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After 36 years, Ana Tomé was reunited with José Manuel, the baby who was taken from her at birth
18.03.11 - 11:29 -
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"I sensed that my son was alive and looking for me"
Mother and son reunited
It began with a mysterious phone call. A woman who said she was a friend was asking about Ana Tomé Redondo. She wanted to know about her life, about her past. She asked whether Ana had had a problem with a son, a long time ago. When Ana replied that her baby son had been taken away from her at birth, the woman revealed that he was looking for her. “At that moment”, admits Ana, “I burst into tears. I just couldn’t speak”. Ana and her husband have brought up three children, a boy and two girls, but it is only now, at the age of 65, that she truly feels complete. She has found José Manuel, the son who was snatched from her, amid threats that she would be arrested.
José says he always suspected that he was adopted. Children in the village used to tease him about not knowing who his father was, but his mother would tell him not to take any notice. This doubt was accentuated by the physical differences between him and his parents. “I don’t look like anyone else in the family. They’re all short and dark and I'm tall and fair, with blue eyes”, he explains. The years passed and José married his childhood sweetheart, a girl from a neighbouring village. One day, about eleven years ago, he went to the civil registry to ask for his birth certificate, but received an unexpected response. “The woman asked if I was sure I had been born there. I said I was, on 25th July 1969, but she couldn't find any entry for me".
Surprised, he went home and told his wife. She didn’t know what to say at first, but then broke the news to him that he had been adopted. "Did you really not know?" she asked. It seemed that everybody in the village knew, but nobody referred to the matter out of respect for his parents. José thought his mother would only deny it if he asked her outright, so his wife rang her while he listened on another extension. His wife brought up the subject of his adoption and during the conversation his mother thanked her daughter in law for having kept it secret. At that moment, José intervened. “Mum", he said, "I’m listening to you”.
The revelation
José's mother said she had planned to tell him he was adopted but kept putting it off as the years passed by. “In the end, because I was happy, she decided I didn't need to know. The only thing I reproached her for was that the decision should have been mine. What if I wanted to look for my mother? What if my daughter developed some hereditary illness and we needed to know who her grandmother was?” he asked. It was a nun, a relative of his mother (the one who brought him up) who suggested the adoption. “The nun knew they were going to take Ana's baby away, so she offered my parents the chance to adopt him or her. I don't know how much they paid for me, but my father had to go and work in France to earn the money. They did once say that if they had kept that money, they would be rich now”, says José.
For Ana, those years were a nightmare. When she left her husband at the age 20, he reported her for desertion. She eventually met another man and became pregnant, but one day the nuns came to look for her and said they were going to apply the law of social danger to her. "They took me to a home in Pamplona and kept me there. Before the baby was born, they made me sign a blank piece of paper. I didn’t know what it was”, she says. As soon as her son was born, they took him away. “They said they would dress him and bring him back, but I never saw him again. I kept asking for him, but they threatened to have me put in jail. I was completely defenceless", she reveals. From then on, she always suspected that her son was alive, somewhere.
That somewhere was a small village in Alicante and, thirty years later, her son began to search for her. José and his wife located the relative who facilitated the adoption, who was no longer a nun. She said his mother’s name was Ana. Later, they discovered her surname and a clue led them to Marbella. “We rang everybody called Tomé in the phone book, until we found my uncles, and then my mother”. Their reunion took place just over four years ago at Marbella bus station. “We just kept on hugging each other, we couldn’t let go”, recalls José. “I looked at her face and just knew she was my mother”. He says he is not bitter. “I couldn’t be bitter. I’m very grateful to my adoptive parents for the education and the life they have given me. They would still do anything for me. I love them as if they were my real parents. In reality, they are the only ones I have had. I haven’t lost my parents. In fact, I have gained a family.”
"They will find that thousands of people have been affected"
José Manuel believes we only know about the tip of the iceberg. “There are several hundred reports of stolen children in Spain, but bit by bit they are being investigated. We were treated like cattle”, says this 41 year old who has been lucky enough to find his birth mother. “A while ago I belonged to an association of victims, and I set up its web page. I put my email address on there and 400 people contacted me each week”, he says. Now he plans to join the Anadir association, which in January presented a joint action on behalf of 261 people to the authorities.
In Malaga, about thirty cases are being investigated and a judge there has been the first in the country to open a case involving the theft of a baby in 1970. For her part, Ana Tomé Redondo is telling her story in the hope that it will help other mothers, like her, to find their lost children.

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