July 16, 2012

La Vampira del Raval

"You know your office is the building opposite where a serial killer lived over a 100 years ago?" I said, sipping the last of my morning coffee and licking the foam from around the lip of the cup. Carolina's eyes widened as she secured the lid on her cafe con leche. "No. What are you talking about?"  "Well, there used to be a woman who lived on Joaquin Costa that killed children and used their body parts to make lotions and potions for rich women." Marcos stuck his head out of the window "Yeah it's true, didn't you know this?". "No." She said, taking a sip." How do you know this?" 
"They call her La Vampira Del Raval , it's a famous story around here. I found out when I was writing an article on the history of the area and have always intended to get around to writing an article about her." I said. "Perhaps I should do that today?"

Enriqueta Marti was a Catalan woman born in 1868 in Sant Feliu de Llobregat. Little is known of her life before she moved to Barcelona as a young woman to secure employment as a maid and a nanny. However, living in the city was tough for Enriqueta and she soon turned to prostitution around the port of Barcelona, where jobs were more than easy to find. It was during this time that she also found her husband to be, Joan Pujalo, a painter. The marriage was inconsistent and turbulent. Pujalo spoke of his wife as an unpredictable character and how he could never quite adjust to her dealings with peculiar, dubious characters and how she would still frequent brothels, despite their marriage. They were separated and reunited a number of times before finally becoming estranged from one another, with no children or little else to show for their relationship.
The truth was that Enriqueta had an alter ego. A woman leading a double life. By day, she would dress in rags and wander the streets of the Raval, begging at convents and churches for money and forming alliances with abandoned children, who she would take by the hand and allow the impression to be received that they were her own when, in fact, she would lead these children home and later prostitute or murder them. By night, she would dress in fine clothing and frequent El Liceu or the Casino, where she would procure clients from high society for her services. Enriqueta was a cold, money-making businesswoman. She knew the perverted secrets of powerful men and used it to her own advantage. But there was more. When a neighbour aroused the suspicion of the police to the attention of Enriqueta, they made a warrant for her arrest and went to investigate at 29 Carrer de Ponent, now known as Joaquin Costa. There they found hard evidence that Enriqueta was not only prostituting the children but also practising witch craft most foul. From the scene they discovered up to fifty pitchers, washbowls and jars brimming with preserved human remains including body fat, skin, hair, bones and blood that she worked and ground into concotions such as salves, ointments and elixirs, which she then sold to rich women with the promise of youthful skin.
It is reported, that over the 25 years that Enriqueta lived in Barcelona, that she was quite possibly the most prolific female serial killer in history. Hundreds of children went missing in the Raval during this period and, with a passive police force, not many of them were ever found... except for the young girl rescued from Enriqueta's flat, who told a horrifying tale of a young boy slaughtered on the kitchen table. The bodies of up to twelve children were found in makeshift walls of the flat and many smalls bones and the skull of a baby were also retrieved alongside books penned in Enriqueta's hand, revealing the disgusting recipes she followed.
Enriqueta was arrested and retained at Reina Amalia, where she was on constant suicide watch and eventually killed by her inmates before she could be tried for her crimes. The public never discovered the full truth and extent of her past and neither did Enriqueta's clients ever face any punishment. The whole crime was simply swept away with her death and eternally shrouded in mystery.
In recent years,  essays and works have emerged in defence of Enriqueta claiming that she was a scapegoat for an immoral, corrupt and lazy police force, who scandalised the story to such great heights in order to distract the eye of criticism to this 'devil woman'. Either way, we will never know the truth about Enriqueta Marti. Number 29 sits innocently next to an organic vegetable shop and all that remains are the whispers of Barcelona, the stories of La Vampira del Raval.


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