Spain Confronts Its Own Recent Past of Stolen Children

I’ve talked before about the challenges facing individual Argentines specifically and Argentine society more generally as they continue to confront the legacy of children taken from their murdered parents and adopted by military leaders. However, the problem is not limited to Argentina. Recent allegations have emerged in Spain that baby trafficking took place during the Franco regime as well. However, while in Argentina, the church did occasionally aid in kidnapping of babies, the clergy and civilians seem to have been much more involved in Spain. The article points out that “Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents, while doctors were said to have lied to mothers about the fate of their children.”

Suffice to say, this goes well beyond “horrible.” While in Argentina, the state usually murdered the parents of the children before or shortly after handing off the children to somebody else, in Spain, it seems the parents were survivors who were led to believe their children had died without ever having a sense of closure or finality in mourning.

In 1971 Manoli, who was 23 at the time and not long married, gave birth to what she was told was a healthy baby boy, but he was immediately taken away for what were called routine tests.

Nine interminable hours passed. “Then, a nun, who was also a nurse, coldly informed me that my baby had died,” she says.

They would not let her have her son’s body, nor would they tell her when the funeral would be. […]

Babies’ graves have been dug up across the country for DNA-testing. Some have revealed nothing but a pile of stones, while others have contained adult remains.

Spaniards have flocked to clinics to take DNA tests in the hope of reuniting their families.

There’s really no way to quantify how unspeakably horrible and appalling this is, and the fact that the practice seems to have continued well after the end of the Franco regime is simply baffling. That Spain refuses to investigate the situation further or to set aside a dictatorship-era amnesty law designed to pardon crimes committed during the long and repressive Franco regime doesn’t really improve things or put the Spanish government in a favorable light, either (to put it mildly). Indeed, it’s rather remarkable that this story has only emerged this year. Hopefully, it can provide some families with closure, but if the experiences in Argentina have taught us anything, it’s that this is going to be a major source of pain and agony not only for those directly affected, but for Spanish society itself as it tries to reconcile how  civilians and clergy could not only allow something like this to happen, but to directly aid in destroying the lives of families based on some misled belief it was up to them to decide who was “morally deficient.” I don’t know about banal, but it certainly is evil.

About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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2 Responses to Spain Confronts Its Own Recent Past of Stolen Children

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