Rosa and Alfonso 27 Years Later
Report: Stolen Lives
Rosa and Alfonso 27 Years Later
El País: Rosa y Alfonso, 27 años después
Seventeen and single, Rosa gave up her baby for adoption in a process filled with irregularities. The couple who received the baby paid for him. The tenacity of Alfonso, now a young lawyer, made the reunion of mother and child possible. This is their story.
Jesús Duva and Natalia Junquera, March 6, 2011
Over the course of decades, thousands of babies in Spain were seized or irregularly separated from their parents. Today, El País begins a series about the trafficking of these children which will tell the stories of the victims and of those who participated in these schemes. Consult the special section Vidas robadas. Participate in Eskup. Do you believe that you are a stolen child or that you know of a case? Send us an email.
Young Alfonso holds hands with his mother, Rosa, before an Antonio López sculpture near Atocha station in Madrid. She preferred to hide her face. -Bernardo Pérez
At age 17, I was pregnant with the child of a boy with whom I’d gone out three or four times. He was a 19 or 20-year old student. He quickly disappeared. The last day I saw him was the one in which I told him I was pregnant. I lived with my older sister in a pension in Madrid, and my parents were in a town in Segovia. I didn’t dare to tell them anything. When I went home, my father said to me, “You’re there to work, so why are you coming here with a beer belly?” At four months, I was thrown out of the house where I was serving. I gave birth on December 28, 1983, in the maternity ward of Santa Cristina. I told the doctors I couldn’t take care of the child, and they explained to me that because I was a minor, I couldn’t sign my own renunciation papers. But they took my child away that same day, before my sister had signed in my name.”
Rosa has finally reunited with her son Alfonso, the boy who she had renounced because of her poverty and her family’s refusal to confront the situation. There were thousands of cases like hers in the Spain of Franco and the Transition: thousands of youths who became pregnant from sporadic relations, either with their boyfriends or from the sexual abuse of their employers. And in those circumstances, they were forced to renounce their children.
They told Rosa that they were giving her son to “two married lawyers in Madrid with a lot of money.” They told the carpenter and his wife in Alicante, to whom they actually gave the child, that the mother was “a university student in the Basque Country” and that the baby had been “a little skinny because she was wearing a corset to hide the pregnancy.” Twenty-seven years later, last November 7, Alfonso and Rosa learned the truth.
The tenacity of Alfonso, now a young lawyer, made the reunion possible. “I had always felt like I was someone strange and out of place. I had always suspected I was adopted because of things other students said to me in school, because my parents were much older, and because I didn’t look like anyone else in our family pictures. I discovered that I was adopted last January, when I asked for my birth certificate, and it said, ‘Mother and father unknown.'”
Alfonso was registered days after his birth like an expósito, that is to say, as if he had been abandoned at the door of a convent, even though he had been given up for adoption in a public hospital.
It is not the only irregularity of this case. “My adoptive parents couldn’t have children. A friend of theirs who had adopted three children from the San Ramón clinic recommended a nun, Sister María Gómez Valbuena, who obtained children in Madrid, so they went to see her. She directed them to the Spanish Association for the Protection of Adoption (AEPA). They did not consider my parents fit to adopt a child, but almost a year later, Sister María called them and said, “You have very important friends.” They came, paid a considerable sum, although they won’t tell me how much, and picked me up. Every Christmas, we send Sister María a basket of food and money. I remember talking to her when I was a kid about my grades in school.”
“I didn’t receive a cent,” added Rosa, the biological mother. “But I remember that when I was about to give birth, an older married couple came to my home and told me that if I brought my child to them from the hospital, they would give me two million pesetas.” She threw them out of her room after refusing their proposition despite her economic circumstances. The adoptive parents of Alfonso took him home on the day of his birth, December 28, 1983, when Rosa’s sister had not yet signed the renunciation papers, which in any case should have been done before a notary public. “During those first months, I went to ask about the child, to see how he was doing, but they told me I could forget about it,” Rosa recounted.
The list of irregularities that surrounded the adoption did not impede last year’s encounter. “I presented a demand of non-contentious jurisdiction so a judge would oblige Santa Cristina Hospital to give me the data about my biological mother, and they gave me a date with her name, birth date, identification number, and blood type,” said Alfonso. That made it easy to find Rosa’s home. “We lived only ten minutes apart! I planted myself in the doorway, but I couldn’t bring myself to ring the doorbell.” Jaime, the mediator who collaborated with the Platform for the Affected for the San Ramón, Santa Cristina, and Belén clinics and whom Alfonso contacted when he began to search for his mother, could barely contain his own anxiety. Normally, the mediator prepares the mother and child for the encounter over several months, but Alfonso couldn’t wait.
Rosa heard him, captivated. They were copies: the same eyes, big and expressive. The same smile. “They called me at the beginning of October last year. They asked me: ‘Did you have a child on December 28, 1983?’ Jaime, the mediator, explained to me that my son was looking for me. I wanted to meet him, but I was afraid he would throw things in my face, that he was coming to ask me for something…I wasn’t prepared. I asked for photos and a letter, and I wrote my own telling him what had happened. The day we met, last November 7, he organized a party in his home. He told me he had invited a pair of friends, and when I arrived there were 30 or 40 people!’ Rosa recalled. Among the invited were her younger son, David, whom Alfonso had contacted for his own story without her knowing.
David is ten years younger than the big brother he has just met. “He was also born in Santa Cristina. When I gave birth, the nurses asked me, ‘Will you give him up for adoption, too?’ I told them I wouldn’t, but I was sad that they knew.”
Rosa joked that she now sees more of Alfonso than of David, her younger son. “Alfonso sends me messages every week: ‘Shall we go to the Retiro?’ ‘How about we take the dogs for a walk?’ It must hurt you that I missed your infancy,” I said. He replied, “You missed the worst of it: the diapers, the chicken pox…” He was assured that he had nothing to reproach his mother about, and how that he sees her every week, he laments that his adoptive parents don’t understand why he wanted to find her. “They resent how close I am to her. They don’t want to know anything about Rosa or her family. But now I feel complete. I have healed a wound.”