A Malaga woman's seven-year battle to prove she is still alive

  • According to official documents, Juana Escudero Lezcano has been dead since 2010, and she even has her own burial niche

A burial niche in Malaga cemetery bearing the name ‘Juana Escudero Lezcano’, appears to be no different to those surrounding it. However, unlike the others, Juana is not lying behind the stone; she is very much still alive, something she has been trying to prove for the last seven years.

The incredible story “has not been fun for the family” her daughter Marta said. Juana first found out about her supposed death in 2010 when she went to her doctor to request some medication. “The doctor looked at her health card, and without knowing how to say it, he told her that the Social Security had listed her as a dead person,” Marta added.

Juana was of course surprised but assumed it was a technical error and a problem that could be solved within a matter of days. However that day was the beginning of her seven-year struggle to prove she did not die on 13 May 2010, as is written in the city hall’s municipal register. And it’s not over yet.

In April last year, the Official State Bulletin (BOE) also legitimised Juana’s death so that the bones behind the niche could be moved to a smaller grave in an ‘osario’ after Juana’s family, knowing she was alive of course, failed to pay the fees for the upkeep of the niche.

“We called Malaga city hall and they told us that because we had not met the payments to keep my mother in the burial niche, her bones would be deposited in an osario. I had to tell them that would be difficult given that my mother was in front of me and I was talking to her,” Marta explained.

After Juana’s death had been made official in this way, proving she was alive became even more problematic.

The council recommended that the family seek legal advice and suggested that the only explanation was that the woman whose bones were in the niche shared exactly same name and surnames and was also born on 11 September 1963, like Juana.

However, Marta said that the woman did not have an identity number, “something we don’t understand”, which is perhaps why the confusion has arisen.

Day-to-day problems

Juana continues to be inconvenienced by the issue. For example, she has had to apply for a proof of life certificate to renew her driving licence and national identity card (DNI).

Juana also said that she is apparently dead “according to everyone except the banks” as she continues to pay her mortgage, loans and her life insurance. “According to the State’s computers, I’m dead, but for the banks’ I’m alive and kicking,” she said.