San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

In a Hundred Years: Tico Centenarians Take a Look at the Past

TO commemorate International SeniorCitizens’ Month, The Tico Times interviewedsome exceptional centenarian abueloswho were eager to share their wisdomand reveal the secrets to their longevity.Deifilia Valerio of Guadalupe, northeastof San José, will turn 102 next July.She was born in the province of Heredia in1904 and grew up in a very different CostaRica from the one she sees today, she said.Expressing her sympathy for youngerCosta Ricans who don’t know how thecountry used to look, Valerio said, “Poorpeople (today)! It was so beautiful back inthe day – December was a beautiful sight.In December, you had the winds, theorange trees.”She said the role of women in CostaRica has changed dramatically in recentyears as well.“A woman’s place was in her home.God forbid a woman not be home by 10p.m. Now, women are out until dawn,” saidValerio, who worked as a seamstress formany years to support her four children.ALTHOUGH it might seem thatlongevity could result from stress-free living,Valerio had to overcome many obstaclesthroughout her life. Orphaned at agethree – the year she almost drowned in ariver – she was raised and educated bynuns. Tired of their strict ways and untiringdiscipline, she escaped the orphanage atage 12 and moved in with her godmotherin Heredia, she said.Valerio was married in her early 20sand widowed in her 40s. Her husband, awatchmaker, was ill for three years beforehe passed away.If her life has been as conflict-ridden asanyone else’s, then what could be thesecret to the vivacity in her brown eyes at101 years of age?“Everything I have had in life has beena blessing. The bad times – there arealways bad times – I work through them,”said the devout Catholic, who recommendsprayer and devotion to God.VALERIO, who has not left her apartmentalone in a year after suffering a stroke,said life is good as a senior citizen, and thatolder people are treated better now than inthe past. In fact, her happiest memory is ofher 100th birthday, which she celebratedwith her family and a mass, she told TheTico Times during an interview at her apartment,where she has lived for the past 15years with her daughter Miriam Artavia.“Everything is easy, everything ispretty (at 100),” said the great-grandmotherof two.LIKE Valerio, Carmen Prado almosthad her life cut short near the start. AfterPrado’s difficult and premature birth, atseven months, her parents held a wakebecause they thought she would not makeit, she said.But she surprised and outlived them,and continues to surprise visitors to herhome, decorated with embroidery anddolls, with her lively conversation at age99. She lives in Sabanilla, east of San José.Prado’s long life, like Valerio’s, is acollection of long-overcome obstaclesspeckled with memories of happiness.“My favorite memory is marrying myhusband – because there is nothing morebeautiful than love. And that’s how yousuffer,” she said.PRADO was married at 22, in defianceof her family, who disapproved of herhusband and cut off all contact with herbecause of her choice. He abandoned hershortly after their wedding, leaving herpregnant with her only child.“I faced up to all situations – the mostdifficult was being abandoned by my husband,” Prado said, adding that shedevoted herself to her daughter, JulietaVargas, 76, who is her “greatest treasure.”Prado, who outlived her nine brothers,said the key to longevity is good behavior.“(The secret is in) behaving well, onevery occasion, in every place, abstainingfrom all that is young,” she told The TicoTimes.Coming from a wealthy family, Pradoremembers horseback riding “like a man”through Sabanilla, much of which her fatherused to own. She lost the property when herfamily cut off contact upon her marriage.Prado had to make ends meet with helpfrom her husband’s sisters, she said.As a senior, Prado – great-grandmotherof Tico Times photographer MónicaQuesada – admits to being very happy.“I would change nothing in my life,”she said.EDUARDO Marín, 101, has led a veryhealthy life and still operates on a strictschedule, according to his son, AlanMauricio Marín, who spoke with The TicoTimes because his father was not able toparticipate in an interview as planned, dueto an unexpected hospitalization.Marín never smoked or drank, wakesup at 6 a.m. every morning, eats his mealsat fixed hours every day, and exercisedplentifully throughout his life in his job asa carpenter, said his son, adding that he stillremains very active.According to Alan, 30, his father stilldoes carpentry work, building and repairingchairs and shelves for therapeutic purposes.“He does everything for himself, and hasnever relied on anybody,” said his son, whoexplained Marín still bathes himself, cooks,and rides the bus to San José to run errands.MARÍN’S family recently forbade himto go to San José alone, but he did so regardlesstwo weeks ago and fell on the street,hurting his face, according to his son.“It depresses him that he cannot go paythe bills anymore,” he said.Although Marín, a native of Coronado,northeast of San José, only completed elementaryschool, he also worked as ateacher at a Guadalupe public high school,Alan Marín said.Throughout his active life, Marín hadeight children with ages ranging from morethan 70 to 20, said his son.Like Prado and Valerio, Marín alsofaced difficult times, but never turned bitter,said Alan Marín.“HIS first wife left him for anotherman, and he had to raise the four children(he had then) on his own. But then hefound God,” he said, explaining that thegreatest lesson his father taught him is tolove God – and that you pay for everythingyou do in life.According to his son, Marín, now marriedto Odily Marín, 35 years his junior, isalways happy and never pessimistic.“He has a beautiful personality andlives in peace,” he told The Tico Times.Alan Marín, who says he was born witha father and grandfather in one man – referringto the fact that in terms of age, his fathercould be his grandfather – said Marín hasnever suffered any health problems.However, he was hospitalized thisweek for what appears to be a mild stroke,according to his son.But “the man is like a cat,” he said. “Iknow he’ll come out of this one.”

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