SACABA, Bolivia: Julia Flores Colque still sings with joy in her indigenous Quechua tongue and strums the five strings of a tiny Andean guitar known as the charango, despite a recorded age of almost 118 years.
In her long life, she has witnessed two world wars, revolutions in her native Bolivia and the transformation of her rural town of Sacaba from 3,000 people to a bustling city of more than 175,000 in five decades.
Her national identity card says Flores Colque was born on Oct. 26, 1900 in a mining camp in the Bolivian mountains. At 117 and just over 10 months, she would be the oldest woman in the Andean nation and perhaps the oldest living person in the world. But Guinness World Records says it has received no application for her and Flores Colque doesn’t seem to care that her record hasn’t been confirmed. She hasn’t even heard of the reference book.
Her longevity is striking in Bolivia, which still has one of South America’s highest levels of mortality, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the U.N.’s regional arm.
The Sacaba mayor’s office has named Flores Colque a living heritage. The office and a private foundation have improved her home, building a brick path where she walks, and a shower and toilet with a railing so the centenarian can safely make her way to the bathroom at night.
Sitting in the sun on a rustic bench, she seems eternal or like an ancient statue carved in stone. She is hard of hearing, but she remains sharp and scolds her smallest dog whenever Blanquita tries to venture out into the street. Just a few years ago, she still walked briskly. But then she fell and hurt her back. The doctor said she would never walk again. She proved the doctor wrong. -AP