Mr. Juan Alvarez Seco, Brigadier of the Civil Guard
Due to the fact that Mr. Juan Álvarez Seco was a Brigadier of the Civil Guard and head of the Puentenansa district (Cantabria, Spain) during the time of the apparitions, he is an extraordinary witness to all the events that took place in Garabandal.
He had been in charge of that district for only two months when the apparitions began.
As soon as received news of the events, he told his Corporal, Mr. José Fernández Codesido, to go as soon as possible to San Sebastián de Garabandal and take note of everything that occurred there.
Mr. Seco carried out a detailed report on the apparitions and all that he had observed in the town during those days. He began with the first apparition of the Angel. His following statement makes him a qualified witness of the events, "Since the apparitions began I lived everything that went on in Garabandal. Today, more than 7 years later, I can still remember it like it was yesterday." He sees in his being sent to that post "the opportunity to clean my soul, which I greatly needed."
The report, signed on March 7, 1969, describes the numerous apparitions and extraordinary events that he witnessed in first person. "The events that took place lasted for so long and were so frequent (sometimes 2 or 3 times a day) that it is almost impossible to number and recall them all. As a result, I was obliged to transcribe only those things that I lived personally, although I remember many events in great detail that, God willing, I will never forget."
Testimony of Mr. Juan Álvarez Seco
During the Apparitions, Mr. Juan Alvarez Seco was a Brigadier of the Civil Guard and the head of the Puentenansa district, upon which San Sebastián de Garabandal depends.
Mr. Seco said:
When I was close to being promoted to Brigadier, I said to myself, “I don’t want to be stationed up North.” But it seems that Divine Providence had destined me for Santander. Looking back on it, I can see that I was meant to be in the North, especially at the border of Palencia, Asturias, and Santander, in Rionansa.
On April 1, 1961, I took charge of the Civil Guard in Puentenansa, the before-mentioned sector, with much advice from my superiors. They reminded me that it was a special job; that I had to be tactful due to the fact that my predecessor had to leave for another destination by order of the superiors and for the good of the service. I had only been in the area for two months, but it was enough for me to get to know the assigned district.
The events I will narrate began on June 18, 1961.
Something marvelous occurred in my district, which I found out about only on June 20. During an appointment with Dr. José Luis, a physician, he told me some news that had surprised him. According to two women from San Sebastián de Garabandal, St. Michael the Archangel had appeared to four girls.
I think that I did not request a prescription for my ear (the reason for the appointment) from the doctor. I was under the impression that I did not need it because I heard perfectly what the women told him.
I went immediately to the barracks and passed this information on to the Corporal, Mr. José Fernández Codesido, who I reassigned to San Sebastián de Garabandal in order to gather information about the four girls in the case with which we are dealing.
When he returned, the Corporal informed me that all of the girls coincided in the fact that they had had an apparition of the Angel. The protagonists were:
• Conchita González González (12 years old, her father is deceased)
• María Dolores Mazón González (the same age as the previous, and daughter of Ceferino, President of the Neighborhood Council)
• Jacinta González González (also 12 years old, she belongs to a numerous family)
• María Cruz González Barrido (the youngest of the group and is 11 years old)
The four supposed visionaries separately informed Corporal Fernández of the following:
They had been playing marbles at the entrance of a country road called “Calleja de la Ventura” next to a small garden adjacent to the local teacher's home. There was an apple tree in the garden full of fruit, which caught the girls’ attention. Just as any normal children would, without thinking twice, they picked some apples from the tree to eat. I thought it would be better to present the matter of the apparitions to my superiors, but following the advice of the parish priest, Fr. Valentín Marichalar, I decided not send the information yet, awaiting new events.
On June 21, I decided to visit the parish priest, but we met up on the road to Garabandal. Mr. Eustaquio Cuenca was driving him to Santander to have a meeting with the Bishop. I felt obliged to return promptly to the barracks and write a report explaining everything that had happened in Garabandal. I gave the report to a guard, with orders to pass it on to my superior.
The next day, June 22, I decided to go to Garabandal with my assistant to personally investigate the events that were taking place there. Garabandal is a small mountain village made up of about 70 houses. The great warmth of the villagers, however, somehow makes one forget how small it really is. It is located in the foothills of the Picos de Europa Mountains and near Peña Sagra. Garabandal borders with the provinces of Asturias, Palencia, and Santander. At the time, the only road that led to Garabandal was a difficult one. It began in Cosío and winded around the mountain for seven kilometers before finally reaching the village. Many people hiked up the mountain, or drove up in all-terrain vehicles due to the steep slopes, mud, and rocks that made it difficult for other vehicles. However, the current road that leads to Garabandal makes the trip easier.
During my uphill approach to the little village, I admired the beautiful view, which reminded me of the nativity scenes in Cataluña during Christmas time. In the village, I observed how water, chickens, and the pigs ran through the streets. There were also sheep, goats, and cows with their bells chiming.
The inhabitants have very religious customs. They never forget, under any circumstances, to pray the Angelus as soon as the clock strikes noon. In the afternoon, they pray the holy rosary, led by the parish priest, or in his absence, by the schoolmistress or Maximina, a widow. Upon nightfall, Simon’s wife (Jacinta’s mother) goes out through the village with a lantern and rings a bell to remind everyone to say the last prayers of the day. On Sundays, after attending Holy Mass in the old and humble parish Church, they rest a little while. In the afternoon, the youth gather on a porch. They have fun singing and playing a tambourine; their voices and movements are full of respect and honesty.
A small bridge crosses a stream not too far from the Church's entrance. When the girls crossed the bridge together in ecstasy, if one of them did not fit, she would "walk in the air" without falling.
As I said, I arrived in the village with my assistant, Celemín. He introduced me to a resident of Garabandal named Valentina. This amiable woman, whose face showed goodness and love, treated me as though she had known me for years. She told us the following without hesitation:
The first apparition had taken place on Sunday, June 18. When the girls had finished praying the Holy Rosary and after Catechism class in the Church, they were free to play. They decided to go to the “Calleja,” leaving behind some of the girls and inviting another to go up with them to play marbles. They also picked apples from the teacher’s orchard. When the schoolmaster saw the tree shaking, he asked his wife to find out what was happening because they thought that some sheep were in the tree. Apparently, the four girls began to laugh and nothing happened. Once they were full and had some fruit in their pockets, their consciences began to bother them a little. Their reaction was to blame the devil for what they had done. They took some small stones and threw them with all of their might towards a corner from which they thought the devil was laughing at them. Once they were calm, they decided to leave the garden and return to their games. In that moment, Conchita saw a very beautiful figure appear. It was small, with bright shining wings, and pointing to the apparition, she said, “Over there! Over there!” The other girls, seeing Conchita in that position, tried to run away to tell her family, because they thought she was going to faint. Suddenly, they also fell into ecstasy and saw the Angel in the same place. They all cried, “The Angel!” Some children who were also playing in the "Calleja" threw pebbles at the girls, and the Angel led them about 50 meters higher up the path. While they were on their knees looking towards the Angel and listening to him, a villager who was walking down the mountain carrying a honeycomb wanted to pass by them. Not paying any attention to what was happening, it annoyed him that they did not move to let him by. As he walked towards the village he thought how strange it was that the girls had remained in the same position. He says that he could not sleep that whole night thinking about how strange it was. He told his wife, who answered saying that the girls were just being girls.
During this first apparition, the Angel asked the four girls to go to that same place and pray the Holy Rosary every day. He said that he would be there with them. The girls, shaken and in tears, then walked toward the Church to pray, and from there, to tell their families what had happened. Their family members feared that the girls were lying, and did not want to let them go to the "Calleja" the next day. Only Conchita’s mother was resolute in her opposition. But when the rest of the girls went and begged her, she told them to go to the "Calleja," and promised them that Conchita would meet them there later.
Mrs. Valentina said that, “It is better for them to see an Angel, than something worse.” Several women spied on them, and when they saw that what the girls said was true, a great commotion began in the village. They told everyone. Everyone was convinced, and they all went to the "Calleja" to witness the visions. No one mocked them.
I was happy after that day, and I ordered a pair of Civil Guards to keep an eye on Garabandal. The news ran through all of the neighboring villages, and people came to Garabandal daily, which was what prompted intensified surveillance.
After the third or fourth apparition of the Angel, eight or nine days went by without a new apparition and people began to doubt. After that, the Angel began to appear again and 500 to 3,000 pilgrims came to Garabandal to witness the apparitions each day.
I remember that the visionaries said that they had three calls. At the first call, they experienced a sensation of joy from their chests to their throats. The second call produced the same sensation. You could tell when they had experienced the second because they got fidgety and put on a sweater as if they had to go to Church.
After several apparitions of the Angel, a teacher arrived in San Sebastián de Garabandal to tutor Eustaquio Cuenca’s son because he had failed some classes. The parish priest asked the teacher to accompany the girls during the apparitions, to listen to their conversations with the Angel, and to take notes.
The people who went to see the Apparitions discussed whether the girls were hypnotized, given pills, or similar things.
Once, my companion, a Sergeant of the Civil Guard, informed me that after Conchita’s ecstasy ended, the teacher took her to Eustaquio Cuenca’s house. The Sergeant thought that maybe what the people had been thinking was true: that the teacher was giving pills to them.
I went to Eustaquio Cuenca’s house (he is a wealthy man), and found Conchita with the teacher. I asked him why she was there and he said that Fr. Valentín had entrusted him with the task of gathering information from the visionaries after the visions took place. He asked the girls to tell him about the conversation and what the angel wanted. Later, he would write a report to give to Fr. Valentín for the Bishop.
Some think that Conchita always decided beforehand when the girls would leave their houses to have the apparition, and that she was the one who influenced the others.
Others claim that it was an illness. María Dolores’s father requested that Dr. José Luis take a look at the girls. Dr. José Luís came to Garabandal accompanied by Ceferino and the Mayor. They brought the girls to Ceferino’s store and took them into the room where Ceferino keeps the bread. There, the doctor gave them a medical checkup.
I remember that after the checkup they left quickly so they could go to the Calleja and see the Angel. The doctor said that the girls had epilepsy and were sick; everything that happened was due to an illness they had. But I could see that the visionaries were very healthy, and each day they were more beautiful and healthier. Their parents and siblings, however, seemed tired, and you could see on their faces that they were physically drained; the lack of sleep and rest was apparent.
The parish priest and others ordered that the girls be separate into pairs, to see if they would arrive at the same time. When the next apparition took place, the four girls left from different places and reached the "Cuadro" at the same time. The four girls came out of ecstasy with the same ease with which they entered. They were very happy and perfectly normal. Everyone who witnessed those scenes was very impressed. Everyone wanted to touch their hair and the women wanted to kiss them. Two Civil Guards protected them until the crowds dispersed.
On Saturday, June 24, people from many different places who had heard the news were in the village. The villagers put up a wooden fence where the apparitions took place for three reasons:
1. So that the visionaries would not be mistreated and pinched.
2. So that everyone could see, and not just the priests who normally surrounded them.
3. To protect the visionaries from the avalanches of people who wanted to approach them.
When the apparition ended, they went to the sacristy of the Church to explain what they had seen to Fr. Valentín and other unknown observers.
June 24 and 25
There were many more people than on the previous days, including many priests and doctors. During the ecstasy, a doctor wanted to pick up Conchita. Due to the excessive increase in weight that she experienced while in this state, he dropped her, and her knees hit the ground with a loud thud. When the vision ended, the doctors and priests examined them. They clearly observed the marks from Conchita’s fall, along with pinch marks, blows, and scratches from people who wanted to “test” the girls. The girls did not experience any pain at all, and did not react in the least during the ecstasy. They were not aware of anything in the exterior world during the ecstasies. When they ended, the bruises and scratches did not cause them pain, only the marks remained.
Saturday, July 1
Crowds of people from all social classes, including doctors, attended the apparition, which took place at around 7 p.m. and lasted about two hours. When it finished, the girls said that it was very short, that it had only lasted two or three minutes. It is humanly impossible to remain in that position even for just a few seconds, and much less with an angelic expression on their faces. That day the Angel told them that they would see the Blessed Virgin Mary on the following day.
Sunday, July 2
The "Calleja" is full of people praying the rosary. Everyone wants to be there when the ecstasy happens. The second in command of the Nansa Electrical Company, Mr. Rocha, was next to me. He had come up to the village with Dr. Morales and Dr. Piñal, both of whom had been sent as part of the Commission organized by Bishop Fernández. I remember that Mr. Rocha told me, “This afternoon, the visionaries won’t go up to the Cuadro to see the vision.” I responded that in supernatural affairs, no doctor had any say in the matter.
I went around the bend in the "Calleja" and saw that the girls were about halfway up the path. I stayed there waiting for them to go up to the "Cuadro" because Dr. Morales was going to try to impede the apparition. However, to Mr. Rocha’s surprise, the visionaries went up to the "Cuadro" unaffected by Dr. Morales’ attempt to hypnotize them. All four of them, on their knees, began to pray the first mystery of the rosary and right away had the vision. Dr. Morales arrived and said, "I've seen enough," but he had not been able to prevent the apparition.
The four visionaries cried out together, “The Blessed Virgin!” At first they thought that it was Our Lady of Perpetual Help, but later they realized that it was Our Lady of Mount Carmel, because she carried the Child Jesus and had a scapular on her wrist. The Blessed Virgin was surrounded by six angels, whom Conchita counted out-loud. Conchita also said “What an eye!” and after the vision we learned that it was the Most Holy Trinity, in the form of an eye. During the vision, the girls started to cry. Mari Cruz cried more than the others. One of the doctors grabbed her by the neck to try to turn her face away but he was not able to do so. I thought that he hurt her because I heard her neck crack, but she was unharmed.
After a short time in ecstasy, the visionaries’ faces became more peaceful. They were positioned in front of the Pines, María Dolores on the right, followed by Conchita and then Jacinta. Mari Cruz was at the far left, at my side. All four girls had rosaries in their hands and we could hear them perfectly as they told Our Lady about their chores at home. María Dolores showed Our Lady her teeth. We later learned that the Blessed Virgin had said that she had very nice teeth. Next, Conchita opened her mouth to show Our Lady a cavity she had. We also understood that Our Lady must have asked them what the parish priest was like, because they responded that Fr. Valentín was ugly, but very good. Fr. Valentín and many of those of us who were present were able to hear these words. Conchita also told Our Lady that she prayed a lot for the Civil Guards who protected them from the curious onlookers and prevented them from doing the girls harm. They also asked Our Lady to let them try on her crown. In the end, she gave in and we watched as the girls took it and passed it from one to the other. Conchita also asked the Blessed Virgin to let her take one of the stars from the crown and put it on her head, so that the people would see it and believe in the apparitions. Our Lady answered that we will believe in them.
The visionaries describe the Blessed Virgin in the following way: [She wore] a white tunic, blue mantel, a crown of golden stars. She had her hands outstretched, with a brown scapular [on one]. Her hair was long, brown - not too dark - parted down the middle, and she had a very beautiful face. She appeared to be about 17 years old and was rather tall. All four affirmed that her voice is unmistakable and very melodious.
From this point on, I have witnessed many apparitions. In addition to the normal ecstasies, I have been present for hundreds of ecstatic walks, where the girls ran very quickly in ecstasy through the village streets, and sometimes even ran backwards. No one could keep up with them when they ran during an ecstasy. Even the visionaries themselves, if they were not in trance, could not keep up with the one who was in ecstasy. Some of the villagers tried to run with them too, but they could not keep up.
I have also witnessed many times how the girls, still in ecstasy, returned objects kissed by Our Lady to their rightful owners without ever making a mistake. Some people would give their medals that had already been kissed. Our Lady would say that she had already kissed them and that she was not going to kiss them again. Other people gave them rings, but they were not kissed; Our Lady only kissed wedding rings. Many times the girls returned the wedding rings to their proper owners, despite the crowds of people and the number of rings that they had in their hands.
When I met the visionaries, they were “unattractive,” but when they were in ecstasy, their faces were beautiful and angelic. I have also seen them fall and hit their heads on a rock, with a loud thud. It hurt me more than it hurt them because nothing happened to them. The events that took place lasted for so long and were so frequent (sometimes 2 or 3 times a day) that it is almost impossible to number and recall them all. As a result, I was obliged to transcribe only those things that I lived personally, although I remember many events in great detail that, God willing, I will never forget.
The First Message
The visionaries are in the "Cuadro," looking very serious and concentrated on what the Blessed Virgin is telling them. Some of them cried, and those of us watching shared their emotion. Once the ecstasy ended, and while there was complete silence, Father Valentín announced, “The Blessed Virgin has given the visionaries a message, which they cannot reveal to the priest, nor to their parents, nor to the Bishop.”
Our Lady told the girls that the next day they had to go up to the pines alone. The visionaries suggested that two little girls accompany them to make sure that no one else came. These girls were probably only about three years old and did not really understand what was happening. I remember that María Dolores told me, “Brigadier, you and my dad can be close by, but about 100 meters to the right of the pines. The parish priest and two religious sisters can also be there, but about 100 meters to the left of the pines. The rest of the people should be far away.” We did as they instructed and we could tell when they entered into ecstasy because they began to cry a lot. The little girls were frightened and began to cry out loud. We later found out that the girls had to be alone was so that Our Lady could give them the message for October 18, 1961. The girls made a little altar with fruit boxes at the base of the pine trees. They picked wild flowers and spent the whole morning fixing it up.
One day Our Lady appeared to the visionaries in the Pines in the presence of a Civil Guard from Reinosa and one of his friends, both of whom had come in order to see an ecstasy. The witnesses said that they heard Conchita say to the Blessed Virgin, “Don’t hurt yourself on those branches,” because she had appeared very high up between two pines. Primitiva’s daughter, Elvira, and another villager were also there.
On July 27, the doctors, in agreement with the Bishop, came to take Conchita to Santander to put her into a convent there. The other girls there were supposed to take her around the city and distract her, with the hope that the sickness - which they believed she suffered - would pass. It just so happened that I had gone to Santander but had stationed two guards in Garabandal so that they could tell me what happened in regards to the apparitions during my absence. When I got back from Santander to Puentenansa, I called the guards that had been on duty and they informed me that at 1 p.m. St. Michael, the Archangel had appeared to the three visionaries. The girls had told the Angel that when the Blessed Virgin appeared that day in Garabandal, Conchita would not be able to see her. He responded that at 3 p.m., Conchita would see Our Lady in Santander, at the same time as they would see her in Garabandal.
The next day at about 8 a.m., I received a call in Puentenansa from the Brigadier in charge, Crecencio. He asked me, “What happened yesterday in Garabandal?” I said, “At 1 p.m. the Angel appeared to Mari Cruz, Jacinta and María Dolores and told them that Conchita would have an apparition of the Blessed Virgin in Santander at the same time as they would.” Crecencio confirmed that, in fact, Conchita had had an apparition of Our Lady at the same hour in Santander, at the convent gate.
A young man, who I had seen in Garabandal when he came up to witness the apparitions and who knew the visionaries perfectly well, told me that he saw Conchita in Santander, with some other little girls. He said that they were walking over the tunnel leading to the Railway Station, heading back towards the convent, when Conchita fell into ecstasy.
When Conchita’s mother came back to Garabandal, she said that her daughter was sick and that was why she had visions. She said that it was all a lie, and that some ecclesial authority had said so. Once, when I was close to the fountain that Eustaquio donated to Garabandal, two villagers told Mari Cruz’s mother that is was all a lie. If I had not been there, Mari Cruz’s mother would have started a fight, but fortunately nothing happened.
Serafín got back from chopping wood in Navarra and asked his mother where Conchita was. Aniceta answered that she was in Santander and he told her to bring Conchita home. Back in Garabandal, one afternoon when Conchita was playing at a neighbor’s house with Primitiva’s granddaughter, she heard Our Lady’s voice. Conchita checked under the bed to see if she was there but did not see Our Lady. The Blessed Virgin told Conchita to go the next day to see the vision with the other girls. When the four of them were together, Conchita told them not to leave Garabandal when people tried to make them do so.
They cut Conchita’s hair. During one of the first apparitions, after giving Our Lady many rosaries and medals to kiss, Conchita showed Our Lady her pigtails, as if she were offering them to her. Conchita told me about what had happened when they cut her hair. She said that they took her to a hair salon where there were two employees and the owner. One of the employees went to cut Conchita’s hair but she could not, or maybe she was just nervous, but in the end the owner had to do it. Conchita, rather than complaining about having it cut, smiled and said, “Now I look better.” She had fulfilled what I think she had once promised to the Blessed Virgin, to offer her pigtails, because during a vision in Garabandal, she had offered them to Our Lady.
When María Dolores’ mother found out that Ancieta had returned from Santander, saying that the visionaries were sick and that everything was a lie, she told her daughter (without Ceferino’s knowledge) not go to the apparition when she felt the call. When the time came, María Dolores went to the "Calleja." She was in ecstasy seeing the Angel, but it only lasted a minute or two and she returned home crying. When her father saw her, he said, “Your mother must have said something to you. What happened? Why are you crying?” María Dolores answered that she had only been with the Angel for a few minutes because her mother had said that the apparitions were not real.
A Rock Kissed by Our Lady
María Dolores left her house in ecstasy and went up the "Calleja" towards the Pines. Leaving the path, she knelt down and we made a circle around her. Fr. Ramón Andréu was next to me and we watched as María Dolores picked up stones and held them up for Our Lady to kiss, saying that this one was for a friend of hers or a family member in Cádiz. She picked up another and did the same, offering it for another person who was away from Garabandal. She took another and without saying anything, let it fall back on the ground. I picked it up and put it in my vest pocket. María Dolores continued speaking to the Blessed Virgin and we understood that Our Lady asked Loli to show her the last rock that she had kissed. Loli, looking up and touching the ground with her hand, could not find the rock. We put two or three next to her and she touched them, but did not pay any attention to them. Fr. Andréu said, “Brigadier, take out the pebble that you placed in your pocket and put it on the ground.” I obeyed and it seemed that Our Lady told her that it was on the ground because she touched various rocks and among them found the one that I had put down. She picked it up, showed it to Our Lady, and then put it back on the ground. I picked it up again and kept it. When the ecstasy ended, I asked her if the rock that she had looked for had been offered up for someone. She said no, so I kept the pebble.
Emilio Valle and his daughters come to Garabandal
That day, Emiliano’s daughters gave me various medals to give to María Dolores so that she could give them to Our Lady to be kissed. I did so and María Dolores had an apparition in the Pines. I remember that it was an interesting case because María Dolores was on the ground face-up, speaking to the Angel and said, "If you don’t help me, I can’t get up." At that moment, I saw Loli stick out her arm and she began to sit up little by little until she was in a sitting position. It was just as if someone had given her his hand and had slowly sat her up.
I went to Garabandal in the afternoon. When I arrived, Eustaquio came out to meet me and said, “Brigadier, if you would have been here a little sooner you would have heard Our Lady’s voice.” Passing by Jacinta’s house, I saw her with María Dolores standing at the door. They called out to me very joyfully and said that Dr. Angel Domínguez Borreguero, director of the Provincial Mental Hospital of Salamanca had given them a microphone to record the Blessed Virgin’s voice. I went to Dr. Domínguez to find out more and he told me, “I would let you hear the tape, but we don’t want to run the risk it being erased.” Gerardo Pleya, a professor from the University of Salamanca, accompanied Dr. Domínguez. Both of them were vacationing for the summer in Llanes (Asturias) and came to Garabandal when they heard about the apparitions. If they desire, they could also bear witness.
July 25, 1961: Feast of St. James, the Apostle
That day I had a pair of guards stationed in the "Calleja" and another in front of Conchita’s house. The four visionaries were playing in a near-by field and it was probably about 7:30 p.m. The sky was completely cloudless. Suddenly a black cloud formed over Piedra Sagra and at the same time [there was] a huge bolt of lightning. The visionaries, clearly frightened, fell to their knees. The thunder was very loud. The girls looked up in ecstasy. I had to quiet Mari Cruz’s mother’s screams and we all remained in silence.
When his Excellency Dr. Doroteo Fernández y Fernández published the first note recommending priests not to go to Garabandal, the priests would come dressed in civilian clothing. I remember that the Blessed Virgin told Conchita, who was in ecstasy, that “There are three priests in the village.” Conchita answered that there was only one. Then we heard her say, “There are three.” In the end, two men revealed that they were priests, but that they went dressed normally because of the Bishop’s prohibition. Another day, two second-lieutenants of the Aviation Corps came. I recognized them, but I did not want to say anything, and the visionaries found out from Our Lady that they were chaplains.
On October 12, 1961, I received the Cross to kiss, individually from each of the four girls as a gift from the Blessed Virgin on my patron saint's feast day and for having gone to Garabandal that day. [October 12 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, patron saint of the Spanish Civil Guard.]
October 17, 1961
I went up that day with 14 pairs of guards to maintain order, as it was the day before the October 18. Conchita came up to me in ecstasy and gave me the Cross to kiss. This was a sign of hope for me that everything was going to turn out well, despite the huge number of people had come to Garabandal and the heavy rain that had not stopped all day. There was not even the slightest problem. I calculated that there were about 12 thousand to 15 thousand people in Garabandal that day. The fact that there were 8 hundred to a thousand cars and no accidents, to me was a huge surprise.
I was next to the visionaries when they took out a hand-written note, which Fr. Valentín opened and read. The people asked that the message be read louder. I clearly heard the four visionaries recite together what was written without making a single mistake. Later a volunteer with a loud voice read it again. Everyone who went to Garabandal that day thought that they were going to see the sun in the middle of the night, like in Fatima. In reality, a serious message was read, and today it has considerable importance. This is how I understood it:
You must do many sacrifices, much penance.
Visit the Blessed Sacrament. But beforehand, we must be very good.
If not, a chastisement will come.
The cup is already filling and if we do not change, a great chastisement will come upon us.
The Events of March 18, 1961.
As I was on my way to Cosío, I ran into my friend Fidelín, who offered me a ride in his car with Fr. Jesus Silva, founder of the “Ciudad de los Muchachos de Orense,” another younger priest, and a young man with heart problems. The three of them went to Garabandal and the first contact they had was with María Dolores, who was in ecstasy at 11:45 p.m. After midnight, now being March 19, 1961, and still in ecstasy, María Dolores went up to the counter in the store, took out a pencil from the drawer and holding a holy card against the kitchen wall, she wrote on it what the Vision had said, “The Blessed Virgin wishes Fr. José a happy feast day.” According to Fr. José, he had not told anyone his name, and his face turned pale. He received the sign as an immense grace.
Later, we went to Conchita’s house. Fr. Silva suggested to Conchita that they do a Holy Hour. Conchita asked him what that was. Fr. Silva explained it to her and they decided to do a Holy Hour. However, we did not have the key to the Church or to the Tabernacle in order to give Holy Communion. Fr. Valentín, the parish priest was staying in Primitiva’s house. So, Mr. Matutano, a Brigadier from Reinosa, and I went to see Fr. Valentín. I spoke because I knew he would recognize me, and I asked for the key, but he refused to give it to us despite the fact that Fr. Silva would lead the Holy Hour. We went back to Conchita's house and Maximina suggested that we check to see if the church was open. About 20 of us went with Conchita and María Dolores. I remember that the Marquises of Santa María were also there. We found the Church door unlocked, but we needed the key to the sacristy in order to get the key to the tabernacle. However, Father Silva found that, although the sacristy was locked, the tabernacle was not, so he was able to lead a Holy Hour for all those present. We prayed with our arms outstretched in the form of a cross and almost everyone received communion.
It was wonderful. The Marquises of Santa Maria, Matutano and others, I cannot remember who, could also testify to this. In addition, Fr. Silva told us that what was happening in Garabandal was real.
Mr. Damián and a cross:
Mr. Damián, from Barcelona, had given a chain with a medal and a very small gold cross to Conchita, so that when she was in ecstasy she could give it to Our Lady to kiss. Conchita had the vision and we all followed her. At the church door, we saw how she held up all the objects that Damián gave her for Blessed Virgin to kiss, and still in ecstasy, she put the chain around Damián’s neck. We went back to Conchita’s house, but Mr. Damián realized that he only had the medal - the gold cross was missing. When Conchita came out of the ecstasy and was back to her normal state, Mr. Damián told her that the cross was missing. Conchita answered, "You’re right. The Blessed Virgin told me that it fell in front of the door to the church." Myself and several others looked for it around the church door, but it was so small that we could not find it. However, Conchita went straight to it and picked it up, not only in my presence, but in the presence of everyone who was there.
My Glasses and the Sign of the Cross:
The present writer found himself in the kitchen with Conchita and several curious onlookers, waiting to see her during an apparition. Suddenly, she fell into ecstasy and, passing by everyone else, she approached me and began to make the sign of the cross over me saying, “In the name…” At that moment, upon touching my glasses, she stopped and asked me to give them to her. I did not do so immediately, but she waited for me to put them in her hand. So, at the request of those around me, but with the fear that she might break them, I gave them to her. She took them, folded them up, and gave them back to me. She made the sign of the cross on me, in a way that I never would have, and then asked for my glasses again. She put them back on my face, also in a way that I never would have. I think that I will remember this for as long as I live every time I make the sign of the Cross. Our Lady told her to take off my glasses so that she could make the sign of the cross better.
One of the stories that I will always remember as long as I live has to do with a rosary and two paintings that were kissed by the Blessed Virgin. The paintings are currently in the possession of two different people. One day I went to Cabezón de la Sal to receive advice and orders from my Captain. Afterwards, I went to San Vicente de la Barquera to visit my good friend and co-worker, Espósito. We met in a bar and I noticed that on the wall there were various calendars with immoral pictures. In the midst of them, there was a holy card of Our Lady of Fatima and it really did not fit in, so I asked the owner of the bar if I could have it. He did not give it to me and gave me one of Saint Michael instead, though later I was able have the one Fatima as well.
In Garabandal one day, when María Dolores was in ecstasy, I gave Jacinta (who was not in ecstasy) an envelope with the holy cards so that she could give it to Maria Dolores for Our Lady to kiss. Jacinta did as I asked. When María Dolores gave the envelope kissed by the Blessed Virgin back to me, Jacinta asked, "What are the holy cards of?" María Dolores responded, "I don’t know." "Well, ask Our Lady," said Jacinta. María Dolores did so, and after a few seconds she answered, "The Blessed Virgin says that Our Lady of Fatima and St. Michael the Archangel are on the holy cards." The reader cannot imagine how exciting this all was for me. Today, my friend and benefactor Julia de Costa, wife of a Civil Guard corporal, and their blind daughter have the holy cards. They pray every day for all mankind, which is in great need of the God's protection.
Another interesting case:
One afternoon a married couple arrived in Garabandal with a good friend of theirs, who was a painter, and his wife. The painter had already witnessed an apparition, and Our Lady had kissed a medal that belonged to him. But the painter doubted if it had really been kissed. This is what happened: in Ceferino’s town-store, the painter gave two of his own medals to Maria Dolores. One was a typical medal of Our Lady, and the other was an oval-shaped medal with a cross on one side and the name “Alicia” on the other. He also gave her a third medal. Upon taking them and seeing that “Alicia” was written on of them, she hesitated. But assuming that the word was directed to Our Lady, she agreed to give it to the Blessed Virgin to kiss. Later, in ecstasy María Dolores showed the painter’s medal to Our Lady and said, “Look at how ugly they made you on this medal and how beautiful you really are.” When she showed the other medal which the painter did not believe had been kissed, he was overwhelmed and turned white, as he heard the Blessed Virgin say that it had already been kissed with his own ears. It was even more impressive for the painter’s wife. She had wanted to go to bed because it was very late, but if she had done so, she would have missed the apparition's blessing. For her, it was a confirmation that she will always remember.
I have seen Conchita suspended horizontally in the air. One of the apparitions which impressed me most, happened in Conchita’s kitchen. My good friend Dr. Ortiz (who can also explain countless apparitions), a priest named Fr. José Ramón Vázquez, a seminarian from Reinosa, and various others were also there. Conchita went into ecstasy and gave some medals to the Blessed Virgin to kiss saying “I can’t reach you.” It appears that Our Lady insisted on kissing them and Conchita repeated “I can’t. I can’t reach you.” Jacinta, who was not in ecstasy, was also there, and Conchita said to her friend, “Jump, because I can’t reach [her].” Those of us who were present tried with all our strength to grab Conchita and lift her up, but it was useless. We could not move her or even lift her feet off the floor, as if she weighed thousands of kilos. Yet, Jacinta went up to her and with barely any effort - and without any help - she lifted Conchita. It left me speechless, but something even more surprising, which I will never forget, happened. I was at the kitchen door and Dr. Ortiz, Fr. de Llanes (Asturias) and someone else were on my right. Conchita had fallen onto the floor in ecstasy, facing upward, and suddenly, I saw how her body lifted horizontally off the floor. I wanted to put my hand between Conchita’s body and the floor, but I did not have time because it only lasted a couple seconds. I assure you that I have no doubts about this and I do not think that I will forget it as long as I live.
In another ecstasy, Conchita had 5 gold wedding rings on the kitchen table. I believe that one of them belonged to Mr. Ortiz and another to his wife, the others I do not remember whose they were. Conchita took them and held them up for Our Lady to kiss and then put them on the table. She then approached me and I thought that she was going to offer me a cross to kiss, just like the other girls did every time that I was in Garabandal, but instead she gave me one of the 5 rings, saying, “Here, so that you can take it to Barcelona.” That ring belongs to one of Paquita Olivella’s sisters, from Barcelona. (She later told me that one day she saw it glow.) On this occasion, the priest who substituted Fr. Valentín was present.
That day Conchita said to Our Lady, “A priest has come to substitute Fr. Valentín.” Afterwards, she took off the new priest’s glasses too, to make the sign of the cross over him. It was the first day that he had been to Garabandal and he received a good impression. Fr. Valentín came back and the other priest left. I heard that the Bishop told him something along the lines of, “I sent you hoping you would expose the visions as false, but here you are, believing in the apparitions more than the girls themselves!”
On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the feast day of Conchita’s patron saint, they all congratulated Our Lady, and later we saw them playing hide-and-seek while in ecstasy. I remember that once, Jacinta came in a bath robe and the Blessed Virgin told her that it was too short. I saw Jacinta looking at Our Lady and at the same time she adjusted her robe a little. Our Lady indicated how it should be. The miniskirts worn today are scandalous.
What I witnessed one Sunday:
In the afternoon, I found myself close to Conchita’s house and I heard her mom say, “Why are you wearing your new coat? If the Blessed Virgin appears, with the way the weather and the streets are right now, you’re going to get it all dirty.” Conchita was walking towards the Church, and when she got about to where a deaf woman’s house is, next to Loli’s house, she fell onto the ground in ecstasy. She had placed her right hand, in which she carried her crucifix, on the ground and smiled. She stood up, but with her gaze fixed on the vision, turned around and headed towards her house. I followed behind her with others. We saw her go into her house and go towards the washroom, but found the basin empty. She went down to the kitchen and got a water jug from under the table, but finding it also empty, she left the house. In front of her house there was a water fountain with two spouts. I followed behind her. She went down the two steps, filled the water jug and returned to her house. She filled up the basin and washed herself and the crucifix that she had gotten dirty. She changed her new coat for an older one, as her mother had instructed her. She went back to the Church in ecstasy and there she said a prayer. She was surprised to find that she had changed her coat and she smiled.
During the flu:
Jacinta was in bed for a few days with the flu, with a relatively high fever. Her parents had prohibited her from getting out of bed while her fever continued. But, as long as Jacinta stayed in bed, she would not see the Blessed Virgin. I remember that when I found out that she was sick in bed, I went to visit her and while I was speaking with her parents, she escaped into the street. As soon as she left the house she fell into ecstasy; you could see a smile on her lips and she looked like an angel.
María Dolores was sick with the flu at the same time as Jacinta. I went to visit her and she told me how she used to be very afraid of the police. I asked her why and she told me how one time she and Jacinta had stolen a hammer, and sold it for 1 peseta. With the peseta, they bought a chocolate pastry and ate it. Afterwards, they always thought that the Civil Guards, which passed through the village, were there to get them. They said, “They’re coming for us!” They also went into a garden and pulled up some turnips. The owner caught them in the act and they tried to hide behind a wagon, but he called out, “Don’t hide, I saw you! When the Civil Guards come, they’re going to take you away! But now that the Guards escorted them and protected them, they were no longer afraid of them. I asked them if they had confessed all these things and they said, "Yes, a long time ago."
One day María Dolores went up to the second floor, where she frequently had apparitions. Her father, Ceferino, had told them to loosen the light bulb when they went down to the town-store, because the light switch did not work. Loli, in ecstasy, grabbed onto the bulb and did not let go. Those of us present thought that she would burn her hand if she held onto the bulb too long. Her mother said, “My God! She’s going to burn her hand.” We tried to get the bulb out of her hand but we could not; we were afraid of breaking the bulb and hurting her. So, we called Mari Cruz, who was not in ecstasy. She went up and easily freed the bulb from Loli's hand and went back down to the store.
One day, close to the fountain that Eustaquio Cuenca built as a gift for the town, I saw Jacinta - in ecstasy - ask Our Lady to let her hold the Child Jesus. Apparently, the Blessed Virgin told her, “No, you will drop him.” Jacinta answered her, “No, no, I won’t drop Him,” and it seems that Our Lady handed her the Child. She walked through the streets of Garabandal with both of her hands palms-up, and pretty close together, as if the Child Jesus were very small. I remember that she walked very carefully, so as not to drop Him, as she had promised Our Lady. Towards the end of the ecstasy, Jacinta said, “See! I didn’t drop him!” as she raised her hands up, in a gesture of giving the Child Jesus back to the Blessed Virgin.
One afternoon, on my way up to Garabandal, Jacinta and María Dolores came out to see me and explained how Fr. de Llanes (Asturias) gave Mari Loli a camera and told her to take a picture of the Blessed Virgin during her ecstasy. Jacinta and Mari Loli told me that they took three pictures of Our Lady and that she herself had told them how to do it. She said to take the picture when María Dolores saw her clearly through the little hole. This happened three times, that is, three pictures. Fr. de Llanes took the camera and brought back the pictures, but Our Lady was not visible in the photos, which means that she was not in the pictures. Six months after this happened, Mari Loli’s father said to her one day, “Loli, when you’re with Our Lady, tell her to guide you with a pencil and paper, so that you can draw her and we’ll know what she looks like.” After the ecstasy, Ceferino asked his daughter what the Blessed Virgin had said and Loli responded, “She told me that she’ll tell me later.” One day in ecstasy, Loli was speaking with the vision and we heard her say, “Aren’t you in one of the pictures that I took of you?” and Loli went over to a shoebox where she kept holy cards and photos. Loli took three photos and showed them to Our Lady. She set one of them aside and, when the vision had ended, she was asked, “Why did you separate one of the photos?” She responded, “Because Our Lady said that in that photo you can see what she looks like and how she’s dressed.” Apparently, some people can see her and others do not see anything.
At 3 a.m. Eustaquio Cuenca’s own daughter took the picture to her house and she saw how the Blessed Virgin appeared in the photo. I had just come back that day from checking out a position in Tudanca. When I got to Cosío I ran into Jacinta’s mother who was on her way to Puentenansa and she said, “Brigadier, did you hear that Our Lady appeared in one of the photos that Loli took of her?” I went straight to Garabandal, without stopping in Puentenansa, and asked Ceferino if what Jacinta’s mother had told me was true. He handed me a picture and said, “Here you have it,” I turned it over a couple times and…with my own eyes I saw the figure of the Blessed Virgin in the photo. I saw that she had big eyes, like the image of the Immaculate Conception, a small and perfect nose, small, full lips and she had long hair. Ceferino kept this picture, but I haven’t heard anything else about it.
I have prayed the Holy Rosary with the visionaries and with Our Lady, just like others who also followed Conchita. During one of the mysteries of the Rosary, Conchita went towards the cemetery through a path that was full of water and about 30 centimeters of mud. The visionaries prayed the Rosary very devoutly and those of us who followed them too! When we reached the cemetery, Conchita placed her hand through the bars of the gate, apparently so that the faithful departed could kiss it. She moved her hand up and down indicating those who were taller or shorter. When it seemed that she had finished, and after she had walked about 50 meters back towards the village, she returned to the cemetery, put her hand through the bars, as if initially someone had not wanted to kiss the crucifix or had delayed in kissing it.
About the surprise that Eustaquio received:
Eustaquio’s elderly mother lived in Garabandal and he came from Mexico to visit her for a while, leaving his wife and his daughter in charge of his business. When his daughter finished her classes and exams, both she and her mother came to be with him. Eustaquio’s wife, hearing what was happening in her husband’s town, broughta medal, which he had left in Mexico with her. One day, his wife, without saying anything gave four chains with their medals to Loli and told her, “When you’re with the Blessed Virgin, give her these medals and then put each one on their respective owners.” Loli went into ecstasy on the second floor, above the town-store, and I went up and saw the scene. She held the medals up to be kissed, took one and placed it around Eustaquio’s wife’s neck and she, seeing that it was hers, began to cry and received a huge grace. Loli took another and placed it on Eustaquio’s daughter, and handed another to Eustaquio’s wife. This third medal belonged to her son, who was not present.
With the last medal, Loli went down the wooden stairs in ecstasy. Among the many people gathered in the store, she went straight up to Eustaquio, who was getting something to drink, and tried to place the medal around his neck. Eustaquio, however, took a step back and said “This girl must be mistaken, because I didn’t give her a medal.” When he saw the medal, he was greatly surprised and said, “My Lord! This is the medal that I left in Mexico.” His wife simply wanted to do this test, which is one of the many, many marvels that have occurred in Garabandal.
I also want to tell an anecdote about the staircase I mentioned earlier. Loli went down the staircase horizontally, slowly and in ecstasy several times. She also went towards the village holding out her cross for the sick and disabled to kiss one day, in ecstasy. When she came out of one of the houses, I was at the door and she took off my glasses to make the sign of the cross on me. Another day, they told me that on the night before her cousin was to marry a young man from the village, she passed the cross over all the wedding garments. I was supposed to go to that wedding too, but I did not have time to go.
Joseíto’s nephew from Cosío had given several medals to Loli to be kissed. I remember that, amidst them all, she took one and said in ecstasy in front of everyone, “This medal was kissed by Pope Pius X,” or Pius XI (I don’t remember well.) But anyways, the owner, Joseíto’s nephew, confirmed that what Loli said was true.
One afternoon, a Belgian priest arrived in Garabandal. In Conchita’s house, he told us that he had been mistaken on a certain occasion in affirming certain apparitions, so he had asked Our Lady to help him to discern the truth of these. It was for this reason that he was there in Garabandal. He said that if he saw that it was something supernatural, he would come to Garabandal with many others. Then, Conchita fell into ecstasy and went towards the Belgian. I think that she unbuttoned his shirt collar, took out a medal and offered it to Our Lady to kiss. After that, he left, and two or three days later, he reappeared in San Sebastián de Garabandal.
The first time that Mercedes Salisachs went to Garabandal:
I do not remember the exact day, but I do remember what happened. I arrived in Garabandal in the evening and I went to Ceferino’s town-store. He came out to meet me, saying, “Here is the Brigadier who had witnessed many Apparitions.” He introduced me to Mercedes, saying, “This lady is from Barcelona and she wants someone to explain the apparitions to her.” I greeted this lady respectfully and she asked me if I knew all about the apparitions. I answered affirmatively. She recorded what I said on a tape. She did the same with a man who herded cows in the village, who said, “I don’t know what has happened to me since I witnessed an apparition. I used to blaspheme a lot and now I don’t do it [anymore].” She also recorded a question she asked a priest. She said, “And you, father, do you believe in it?” Only Mercedes and I know that he answered that "yes, he believed." Later, I accompanied Mercedes to Conchita’s house, and after she had asked Conchita a couple questions, Conchita, in a matter of minutes, fell into ecstasy.
I hoped that Mercedes, who had come from Barcelona with the desire to witness an apparition, would find one easily. I helped her to follow the girl through the street. After going through the village a couple times, Conchita stopped next to an electrical pole on the way back to her house.
With her eyes turned upwards and looking at the vision, Mercedes and I heard her say: “Ah, Mercedes’ child is in heaven.” Mercedes would have fallen hard to the ground if it were not for our intervention. I have this picture engraved on my soul, and it cannot be erased, like many, many other experiences that I have lived with the visionaries. I think that Mercedes, and those who were present during similar moments, could say the same thing.
I was also present when Conchita received a letter from Padre Pio, God rest his soul, from Rome. I ask him to bless me from heaven, to guide me, and to help me to be a better person. Before Conchita fell into ecstasy that day, they told her to show the letter to the Blessed Virgin and ask her if it really was from Padre Pio. Afterwards, Conchita said that yes, it was from Padre Pio.
Another day, my friend and co-worker, Brigadier Crecencio (from the Civil Guard in Santander), who is Fr. Valentín’s nephew, gave me a medal to give to the visionaries when I went back to Garabandal. I think that I gave it to Loli, although I do not remember for sure. But, once it was kissed, I went to Santander and gave it to its owner. A while later, one of Fr. Valentín’s nephews, a cousin of the Brigadier’s wife, had to be admitted to a Hospital in Valdecilla. His abdomen was swollen and they said that only a miracle could save him. They put that medal on him and he was miraculously cured.
Some important facts:
I would like to note that in 1961, I only saw the doctors who were hired by the Bishop’s Committee to study the visionaries three times. While the doctors were in Garabandal, Mr. Rocha de la Nansa told me that Dr. Morales had said that the visionaries were not going to be able to go past the "Calleja" that day because he was going to hypnotize them. That day they went to the "Calleja" like always, and it ended up being a huge failure for Dr. Morales.
A second time I saw them was on October 18, 1961, when the first message was given. We took the doctors under our protection so that the villagers (who did not like the way the doctors pinched and mistreated the girls) would not harass them.
And the third time, I think that they were in Garabandal during the night, while the whole village was sleeping, and they tried to take the visionaries to Santander, with neither the permission of their parents nor of the village.
I have in my possession a poem, handwritten by Conchita, sung through the village by the four visionaries on March 25, 1962 for the feast of the “Annunciation of the Archangel to Mary and the Incarnation of the Son of God.”
Today, Our Lady’s day,
Feast of the Incarnation,
We praise you
With all our heart.
Our Lady, Our Lady
Your beautiful smile
And your ever-knowing gaze
Give joy to our hearts.
Men, women, and little girls,
You already know our message
The Blessed Virgin wants it to be heeded
For the good of your homes.
Your little daughters
Come to you, so that
You might grant them a
Spot close to you.
Christians, follow Our Lady
With humility and with zeal
So that she may save us a place
In the heavenly mansion.
I also certify that I have seen people place powerful lights before the visionaries’ eyes, without them suffering the slightest damage. They were pricked and pinched (I saw it) and if they realized it was happening, it was only because Our Lady told them. They also asked the girls crass questions or just to make fun of them. Once when I was with Mari Cruz, I heard her say to the Blessed Virgin, “Today a priest came and he didn’t do anything else but ask questions; he is so nosy!”
Two priests from near Bilbao made fun of Conchita while she was offering the Crucifix to the pilgrims to kiss. She did not offer it to them. Repentant, they went to Jacinta’s house to ask her to pray a rosary with them in reparation and, afterwards, Mari Cruz, in ecstasy, gave them the Crucifix to kiss. They were relieved and gave thanks.
From the beginning, I lived all of the events having to do with the apparitions of the four visionaries: Conchita, Mari Cruz, Jacinta, and Mari Loli. Today, more than seven years later, I continue to remember it each day. That position as the Regional Leader of the Civil Guard gave me the chance to clean my soul, which was so in need of it.
The apparitions occurred with so many amazing things and in such a religious way that I remember them well. I participated in “Cursillos de Cristiandad” because of them. I am a member of the Association of Nocturnal Adoration, because every day I am convinced that I have done very little. I do not think that the devil could take away the peace that I have today, a peace that was missing from my life before Garabandal. I live much more peacefully, because I remember the two messages that Our Lady gave to the world. And we all have to think about what they say.
Through what I have written, I wish to express to all the faithful Christians that the most important thing is that they remember to fulfill the message of June 18, 1965. The devil is loose, but this is the age of Mary. Her Immaculate Heart will triumph, and with her we will also if we abide in her Heart.
Barcelona, March 7, 1969.
Signed by he who was the Brigadier of the Civil Guard in Garabandal,
Juan Álvarez Seco