What ever happened to Manolito Fernández

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Frederik Wessels in 1957

A few weeks ago, I became aware of an incredible story concerning a young Dutch sailor who, during the spring of 1958, fell in love with a desirable Andalusian gypsy, and I was intrigued that today, more than fifty years later, this young sailor, who is now seventy-eight, is trying to locate the child that was borne of this relationship.

Frederik Wessels was a twenty-year old marine in the Dutch navy when his ship docked in Málaga in 1958, and over the course of his stay in the city, Frederik became friendly with a beautiful young gypsy girl named Aurora Fernández.

Aurora Fernández came from a poor family, but one of the fascinating things about her is that it would appear that she could read and write, which for a gypsy from this era, was almost unheard of.

She lived in shanty-town type dwellings – known in Spain as Chabolas – with roofs secured by rocks, rotting window frames, walls of bare brick, and floors of dust, and they were predominantly, although not exclusively, occupied by gypsies.

The gypsies of this area lived in relative misery and their lives were by no means easy, for money was scarce and hunger beckoned, and so the poorer classes engaged in illicit practices in order to make a living.

Frederik remembers that the locals called his sweetheart Aurora la Loca, possibly a reference to the way she lived her life and the fact that she was a single parent.

Quatro Chabolas

Chabolas in the area of El Bulto

She resided, along with her elder sister, at 27 Playa de San Andres, in the old barrio known as El Bulto, and it was in this district that Aurora earned her living selling contraband tobacco and liquor.

Frederik would access Aurora’s house by the old railway bridge that crossed the dried up river – Arroyo del Cuarto – and many of the dwellings in this area were destroyed in the storms that devastated Malaga in the late 1950s and early’60s. It is possible that this is the reason Aurora left the district, but where did she go?

Today, of course, this area has changed greatly and nothing remains of the antiquated dwellings that once lined the beach of San Andres.

The story of Frederik and Aurora has many gaps and there are vital pieces of information unavailable at this moment: one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is the fact that we only know Aurora’s first surname – Fernández.

This surname is prevalent among the gypsy population, as is the Christian name of Aurora, and this has added to the complexity of the task.

A birth, or baptism, certificate has not yet been located, and so the second surname evades us.

There is of course, bearing in mind her Gypsy origin, the possibility that these documents do not exist, for the Gypsies of this era seldom adhered to the customs of the populace.

This is not the only obstacle in our path to success, as this article will demonstrate, so I will continue with the facts that we have, rather than the details that we do not, but first I must mention a few curious details that prelude this story.

In 1956, two years before she met Frederik, Aurora had an affair with another young Dutchman, with whom she had a child.

This young man had enrolled in a Spanish language course in Malaga and received his diploma in the University of Granada, and it seems as though Aurora may well have been with him in Granada at that time. Unfortunately, the family of this man, who is now deceased, do not want to be associated with this story, so details concerning it cannot be published.

By strange circumstance, this man and Frederik actually met many years later and although they spoke about Malaga, no reference was made of Aurora, and so it would appear that they had no idea that they had both loved the same woman.

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Aurora Fernández in 1956

Frederik Wessels met Aurora in the spring of 1958 and after a romance that lasted just three months; Aurora gave birth to their son, Manuel, on 20 November 1958.

In order to fulfil his military commitment, Frederik Wessels had to return to Holland before Manuel was born, but he faced a military court martial on his return, because he had missed his ship and had arrived back late for duty.

They kept in touch by mail for the first few months, although it seems that the contact was due to Aurora’s persistence, but they obviously had to continue with their lives, and their correspondence eventually ceased.

Frederik returned to the life in the navy, and Aurora, well we are not quite sure.

It is believed that Manuel was born in hospital, although which one, or even if this information is correct, is not known.

We cannot be certain if Manuel was baptized, because the church that covered this parish at that time – Iglesia del Carmen – could not give documentation or information without the permission of Manuel or his legal guardian.

This information is protected by the ‘Data Protection Act’ of Spain, which prohibits the processing of data on identifiable living people.

Today, Manuel would be fifty-seven, but there is a chance that he is no longer alive.

The discovery of a death certificate however, would be hindered by the lack of a second surname, especially when one does not know where he might have been living at the time, and so verifying anything about him is almost an impossible task.

There is a possibility that Manuel was given-up for adoption, and so without these vital documents, there is little chance of ever discovering the name he now has.

We know nothing of Aurora’s whereabouts until 1962, when in the August of that year; she sent a letter to Frederik in Holland, which revealed that she was then residing in Barcelona, although it is uncertain why she was there, or if Manuel was with her at the time.

We know little of the content of the letter, for it has been lost over the years, but we do know that Aurora mentioned that she might have to put her son, who she referred to as Manolito, up for adoption. She was also concerned to know if Frederik had any history of illness in his family, for their son was weak and had needed a blood transfusion when in his infancy, although details of this are vague. She also sent a photograph of Manolito, who would have been around four-years old at the time, but this picture was destroyed during a fire some years later; hence, we have no idea of what Manolito looked like.

The envelope that contained the letter is still in Frederik’s possession, and from this we know that she was staying at number 10 Calle de Montserrat , Barcelona 1: she no longer resides there today.

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A letter from Barcelona in 1962









Many gypsies left the province of Andalusia in the early 1960s, most in search of better work prospects, and so it is quite possible that Aurora stayed in Barcelona; it is possible that she has since passed away, but if she were alive today, she would be around eighty years of age.

One positive lead came from an author who has written a book on the old district of El Bulto: he suggested that Aurora might still be alive and living in Malaga, but this is yet to be confirmed. There is also a belief that Aurora may have spent some time in Ceuta or Melilla, but once again, this is only hearsay and there is no actual evidence to support these claims.

We have little information concerning Aurora’s sister, even her name remains a mystery, but it was her who raised Aurora’s first child, so it is possible that Manolito was raised by her as well. The sister was also living at 27 Playa de San Andres in 1958, but there is a strong possibility, of course, that she went to Barcelona as well.

Frederik is now seventy-eight years of age and has a family in Holland, and it is our intention to reunite Frederik – now called Mark – with his long lost son.

Frederik’s daughter and various family members are hoping to visit Málaga one day in order to meet Manolito, and hopefully Aurora as well: would it not be wonderful if this were to come true.

Manuel Fernández, Manolito, was born on 20 November 1958: his mother was Aurora Fernández.

In 1958, they resided at 27 Playa de San Andres in Malaga, along with Manolito’s half-brother, and Aurora’s sister.

Maybe you know, or have information concerning, Aurora and, or, Manuel.

Please let us know; no matter how unimportant your information may seem, your help could become the vital link; the key that unlocks the mystery.


Please see the web-site concerning Aurora Fernández  http://aurora.gyg.nl/

Or contact me at pepindorio@hotmail.com









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