I’ve been busy working on the new Bastard Nationwebpage. We lost quite a bit of material in the crash and burn, and I’m trying to reconstruct, but the more I get ahead, the further I get behind. At the rate I’m going it will be a year before it’s finished.
One of the latest scandals, Los Robados Ninos (The Stolen Children). involves illegal child removal and black market ops in Spain–a complicated decades-long collusion of government, law, Catholic Church, and private industry and individuals. Although the current scandal broke in the Spanish press in 2008, stories of fraudulent adoption have circulated in the press and public for years. In 1982, for instance, nun and social worker Sor Maria Gómez Valbuena was mentioned in a baby selling investigation at a Madrid maternity clinic. The clinic was shut down, but with no prosecutions.
The 2008 accusations received little attention outside of Spain until recently when a government investigation was launched and the first indictment made: Sor Maria Gomez Valbuena, now accused by several hundred women of orchestrating the disappearance-by-adoption of their newborns, decades earlier. The nun refused to testify at her hearing. Later she issued a statement saying she found the idea that a mother could be separated from her baby “repugnant.” She had spent her life helping the needy in a “disinterested manner in accordance with her profound religious beliefs. Between 1967 and 1983, Valbuena reportedly handled about 3,000 adoptions a year.
Sister Maria was not the only nun selling babies nor did she work in a vacuum. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, civil servants, and even morticians and cemetery keepers are under investigation. A few days ago, the families of 69 “dead” children requested a court in Malaga province to exhume their graves. In a related story, Randy Ryder adopted from Spain, reared in Texas, and now reunited with the woman he believes is his mother Manoli Pagador, says that other exhumed graves have yielded the remains of adults, animals, unrelated older children, and stones, but no newborns. Some are empty.
The best English language account of Los Robados Ninos can be found the December 26, 2011 issue of The Prisma: a Multicultural Newspaper:Children from the Franco Era…Landless, Homeless. Putting baby laundering in the context of 20th century Spanish politics and history, Ane Boras writes of how it all began:
Deeply imbued with racist ideology, General Franco’s military faction considered single mothers, Republicans and prisoners to be unfit to look after and appropriately educate their children, and so the children were taken from them against their will and put in the hands of Christian families who were loyal to Franco’s way of thinking, who wanted children and who would guide them towards ‘true’ morals.
Many others were moved to convents to join a religious order, while some of those exiled during the civil war, particularly those in the Soviet Union, were forced by law to return to Spain as their paternal authority automatically passed into the hands of the State. Therefore, there is no doubt whatsoever that the theft of children during this period, in which the Phalanx and the Spanish church played a vital role, had sown the seed for a child trafficking business which had already begun to materialise during the Transition and has lasted until recent times.
Go here for more on the Franco government.
Of course, this isn’t much different from contemporary baby laundries in Argentina, Greece, Israel and other countries where children, usually newborns, were removed from political dissidents (especially Marxists and leftists), unmarried mothers, and economic and social “undesirables” for placement in politically and religiously orthodox families, or in some cases, with non-affiliated people who wanted children kept unaware of the children’s histories.
After Franco’s death in 1975, the scheme transitioned into a less politically overt but nonetheless lucrative practice that lined the pockets of officials and the righteous egos of moralists. To complicate matters, until 1987, hospitals, not the government, regulated adoptions. Due to amnesty granted after Franco’s death, crimes committed during his regime are seldom investigated and regional prosecutors are forced to take each case separately.
Depending on the source some activists and lawyers believe that between 1960 and the 1989 alone as many as a 300,000 children–about 15% of all children adopted during that time period—were transferred to new families illegally. As of this writing between 1500 and 3000 adoptions (again depending on the source), have been identified as spurious. About a quarter of the complaints brought so far have been dismissed because of lack of evidence or documents, often due to forged documents and the lack of original birth certificates or because parties just can’t be traced. The Spanish government, after much foot dragging, has set up a DNA database to help resolve cases.
Numerous news stories on los ninos robados include first-person accounts of parents and adoptees in their search for their families and the truth. One of the most detailed accounts is that of Luisa Torres and her daughter Maria Pilar, now reunited.
Luisa Torres says she was first told by Sister Maria whom she had gone to for financial and social support during her pregnancy, that her baby had died at birth. “You gave birth to nothing,” she reportedly told Torres. When Torres located her daughter in the hospital nursery and confronted, the nun:Numerous news stories on los robados ninos include first-person accounts of parents and adoptees in their search for their families and the truth. One of the most detailed accounts is that of Luisa Torres and her daughter Maria Pilar, now reunited.
You saw nothing,” the nun told her. Sister Maria dragged Torres back to her room and threw her onto her bed, Torres said. “I will report you to the authorities as an adulteress and you will go to jail. Then I will also take away your 2-year-old daughter,” said Sister Maria, according to Torres.
Torres says she was terrified. Inés, her first child, was the result of a failed marriage. Separated from her husband, she started a new relationship, but that man left her once she became pregnant. In a country that was still waking up from a 40-year dictatorship and was extremely socially conservative, Torres didn’t know that anti-adultery laws had already been repealed in 1978.
who had kept in touch with the adoptive parents over the years. “I swore to God in front of your mother that I would never reveal her identity,” she told Maria Pilar. “She was probably a drug addict or a prostitute, it would only hurt you to find her.”
Another group, SOS Bebes Robados has a network of organizations throughout the country (the website links to them all) and has been prominent in protests and demonstrations as well as search and support. A coaltion of activist organizations called ” association all stolen children are also my children” has splintered already over the issue the government involvement in family reunification, and SOS Bebes has left ( The source of this inmation is appears to be machine translated, and this is what I think it says. I can’t find a regular English-language article or an organization website to verify this or the coalition.)
Marley Greiner, Exe Chair, Bastard Nation
Originally published in The Daily Bastardette