María José Álvarez had lived with her 23-year-old son in Alcalá de Henares since 1978. She took the suburban train each day to go to work in Madrid. Originally from Asturias, she still kept close ties with her home region. She was a member of the Asturian Centre in Alcalá de Henares where she went to enjoy typical meals from the region. María José was the only Asturian to be killed in the attacks.
11 March 2004 fell on a Thursday. Early that morning, a number of terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda planted thirteen bombs on four suburban trains covering routes running through Madrid. Ten of the bombs exploded between 7.37 and 7.39 am, when the trains were at Atocha, El Pozo and Santa Eugenia stations and alongside Calle Téllez. 191 people were killed in the attack and around 1,500 were wounded. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in Spanish history. On 3 April 2004, agents from the Special Operations Group (GEO) were about to enter an apartment in Leganés where the perpetrators of the attacks were believed to be hiding when the terrorists detonated twenty kilograms of explosives in an act of collective suicide. The ensuing blast killed one of the officers, bringing the total number of people killed by the 11 March bombers to 192.