Maria Gomez and the faces of Belmez

One day in 1971, when Spanish farmer Miguel Pereira Gomez came home from the fields, he noticed something strange on the floor of the family house.

“Come here and look if you see something,” he says he told his mother, Maria Gomez.

“But of course I see it, it is a face,” the mother replied. “Who has painted it?”

Miguel covered the spot with concrete, but the face was back within three days, and seemed to look right at him.

Since then, the village of Belmez near the southern city of Jaen has become something of a pilgrimage site for people interested in paranormal phenomena from all over Spain and even other countries.

Between 1971 and Maria’s death at the age of 85 in February, hundreds of faces kept appearing, vanishing and reappearing in the house.

There was, for instance, the one known as the child next to the chimney and the woman Maria called La Pava.
There was even a face said to look just like the late dictator Francisco Franco.

Other faces, however, could scarcely be distinguished from stains on the ground.

It was said that when Maria was happy, the faces looked cheerful, and when she was sad, the faces also reflected her mood.

No detergent could scrub the faces away. Chemical tests, X-rays and police investigations were unable to explain the phenomenon.

At one point, municipal workers digged a 2,8m-deep hole in Maria’s kitchen and discovered two headless skeletons. They belonged to people buried in a 13th-century cemetery, part of which had been located where the house now stood.

Parapsychologists claim Maria was unconsciously calling the dead to come and see her. Others say the faces were created by an underground current of water. Only one thing is regarded as certain: the “faces of Belmez” are not a hoax.

The phenomenon was expected to end with Maria’s death, but now the faces have resurfaced in a nearby house where Maria was born and lived until she was 22.

Whatever the secret of the faces of Belmez, they certainly have been great for the village where they have drawn thousands of visitors. No wonder that Maria was posthumously given the title of honorary citizen and that a street also bears her name.

Next, mayor Maria Rodriguez plans to open a Face Museum.—Sapa-DPA

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