Juana Bautista de la Candelaria Rodriguez celebrated her 126th birthday, Feb. 2, with relatives and friends in her hometown Campechuela, in the eastern province of Granma, Cuba.
Bautista, known by her nickname “Candulia,” is officially recognized as the oldest person on the island by Cuban authorities.
Cuba’s Prensa Latina news agency says Candulia has a civil registry document stating she was born on Feb. 2, 1885, in Santa Rosa, in Granma, and was officially registered in the municipal Civil Registry of Births on Feb. 27th of that same year.
Although Cuba’s state-run media covered her milestone birthday extensively last year, she has yet to be recognized by the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which verifies information for the Guinness World Records.
The Los Angeles-based group says Cuba’s records are not good enough.
According to Guinness, American Besse Cooper at 114 years old is the world’s oldest person.
However relatives and friends of Candulia say she’s older than Cooper by more than a decade and such “capitalistic formalities” have not spoiled the celebration.
Candulia was the second of 13 children. Her mother lived to be 100 and her father died at age 96. Candulia told Cuban reporters she hopes to celebrate many more years with her six grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
She may have trouble seeing and needs help standing up but Candulia attributes her health and longevity to the pure air of the countryside, a diet rich in meat and a “heart that has always been full of love.”
“They say I am the oldest person in Cuba, I would never have thought it, and I really hope to get to 130,” said Candulia. She said she was “happy with everything that life has offered, a marvelous family and my country.” She also wished Cuba’s former head of state Fidel Castro good health.
At her celebration earlier this week Ramon Rodriguez, first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party in Campechuela, wished Candulia a happy birthday on behalf of the Cuban people.
Cuban officials note Candulia’s age was scientifically tested through a biomedical and psychological study ran in 2007 by a multidisciplinary team from the Cuban Health Ministry and Ibero-American Center of Old Age.
Currently there are 1,500 centenarians that live among Cuba’s 11.2 million people. Many say the fountain of Cuba’s youth is based on a free and universal health care system, internationally known as one of the world’s best. Historians note since Cuba’s 1959 revolution its pro-people policies and socialist economy also play a major and positive role in the nation’s health and well-being.
Photo: In this Feb. 4, 2010 photo, Juana Bautista de la Candelaria Rodriguez walks with her granddaughter in the garden at her home near Campechuela, Cuba where she was born. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco, Prensa Latina)