Saturday, October 28, 2006

Cuba's Oldest Person dies at 126, October 13th 2006

Benito Martinez Abrogan, Cuba's oldest person and star of the government's efforts to promote healthy lives for its oldest citizens, died in Central Cuba. He was said to be 126, but there was no definitive proof of his age, as he had no birth certificate.

Martínez claimed to have come to Cuba via steamship in the 1920s, whereupon he initially found employment on the family ranch of Cuban president Fidel Castro. He was nicknamed, “El Avión” (the aeroplane), for the speed at which he worked. He later settled in a small farming community outside Ciego de Avila, where he lived out his days as a perpetual bachelor. He attributed his longevity to a healthy diet of rice and fresh vegetables and the occasional alcoholic beverage. Mr. Martínez also said the secret to his long life was that, "he had never cheated a man or said bad things of other people."

Benito lived alone, although a local helper cooked and cleaned for him. He has never been married and never had any children. He never owned a car. He always walked, rode a bike or took the bus. Hobbies included breeding fighting cocks, growing bananas and dancing. He rarely over ate as food was rationed. He ate mostly starchy cassava and sweet potatoes cooked in pork fat. Only in the last twenty years of his life did he give up smoking. His first doctor's visit was not until he was around 115. The only time he went to the hospital was a few days before he died.

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