53-year-old Juana Escudero is alive and well, but she’s been struggling to prove it for the last seven years. Following an administrative error, she was registered as deceased, and has been unable to accomplish simple tasks, like renewing her driver’s license or scheduling a doctor’s appointment, ever since. Escudero has become so desperate to fix things that she now wants to dig up her own grave to prove that she’s not the one buried there.
It all started seven years ago, when a woman whose name and date of birth matched Juana Escudero’s perfectly died in Malaga, Spain. Even though the protagonist of this story was alive and well in Alcalá de Guadaíra, a town near Seville, the strange coincidence caused their Social Security data to clash, and the living Escudero has been dead to the Government ever since. She and her family thought it was funny at first, but they’ve stopped laughing at it for a long time now.
Juana first learned that she had died when she visited an emergency room, seven years ago. Luckily, the doctor knew her so he still treated her, but he also showed her that according to Social Services, she was dead.
“When she put my name in the computer, I appeared as dead,” Escudero told Diario de Sevilla. “She turned the screen for me to see. Dead. She still treated me because she knew me and knew my situation was urgent. She told me that we would take care of it later.”
Thinking that it was just a computer error that could easily be fixed, Juana Escudero visited Social Services to explain her situation. There, she learned that it was a lot more complicated than that, because she showed up as dead everywhere, at the treasury, at the courthouse, everywhere. Plus, she had apparently been buried in a cemetery in Malaga.
Juana and her family have been struggling to prove that she is still alive for seven years now, but they have yet to succeed. During this period, her non-death has caused her a variety of problems. In 2011, when her husband died, Escudero needed a certification of life to receive her widow benefits, but couldn’t provide it. Then in, 2012, she had to get her driver’s license renewed, but she learned that dead people can’t drive cars. At the Treasury, they told her that she could be sanctioned for identity theft.
One of the strangest moments occurred last year, when Escudero called the Malaga City Council to ask about the confusion, only to hear that since the cemetery fee had not been paid, her remains had been removed from the grave and moved to an ossuary.
“That day, we called the Malaga City Council and they told us was that since my mother was buried there and we had not paid the fee, the tomb had been emptied after the legal period and the bones deposited in an ossuary,” Marta, Escudero’s daughter, said. “So what I had to tell them was difficult, because I had my mother in front me and I was talking to her.”
To solve the problem, Juan Escudero has offered to have “her” remains in Malaga tested for DNA, to prove that it’s not her. She has filed a petition towards this, but has yet to receive a response. Last year, when she visited the cemetery in Malaga, officials told her that “they have orders to do nothing about this case”.
Interestingly, although Juana Escudero has been dead to the Spanish Government for seven years, banks keep sending her notifications about her loans, mortgage, and life insurance payments. “On the government’s computers I am dead, but for the banks I am alive and kicking,” she joked.