 1969, is often cited as corroborating evidence.
The phenomena is now claimed to have been first reported in the 1930s by Francisco Sarabia, a Mexican pilot, who claimed that his radio had mysteriously failed to function while flying over the zone. Others claim to have seen UFOs, and objects falling from cloudless skies.
Now hundreds of people come from all over to experience the area. The locals call them zoneros. They are surprised when they find their radios and compasses working, upon which their guide – often a local, for whom these tourists represent a source of income, explains to them that the zones move, and therefore be hard to locate.
The local residents themselves do not believe in the Zone of Silence. When asked about strange phenomena, they invariably reply that they do not see strange things in the desert, only strange people. While some are eking out a living becoming guides or selling sodas and eatables to tourists, others find these outsiders a nuisance.
Mexconnect.com shares an amusing anecdote:
Upon being asked where la Zona could be found, a local rancher told a carload of people that they needed to keep following the road until they saw martians jump from one side of the road to another. The amazing part, he commented later, was that they thanked him. Another group of zoneros arrived at the field station and asked one of the workers how to get to the Zone. The young fellow, struggling to be polite and truthful at once, only replied, "Nunca van a llegar (You are never going to get there)."
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