"It is possible that we will not see our daughter again, but we continue to look for her"

The day of the Disappeared without Apparent Cause was recently commemorated.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 11:22
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"It is possible that we will not see our daughter again, but we continue to look for her"

The day of the Disappeared without Apparent Cause was recently commemorated. It has been celebrated in Spain every March 9 since 2010, the year in which Congress established it thanks to the tireless struggle of the parents of Cristina Bergua, who disappeared in Cornellà de Llobregat on March 9, 1997 when she was 16 years old (this year in would do 44). Juan and Luisa not only contributed with their perseverance to establish this day, but also to promote the creation of the first association of relatives of the disappeared, of specialized police units or the unification of the denunciation databases . This year is the 27th anniversary of that fateful March 9, about which almost three decades later nothing much is still known.

I understand that it must not be easy to carry every time it is the anniversary of the disappearance of your daughter.

Luisa: Not only does it become very difficult every birthday, but every day. We are getting older and it is getting harder and harder for us to bear it. At first we thought that the case would somehow be resolved for better or for worse. But the years go by and it's very complicated to move on.

According to him, the passage of time has not helped to mitigate, even a little, the pain, but quite the opposite.

L: That's right. And you don't know what to do or where to go. In the early years you distributed posters, photographs, went to one place or another... There were things to do. But as time passes, you no longer know how to continue.

I wonder how anyone is able to bear such pain.

L: We think that as parents we have an obligation to fight and find out what happened to our daughter. This is what gives us strength. We also have another son, older than Cristina, and we need to move forward for him too.

Have you ever thought you were close to knowing what happened? I remember months after their daughter's disappearance they received an anonymous letter.

Juan: Yes, it was received by the Cornellà National Police. On the sender it said "help". He advised us to look for Cristina's body in Cornellà's rubbish bins. From the time the letter was received until work began on the Garraf landfill [where all the garbage from the metropolitan area goes] eleven months passed.

Eleven months?

J: Yes. They worked there for 30 days and then stopped because of the heat and because the administrations could not agree on who should bear the cost. We warned the Ministry of Justice of the Generalitat that if the work did not resume we would start a hunger strike. They resumed work months later and stopped again 30 days later. The police told me that after 60 days, the search was no longer useful considering that the anonymous person may have given false information. I later learned that it was the ministry that stopped the work due to its high cost. They were talking about 100 million pesetas. Actually there were about ten of them.

27 years later, do they have any suspicions?

J: At first we were suspicious of the guy she was said to be dating. They saw each other that afternoon. We got in touch with him right away and he was never alarmed by Cristina's disappearance. He didn't go out to look for her or anything. The police began to investigate him, since he had been the last to see her. From what they had been able to gather from my daughter's surroundings, it seems that she intended to break up with him that very afternoon. However, in 27 years it has not been possible to prove his involvement. There has been no indication. Nor did the Mossos d'Esquadra, who started from scratch with the investigation in 2008, find anything.

The Mossos came to interview him.

J: Yes, they have also called him several times. They tell me that apart from small contradictions, which can happen in any statement, there is nothing.

Are they hopeful that one day they will be able to find out what happened and close this chapter?

J: Hope is the only thing you have left. After 27 years and being realistic, we understand that we may not see her again, but that does not mean that we continue to look for her.

For various reasons, you requested in 2017 that Cristina be officially declared dead. I understand, however, that the case is not closed.

L: It remains open. The police inform you if they have any news.

Have they felt very helpless all this time?

J: When the Cristina thing happened there was nothing about missing people. Even the National Police did not accept our report of his disappearance on the first day. They told us we had to wait 48 hours, when now they tell you that the first few hours are crucial. There were no family associations, we had no one.

They were alone.

J: Today, fortunately, and thanks in part to our struggle, the National Center for the Disappeared (CNDES) exists. Our case became very well known because of all the effort we made by distributing photographs everywhere. We have distributed more than 300,000 of Cristina in color. We spent a lot of money, whatever we had. The pity is that after so many years of fighting, the missing remain missing. There is something wrong here.

And what's wrong?

J: I know that recently the Ministry of the Interior has contributed more money to the CNDES so that there are more agents and better research methods. But it must not be forgotten that there are many long-term missing persons. Police can't just focus on recent disappearances. The existence of this organization is due, among other things, to the families who were in this situation more than 20 years ago. I am very happy that the CNDES is a reality and that more recent disappearances are being clarified, it must be clear that behind a missing person there is a family that suffers. But I also want those from many years ago to be clarified. Those missing are the forgotten ones. We need to know in order to rest.