How to live to  100?

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Maria Trinidad Espinoza Melina, 102 years old

Copal de Quebrada Honda, Nicoya peninsula, Costa Rica

I haven’t lost my head and my memory is excellent. Visitors from the four corners of the earth have come to speak with me about longevity and I hope that they keep coming since I love meeting strangers! I am grateful to be in such good health and I would like to live for many more years. I don’t want to die, I love life.

Things were better before. There were no chemical products in the food and people were healthier. We didn’t earn much, but we always had enough to live on, especially since we always helped each other.
These days our poverty is extreme. The cost of living is very high and our retirement pension is ridiculous. My daughter can’t go out to work as she has to look after me full time. That means we are two living on my little pension, which is just enough to cover the electricity. 

We are always short of money for everything: medicines, phone bills, food, or to buy glasses, shoes or the fabrics that my daughter uses to decorate our clothes. I would like to ask the government to help the elderly of Costa Rica more, as the lack of resources is an enormous source of stress and desperation.

I advise young girls to carry themselves well, to look after themselves, not to walk the streets at night, not to take drugs or drink alcohol, and to choose an attentive lover. Since not all men are good, one shouldn’t be too quick to get married; it is better to wait a few years to make sure you have a respectful companion.

 

Jose Bonifacio Villegas Fonseca, 101 years old

Pochote de Nicoya, Nicoya peninsula, Costa Rica

I left school at 9 years old because I had to work. I have been a cowboy all my life and horses have always been my great passion. I am very attached to my horse Corazon, my companion of more than twenty years already.
I have lived a far from exemplary life. I have indulged in every imaginable vice: alcohol, dancing, women, parties, tobacco. I had to stop drinking and smoking at 60 as I had health problems. 

Pust about everything is difficult when one gets old. One must struggle endlessly. It bothers me greatly to not have energy, to lose my memory, to walk with difficulty. I used to regularly pay visits to the sick of the surrounding area but my health no longer allows it. Luckily the Lord is with me.

Since the discovery of the Blue Zones, things have changed around here, and we value the elderly more. I have welcomed dozens of journalists, students and doctors, and many festivals have been organized to honour the elderly of the Nicoya Peninsula. Foreign visitors help us a bit financially, which is precious, since we don’t have enough to eat on the state pension. I do not exaggerate when I say we must choose between sugar and coffee as we can’t buy both.

 

Ana Reinery Fonseca Gutiérrez, 104 years old

Nicoya, Nicoya peninsula, Costa Rica

I was in excellent health until I took a round of antibiotics recently; since then I can’t walk and have no appetite. This medicine is no better than poison, if you want my opinion. My goal is to walk again regardless. Despite everything, I am always in a good mood and I like to receive visitors. I am particularly stylish and flirtatious and I collect shoes and fancy hats.

The secret to a long life is to take care of oneself, to have a healthy lifestyle, to be satisfied, calm and to have a happy marriage. You shouldn’t get married on a whim, you have to take your time and carefully choose your partner.

 

Digna Villegas Cortés, 97 years old

Quebrada Honda, Nicoya peninsula, Costa Rica

I am not tired and I never get bored. God gave me a strong spirit.
I advise young people to always be honest, not to drink or smoke, and most of all not to be proud. Pride is the cause of much suffering; it is more worthwhile to go through life with humility.

 

Francisca Paula Obando Angulo, 99 years old

Los Jocotes, Nicoya peninsula, Costa Rica

Here is my advice in order to live to a hundred. You must eat simple and whole food, chew well, sleep soundly, take care of oneself with plants and natural products, avoid conflict and never speak ill of others. I would also advise young people to pursue their education. My greatest regret is not getting an education. If I could have, I would have liked to become a nurse, or a violinist.

Practicing the traditional dancing of Costa Rica has been a great source of pleasure all my life. When I stopped dancing I got rid of all my dresses except one. I want to be buried in that beautiful dress.

 

Dominga Ema Albares Rosales, 104 years old

Santa Cruz, Nicoya peninsula, Costa Rica

When I was a child there was no school in my village, so I never learned to read or write. I had to make do with that. Since my father was violent I left home when I was still young. 
I have had eleven children and I have been a farmer all my life. The work was exhausting, but life was less stressful than in the city.

We ate a lot of wild food, something that I believe is even better for one’s health than farmed food. It’s probably the secret to my longevity. Now that I live in the city with my daughter, I am very depressed. I miss my chickens.

 

Cristóbal Muñoz Villalobos, 101 years old

Nicoya, Nicoya peninsula, Costa Rica

When I was two years old, my whole family died in an accident. My parents and brothers and sisters all drowned in the river. My life was painful. Essentially, I never stopper working. Too much. In every industry and right up until I was 90. I have not known happiness, or if I have then I didn’t know it.
Prayer is my only comfort. The words of God are great and they guide me
.

 

Feria Azul Nicoya

On the 8th of December 2018, more than thirty centenarians gathered in the village of Nicoya during the Feria Azul Nicoya.

 

Juan Gutiérrez Rosales, 100 years old, from Nicoya; Celina Hildalgo Arias, 108 years old, from Santa Cruz; Francisca Rodriguez Sequeira, 103 years old, from Nandayure; Maximina García Canales, 101 years old, from Carrillo; Carmen Chavarria, 100 years old, from Carrillo; Andrés López Molina, 105 years old, from Santa Cruz.


Arianne Clément
Photography of the elderly