Lots of sleep, a good appetite and the affection of her 153 descendants are credited for the long life of a Mexican woman believed to be the world’s oldest at 127.
Leandra Becerra Lumbreras marked her birthday yesterday, and while her birth certificate, if there ever was one, was probably misplaced 40 years ago when she moved to Guadalajara to live with one of her daughters, officials have certified a new one.
According to a report by the EFE news agency, it’s not a big surprise that Doña Leandra doesn’t have the document because the Mexican Civil Registry isn’t much older than she is.
Born on August 31, 1887, Doña Leandra’s age doesn’t impede her ability to converse and she has some mobility, though she is deaf and suffers from cataracts. Although she would have liked to eat tortillas and beans for her birthday celebration, on doctor’s orders she cannot eat solid foods; her diet consists mainly of milk and a protein supplement.
However, she suffers from neither diabetes nor hypertension so she can eat all the chocolates she likes, says granddaughter Celia Hernández. “She has always enjoyed eating. She eats a lot, as if she wasn’t as old as she is.”
Doña Leandra was born in a town in Tamaulipas in the same year that Queen Victoria of England celebrated her 50th year on the throne. She was 23 when the Mexican Revolution began, and at one point fled with her five children from the town of Tula where they lived to hide in nearby caves from soldiers looking for army recruits.
She is also believed to have been one of the Adelitas, women who joined the revolutionary soldiers in the fight against President Porfirio Díaz in 1910.
“She was always a woman who fought,” says great-granddaughter Miriam Alvear. “She was sewing and weaving until two years ago, and never stopped being active, which is why we think she has lived so long.”
Living such a long life does bring some grief. Doña Leandra has buried all five of her children — the last one died last year at the age of 90 — and a few of her grandchildren as well.
With her great-grandchildren she occasionally enjoys singing old songs that her own parents, who were singers, taught her so many years ago.
When visited for this story a few days ago, she took the reporter’s hand in hers with a firm, welcoming grip. Seated in a wheelchair with a shawl wrapped around her frail body, she said she was look forward to blowing out the candles on a tasty cake.
Happy birthday, Doña Leandra.