Friday, November 12, 2010


Over the last year I have reported on the missing babies of La Línea. These were babies who supposedly died shortly after birth in the municipal hospital or two private hospitals in the border town in the 1960s and 1970s. Their burial was said to have been taken care of by the hospitals but now there is no trace of them in official records or at the cemetery. It is suspected they are amongst – Franco’s babies – of whom Judge Baltasar Garzón believes there were 30,000 during the dictatorship. Babies who their mother’s were told had died but were in fact passed to adoptive parents. The Algeciras prosecutor has taken up the cases in La Línea and recently called in the National Police to investigate. To those files can now be added the disturbing case of the Algeciras mother who opened her child’s tomb to find it empty except for just a t-shirt.

It was back in 1972 that María Rodríguez was travelling with her husband and five children in a car when they were involved in an accident. They were all taken to La Línea hospital as the collision took place within the boundaries of San Roque which is served by that medical centre. In the car with María and her husband were their children aged nine, seven, five and four years plus their baby boy. None except the father had been seriously hurt.

María and her husband were later transferred to hospital in Algeciras and were told their children would follow them as their injuries were light. However when her sister went to La Línea hospital the next day she was told the baby had died.

Apparently the baby was entered in a niche in Algeciras cemetery but María never knew who had paid for the funeral. She says her daughter has always wondered whether he died or not because the baby was perfectly healthy. On the death certificate the child was named as José María with the cause of death stated as a fracture of the skull with massive damage to the brain. Yet the accident report of the time said all the family had been only slightly injured even though María’s husband subsequently died.

In 1992 she decided to have the remains of her son moved to the same niche as her husband. However when they opened his tomb it was empty except for a t-shirt. She says it was a yellow t-shirt which she has kept to this day as she has nothing else of her baby son –no casket, no remains.

That year was a traumatic one for María for when José María would have been 20 and eligible for his military service she received notice of his call up. She said she burst in to tears because how it was possible they called him up after he supposedly had been dead for 20 years?

It was recently with the news of all the families with the missing babies in La Línea that María decided to contact the others involved. She is also going to testify before the Algeciras prosecutor. María has visited the Archivo Histórico de La Línea that records all the admissions to La Línea hospital in that period. There is no record of any member of her family having been treated there.

A desperate story which leaves María’s with just one wish: “I want to know if my son died or if he is alive.”

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