Child trafficking is a very predominant problem that I feel people do not talk enough about. It is something that happens more often than we think or at least more often than the media portrays it. Child trafficking now takes place in black markets and it mainly functions due to organized criminals, but believe it or not, there was a time when medics, nuns, and even priests were making big money by selling children.
You would not expect a priest or nun to do such an atrocious thing, but for many years Spain hid a big underground secret network for child trafficking run by what were considered “normal people” or even people that worked for God. This secret network ran for almost 50 years without the world knowing, leaving many parents without their babies.
Spanish Civil War
It sort of all started with the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) when the Nationalist forces commanded by General Francisco Franco Bahamonde won. Franco was a dictator who had a very different view of how a country should be governed compared to other European countries at the time from a political point of view.
Franco trusted his people a bit too much, allowing for many unlawful businesses to take place from 1939 to 1975, when he died and Spain was freed from his dictatorship but not from all the criminal activities going on in the country. 1939 was quite a bad year as even if Spain never got directly involved in the Second World War, they were also being affected by it from a political perspective.
The country was seeing a spike in the immigrant population which was looking for shelter. This also gave rise to the number of newborns within the country. Many mothers happened to be alone and unable to take care of a child, therefore after birth, they would just leave the child which would happen to end up in Christian orphanages run by nuns and priests.
Seeing the huge increase in the number of babies born, this idea sparked of selling these babies for huge sums whilst “legally” registering mothers as “mother unknown.” This was the case only at the beginning and only with the mother that would voluntarily leave their children once giving birth. Once seeing the huge demand for children around the world, these medics from hospitals across the whole of Spain started doing this more and more often.
Selling “dead” newborns
The main trick used was to tell the parents that the newborn had died due to various reasons after birth. An investigation done by the BBC in 1989 had discovered thousands of fake graves of newborns that have been taken away from their parents and sold on the black market by nuns and priests. In ten years this secret network evolved at a national level and even if the authorities were receiving some concerns about the increased level of dead newborns, no one cared enough to actually look into it.
The Spanish Catholic Church had been found out after many years to be at the roots of this secret network and being the ones making the big bucks on this organized crime. Who would expect priests or nuns to be so cruel and cold-hearted? No one, that is the reason why this managed to stay a secret for such a long time. Although you may be thinking how come no one buying these children exposed this secret network?
This is because all of their clients were quite rich people who were also fooled by being told that the large sum of money being paid is due to the adoption taxes “implied by the government”. The reason I have mentioned Franco is that it seems that most of the children that were stolen were from parents that were either communist or republic, in other words against Franco’s regime. It was never proven, but based on this information it is very likely that Franco also knew about this dirty business, the reason why the authorities within Spain never got involved.
Cracking down the network
Many doctors from Spain who had been part of this secret network have been confronted about this matter. One very controversial doctor is Vela San Ramon who worked at a clinic in Madrid at the time. In 1981, the civil Registry indicated that 70% of births done by Dr. Vela were registered as “mother unknown.”
Even if Dictator Franco died in 1975, setting in a democratic political system within Spain, the network still ran until 1989 when the BBC unfolded this whole secret network to the whole world. This was done also in the support of some of the children and even parents affected by this matter.
The investigation estimated that from 1939 up to 1989, around 300,000 children were stolen and sold around the world. From this large number, 261 children actually tried to find their real parents, but only a few succeeded.
Inés Madrigal is one of the children who was stolen and today is trying to fight to put the people responsible for this crime behind bars for life. She has been fighting through courts for more than 10 years trying to find the people responsible for this. She was taken away from her biological mother in 1969 by Dr. Vela who she personally managed to put behind bars in 2018.
The whole event is best described by Madrigal herself who had been one of the children:
“We were Europe’s baby supermarket and babies were stolen for 60 years.” (Quote by Ines Madrigal)
It is sad to think that Madrigal is only one case from the 300,000. What is even sadder is that you cannot trust anyone these days, if a priest, nun, medics, or nurse who we place our faith and health onto their hands can not be trusted, then who are we to trust?