Enriqueta Martí: The Vampiress of El Raval
Serial Killing is an absolutely horrifying subject. To the point that horrifying is too meek a word to describe it, although other synonyms have the same effect. Needless to say, the following article has some adult material. It is an important subject none-the-less, important in the hope that understanding it may lead to abolishing it. Alas, as long as humans survive then there will surely be more. It is important and also thought-provoking because the more we read, the more correlations we discover.
Take the fact that three out of the four most prolific serial killers ever recorded were born in Colombia. Their murders ranging from 90-300. Does this say something about the socioeconomic demographics of the country? It would appear to be a massive co-incidence if not. And then take a seemingly safe country like Spain who does not have a large history of serial killers, with the most prolific convicted of sixteen. *Would the obvious historical factors come into play here or is it something far beneath the surface?
Let us take a look at one of Spain’s serial killers – the Vampiress of El Raval – to see if that helps us discover more…
There is a metropolitan area in Barcelona called El Raval which even today has an enchanting yet eerie quality about its narrow, odorful streets. Raval is famous for its never-ending nightlife which unfortunately brings about illegal prostitution as well as crime. It now houses around 50,000 people and retains a bohemian yet illicit reputation – I know because I used to live there.
Transport back one hundred years ago and these notions of eeriness and enchanting would heighten considerably. As would the element of fear which no doubt increased considerably during 1912 when a wave of Catalan children went missing. This was amid rumors of a vampire escalating through the port-side barrio.
By the early 1900’s the population of Barcelona was skyrocketing. Raval, also known as El Chino (Chinatown) became home to many immigrants as well as war veterans and deserters, seeking solace from the Spanish-American War – fought on Moroccan soil. There was a week of protests in 1909 known as the Tragic Week in which there were strikes leading to riots then eventual occupation by the National army.
Barcelona was becoming a famous port town known to many as the ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’ meaning hotels and brothels were flourishing. El Raval became the Red Light district where prostitution was rife. Often, prostitutes were transported and sold in other developing cities such as New York and Rio de Janeiro. The streets were full of orphans and thieves, many children were sold by their parents due to economic struggles, ending up in sweatshops.
This way of life created a desperate situation in Ravalito. People would have been terrified for themselves and for their families. Fresh on the minds of the populace was Spain’s first documented serial killer- Manuel Blanco Romasanta – who killed twelve people north of the Portuguese border. He claimed to be a werewolf to which Queen Isabella II allowed him to be examined. Soon after was Juan Diaz de Garayo. He strangled five women and one girl in the northern Basque region of Spain. His nickname was Sacamantecas and he became a boogeyman figure along with ‘Hombre del Saco’ who had the myth of eating children.
Needless to say, the mindset was different back then in terms of belief of the supernatural. Other stories such as Jack the Ripper from across the sea in England would also be widely publicized. From 1982 onwards a larger number of children went missing in Barcelona. Many of which to the aforementioned brothels. The police raided one in Carrer Minerva in 1909 and this is where Enriqueta Martí i Ripollés would first become known to the authorities of Barcelona. She got arrested but was released with a lack of evidence. Some said her connections with the elite of Barcelona got her off the hook. Children continued to go missing.
History of Enriqueta Martí
Martí did not have a strange upbringing or childhood, reports would suggest. Born in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, on the outskirts of Barcelona in 1868 she moved to the city in her 20’s to become a maid and nanny but turned to prostitution thereafter. In 1895 she began a failed marriage with painter Juan Pujaló who stated that she had a strange character as well as affairs with other men.
Her most lucrative work consisted of working as a procurer for the rich and famous of Barcelona. She was prepared to get them anything and this disregard for humanity gave her a unique position. It highlighted her to people with perverted desires and such desires drive a hard price. Martí was prepared to do anything including kidnapping children to sell to such people. She gained access to the high life and was able to operate in famous places like the El Liceu theatre and the now abandoned casino on the hills of Barcelona called the Casino de la Arrabassada. There were rumors that she was a practicing witch doctor also, using the remains of her captives to make potions and elixirs.
Martí did her work very stealthily and it was not until 1912 when she was caught out. A feeling in the community that the police were not doing enough to find the captured children meant there was a public effort to find a girl called Teresita Guitart Congost. She was part of a popular local family and had been missing for two weeks. A neighbor of Enriqueta Martí called Claudia Elias believed her to be involved with many suspicious activities so had been watching her movements. One day Elias saw a girl peering out the window of Martí’s apartment but she had never seen kids in there before. Martí denied the claims when asked by Elias which arose even more suspicion. It was reported to the police who then launched an investigation and found the accused at a local park. They took her willingly to the flat and there indeed was Teresita Congost as well as another girl called Angelita. This is where the crimes of Enriqueta started to come to the fore.
The Rescue of Teresita Guitart Congost
Let it be known that the following testimonies come from the police and because of the times were not recorded. For that reason, the claims cannot be verified and some have even disputed them. Martí said she found the young girl Teresita lost and hungry so decided to care for her. However, Teresita told the police that Martí cut her hair after forcing her to the flat, telling her that her new name was Felicidad and that her parents were gone.
Martí claimed the other girl Angelita was hers but her ex-husband Juan Pujaló would later disclaim this. The girls told the police that their captor would only feed them potatoes and bread. She would pinch them if they misbehaved such as going to the windows, balconies or other rooms. Those other rooms told a story even darker than kidnapping. The girls were first to explore them in their bored isolation beforehand and so guided the police inside. There they found bloody clothes and a myriad of evidence to incarcerate the supposed vampiress. Thirty small bones, many of which exposed to fire was one such proof. There were many jars with strange remains, blood, bones and hair. There were clothes covered in blood, knives and bones. Angelita also spoke of a young boy called Pepito who she witnessed being killed by a knife on the kitchen table by Martí.
Enriqueta Martí had been apprehended by the law several times before but her association with her elite clients allowed her to escape unpunished. This time alas she would be sent to the infamous Reina Amalia prison. During which she tried to commit suicide by cutting her wrists but was stopped by the guards. More of her secrets were unraveled within the jail.
She gave locations of her previous abodes bringing about more evidence: Carrer dels Tallers, Carrer Picalques and Jocs Florals –all of which she rented with fake names. They were all composed of false walls with condemning features behind: Human remains, bones, books with recipes and potions in beautiful calligraphy, coded letters and a list of famous names. People believed it to be a list of her clients who would buy children or potions. However, the authorities did not act on this for fear of crowd retribution. They said instead, it was people that Martí tried to swindle.
The prisoner began to tell the truth probably knowing she had no reprieve. She first claimed she studied anatomy but then indeed confessed to use the remains of children to make potions for the elite. Tuberculosis was a big killer and many believed that drinking young blood could cure it. She told police where to find everything she had. She did not name any of her clients however and never admitted to killing anyone. More witnesses came forward once Martí was ousted. A woman from the region of Aragon said Martí kidnapped her son six years ago after befriending her in Barcelona. The woman never saw her son again.
Death and aftermath
After 15 months in jail, it was proven that the Vampiress was far from immortal as her life was ended prematurely. She was killed in the prison grounds on May 12 1913, at the beating of her cellmates. This meant all of her secrets could not be revealed. Her body was buried in the Cemetery del Sudoeste on the mountain of Montjuic albeit secretly marked.
There are many works of people which dispute the claims of the police. For example, Elsa Plaza’s El Cielo Bajo Los Pies (The Sky Underfoot) is one such work with argues the Vampire’s innocence, or at least that she was not responsible for the murders. Many who have scrutinized the story closer believed that the police used Enriqueta Martí as a scapegoat for all the crimes sweeping through El Raval which they could not solve. Recent research has demonstrated that the only thing that can be proved about Martí is her kidnapping of the young girl, Teresita Guitart.
Plaza states Martí was never formally charged nor were any actual corpses found in her flats. She argues the blood on the clothes could have been Martís as she was suffering from uterine cancer and that the bones were most likely animals. Police closed many brothels around this time including one in Carrer Botella which used children.
Martí confessed to prostituting a girl of seventeen years on Carrer Sabadell as well as performing abortions but claimed to never have killed anyone. Plaza goes as far to say the trial was staged to wrap up the murders. Some have this view that so many children were sold by families needing money, that it was not a serial killer but economic hardship behind the missing children. More recent works points to Martí being a scapegoat, a strange character immersed in the dark arts but not a killer.
–Says Marc Pastor, a CSI agent who worked to imprison a serial killer called Remedios Sanchez in 2006
It is extremely doubtful that Enriqueta Martí will ever be concluded as a serial killer. She was however, without a doubt involved in the horrific events involving the many young kids of El Raval.
Enjoyed this article? Also, check out “H. H. Holmes: Life of America’s First Known Deadliest Serial Killer“.
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