A man aged 123, said to be the oldest person ever recorded, has been found living in a dirt-floor hut in Bolivia.
His name is Carmelo Flores Laura, and he lives in a hut in the village of Frasquia, near Lake Titicaca. Although he can walk unaided and doesn’t wear glasses, he cannot speak Spanish, is illiterate, and has no teeth.
“I see a bit dimly. I had good vision before. But I saw you coming,” he tells Associated Press journalists who visit after a local TV report touts him as the world’s oldest person.
While talking to a reporter, he chewed on coca leaves; like most peasants in the highlands of Boliva, he has been chewing this all his life. Coca is known to act as a stimulant and hunger suppressant.
The native Aymara, who has three children, 16 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren, was 24 when World War I broke out and 62 when young Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne.
Mr. Laura, who lost his wife ten years ago, told Bolivia’s Rede Uno TV station that he believes the secret to a long life is taking daily long walks, and never eating pasta or sugar.
Talking about his lifestyle he said: “I’ve never been lazy. I always shared the cooking with my wife.
“We would only eat what we could find growing wild. We ate mostly skunk meat. I still go on long walks every day.”
“I walk a lot, that’s all. I go out with the animals,” Flores Laura said. “I don’t eat noodles or rice, only barley. I used to grow potatoes, beans, oca (an Andean tuber).”
He added that he doesn’t drink alcohol, doesn’t eat pork and drinks water from the peak of Illampu, the fourth highest mountain in Bolivia.
Flores says he has never been farther afield than La Paz, 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, and has never been seriously ill.
The director of Bolivia’s civil registrar, Eugenio Condori, said Flores Laura’s birthday is July 16, 1890, according to the official registry. However, Bolivia did not keep birth certificates until 1940, but instead kept records with Roman Catholic priests.
“For the state, the baptism certificate is valid,” Condori said.
According to the Guinness World Records, the oldest living person verified by original proof of birth is Misao Okawa, a 115-year-old Japanese woman. The oldest verified age was 122 years and 164 days: Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997.
Guinness spokeswoman Jamie Panas said it wasn’t aware of a claim being filed for the Bolivian.”I should be about 100 years old or more,” Flores says.
Flores Laura’s grandson, Edwin, said that it could be because his memory is depleting. The 27-year-old, who lives next door, said his grandfather fought in the 1933 Chaco war with Paraguay but he only vaguely remembers.
Edwin also said his grandfather worked for the rancher who owned Frasquia until 1952, when the state seized major holdings in an agrarian reform and parceled them out to peasants.