Penguin Random House recently published a new, revised and updated edition of the book supernatural columbiathe title with which the Spanish writer and journalist, mado martinez, a resident of Colombia, has been cultivating readers for the past few years. The first versions of the book called for a meeting with the testimonies and true data behind the most absurd paranormal events that can be imagined.
Now, with unpublished testimonies and QR codes, the reader will be able to take this reading to another level and explore the limits of our reality, traveling through the most disturbing haunted places and paranormal enigmas in Colombia. Inside this new version, the stories about abductions in the Guatavita lagoon, horrors in the Caribbean Naval Museum, miracles and curses in the central Cemetery of Bogotá, ghosts that distribute mangoes, haunted houses and much more, will not cease to amaze. and disturb whoever reads.
Considered one of the most outstanding voices of the fantastic genre in Spanish in recent years, Martínez became known with her book The mystery of Nicole Delacroixin 2008, and after its publication, came The curse (2013), The Guardian (2013), The Saint (2014) and The Train of Souls (2018). She is also the author of a number of essays on anthropology, science, history, and the occult. his are hers The proof (2016), neuroscience of happiness (2014) and Whores, witches and crazy (2021), among other titles.
In conversation with Infobae, the author spoke about the passing of the years and the way in which the book has evolved, as well as its themes in mystery journalism.
— How much difference is there in this new edition with respect to the first and its reprints, beyond what is already mentioned on the book cover itself?
— People were asking for this new edition. We wanted to do it in a pocket format and, obviously, enlarged, but when we started the work we found that many things had changed. I revisit these places that I speak of and I realize that, for example, the owner of the La Bruja restaurant is no longer the owner, that the mayor of Tenjo is no longer the mayor and so on. Everything that appeared had to be updated with new testimonials. Many issues had to be turned around. So, I have come across new information, new testimonials, and the stories keep coming. This new edition has all that, corrected, revised, expanded, and has very cool things, like the photographs and QR codes, which are audios with the interviews I’ve done. Readers will also be able to hear what these people say in the book. In addition, there is access to documents that have been declassified, the originals. It is not for nothing, but the truth is that this new edition is very good.
— Is Colombia still as attractive as the first time?
— For me, Colombia is, according to the cliché, the country of magical realism. My favorite writer is Gabriel García Márquez, by the way. I love the country, because I love the people here. His warmth and hospitality, and his longing for wanting to preserve the traditions and tell the stories that define them. The oral tradition is a testimony of incalculable value. If it is not collected, it is lost. For me, everything that comes from there has a lot of value, because these stories are part of the country’s cultural heritage. They explain, to a large extent, how we are, what amazes us and scares us. The mythical imaginary of Colombia is beautiful and vast, too. Everything that comes from there has a lot to do with the culture and psychology of this society. That’s what interests me.
— How much have your themes around the paranormal changed since the first time it was published? supernatural columbia?
– It has changed a lot. When I started doing mystery journalism, I still hadn’t started studying anthropology, that came later. Everything was so much more candid. When I started to study, the candidness left and the doubts arrived. What usually happens is that if you spend a lot of time studying the same topic, far from having things clear, you start to have everything even less clear. Every time you answer one question, ten more pop up. You realize that your mind really opens up, but the doubts do not stop appearing. If they weren’t there, this wouldn’t make sense. Doubt is the engine of curiosity. In the end, that’s what moves. If I had these things figured out beforehand, I wouldn’t have spent so much time researching them. The evolutionary arc lies in how, each time, the themes feed on themselves and your interest in them adapts.
— This is a book that combines different narrative and journalistic styles. To what extent is it essay and when is it journalism?
— What I did here was a very informative essay, and it is almost a hybrid, because this is the diary of a reporter, but also of an anthropologist, of an Indiana Jones-style adventurer. I am not a tabletop writer. I need to go to the site, do field work, interview people, go from here to there. The result is, then, something very beautiful, because there is everything. It is a very journalistic exercise, but also anthropological and informative. I thought about it from the beginning for the general public.
— Does mystery journalism deserve a space in the faculties of communication and the media?
— I have always thought that mystery journalism is an approach. Let’s see, when you do sports journalism, you didn’t necessarily have to have played soccer or baseball or whatever. When you do political journalism, you don’t need to be from this or another political trend, just collect the necessary sources to speak properly. In this sense, the one who does mystery journalism is not a parapsychologist or a UFO hunter. Doing mystery journalism requires rigor and being clear that there is no room for sensationalism. It’s about finding the bizarre in life and wondering about it. Thus, like any other approach, it claims its space in journalism. Thanks to the questions that the mystery journalist asks himself, the big topics are usually given, because, ultimately, it consists of looking at the unconventional side of events of all kinds and putting them on the table.
— What names would you rescue in that field?
— Well, the first one to mention, if we talk about what has been done in Spain, is Juan José Benítez. From then on, and if we think about it from Colombia and all of Latin America, I would have to mention Juan Jesús Vallejo, Esteban Cruz, Iker Jiménez, Clara Tahoces, in short. His journalism is rigorous, without fanaticism, and they have inspired others to lean towards these issues.
— Is the way in which people receive these issues evolving or, according to their training, are they still treated with skepticism?
— This is an interesting phenomenon because, really, people’s belief systems are not fixed, they vary, they are dynamic, like language. They are not dead. They have a lot to do with the context and even with politics. In situations of economic crisis and great political crises, people are more believers, more conspiratorial. For example, during World War II millions of people died and this gave rise to many spiritualist movements. At times like this, it’s normal for people to hold on to what they can. You will always want to know if your deceased relatives are okay. So yes, belief systems are fickle, susceptible to what is changing in society.
The human brain finds signals where there are none. It looks for meaning and causality to what it cannot explain. Everything must respond to a why. We can’t stand the uncertainty or injustice of life. And speaking of injustices, one of the ones that marks us the most is losing a loved one. We want to know, immediately, what will happen to him or her, if we will see him or not again. We are the only living species that has a sense of transcendence. We take care of our dead, we worry about them. This is what makes us human. So, we need to find an explanation for everything, and we do it, on many occasions, through myth, since it becomes credible enough to give meaning to our lives. With which, yes, our way of seeing these things evolves, because our own brain is evolving and we will always need to make sense of everything.
— The supernatural is constantly around us, why does it cause so much fear and how can it, in the same way, attract so much?
— The fear of the unknown, of the supernatural, is totally atavistic. It has to do with our sense of conservation. The experience of finding ourselves before the strange, regardless of the interpretation that is given to it, is authentic, completely real. We project reality, but it is true that we are still far from defining it. We cling to these things, even though they scare us at times, because they provide us with answers. Psychologist William James treats it under the concept of mystical or religious experience, which is nothing other than something we need to experience to move forward. It is an intimate, personal experience, it only serves you.