123-Year-Old Man in Bolivia May Be World's Oldest Person

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Friday, 16 Aug 2013 07:07 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A 123-year-old man who lives a hermit's life in the mountains of Bolivia is the world's oldest living person, if the nation's state records are to be believed.

Carmelo Flores Laura, who according to Bolivian records turned 123 in July, is reportedly illiterate, speaks no Spanish, and has no teeth. He lives a straw-roofed hut with a dirt floor near Lake Titicaca.

Flores is a native Aymara, an indigenous people from South America's Andes and Altiplano regions of which approximately two million are believed to live throughout Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

The elderly hermit was recently visited by several reporters following a local news station's report about him.

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Speaking in his native Aymara language, in what the Associated Press described as a firm voice, Flores, who walks without a cane and doesn't wear glasses, said, "I see a bit dimly. I had good vision before. But I saw you coming."

Flores hobbled down a dirt path with a raised arm and a smile to greet the reporters, before taking a seat on a nearby rock to answer questions, the AP notes.

Flores was unable to say exactly how old he was.

"I should be about 100 years old or more," Flores told reporters as he chewed on a cocoa leaf, a mild stimulant that staves off hunger and has been a stable for most Bolivian highlands peasants throughout their lives.

When asked how he was able to live for so long, Flores told reporters, "I walk a lot, that's all. I go out with the animals."

For most of his life, Flores herded cattle and sheep.

And as for his diet, the 123-year-old man says he's a fan of mutton and pork, adding, "I don't eat noodles or rice, only barley. I used to grow potatoes, beans, oca (an Andean tuber)."

Flores also avoids alcohol, which he says he hasn't drank since his youth, and primarily drinks water that streams down from the snow-capped peak of Illampu, one of Bolivia's highest mountains.

According to Flores, he has never been seriously ill in his lifetime.

In response to an AP inquiry to confirm Flores' age, the director of Bolivia's civil registrar, Eugenio Condori, showed the news organization a state registry that listed his birthdate as July 16, 1890.

According to Condori, birth certificate did not exist in Bolivia until 1940, prior to which the local Roman Catholic Church would record all births on baptism certificates which would then be signed by two witnesses.

"For the state, the baptism certificate is valid because in those days priests provided them and they were literate," Condori told the AP, adding that he could not show Flores' baptism certificate because it is a private document.

Flores' grandson told the AP that the family had shown the baptism certificate to the government in order for him to receive a monthly subsidy for the elderly.

Flores had three children with his wife, who having died more than a decade ago he said he sorely misses. Only one of his children by his wife, Cecilio, who is 67, is still alive.

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It was not reported whether Flores had more children by other women, however the AP reports that he also has 40 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, most of whom have moved away.

Guinness World Records says the oldest living person verified by original proof of birth is Misao Okawa, a 115-year-old Japanese woman, while the oldest verified age on record was 122 years and 164 days: Jeanne Calment of France. She died in 1997.

Related stories:

Oldest Man Reveals Secrets to Long Life

World's Oldest Person Celebrates His 116th Birthday in Japan

Dina Manfredini: World's Oldest Person Dies Two Weeks After Earning Title

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