HAVANA–She has trouble seeing and needs help to stand up, but at 126 years young Juana Bautista de la Candelaria Rodriguez says she still has a lot of good years left. “They say I am the oldest person in Cuba, I would never have thought it, and I really hope to get to 130,” the woman known affectionately by her nick-name “Candulia” told the daily La Demajagua. She remains healthy and in good spirits, according to the local Cuban media Thursday as she celebrated her 126th birthday surrounded by her numerous family, neighbors and friends. And she said she was “happy with everything that life has offered, a marvelous family and my country.” She has three children — two of whom are already deceased — six grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. According to the civil register in her village of Campechuela, Candulia was born on Feb. 2, 1885, the second of 13 children born to parents who also survived to be almost 100 years old. But no international list recognizes her birth, so officially she is not registered as one of the oldest people on Earth. That title belongs to 114-year-old Besse Cooper of the U.S. state of Georgia — born August 26, 1896 — according to the Gerontology Research Group. Cooper was born Besse Brown in Sullivan County, Tennessee, the third of eight children. She graduated from East Tennessee Normal School and was a teacher in her native Tennessee before moving to Georgia.
There are 1,500 centenarians who live among Cuba’s 11.2 million people.