Simona Villegas Cortez was a mother to the superlative degree. She gave birth twelve times (six sons and six daughters) and has lived to see the birth of thirty grandchildren, nineteen great-grandchildren and, in August 2010, the birth of her first great-great-grandchild. Simona was content and proud to be the matriarch of such a large family because they all respect her and each other. She pass away Thursday, March 5.
Here is an article written for Mother´s Day 2011 honoring Simona
Respect is key to contentment for Nicoyan mother of four generations
“Thanks to God, they have lived very united,” she boasts. They love and respect each other, they don’t have vices, and they all studied and work. Her children have chosen career paths such as law, education, social services, radiology and forestry engineering. She credits their amazing respect to the example she and her husband have set for them. “We’re respectful toward religion and helpful to the community both he and I, and we taught this to our children,” she explained.
Her Early Years
Simona was born March 24, 1917 in Quebrada Honda of Nicoya. She turned 94 this year. She finished 5th grade when she was about 12 years old and, because there were no teachers available to continue beyond that level, she stayed home helping her mother until she married. Simona smiles as she relates how she fell in love dancing with her husband-to-be, Juan Guevara Matarrita, who is just one month younger than Simona. “The customs before were very different from today,” she reminisced. There was no touching during courtships back then, and communication was limited since there were no telephones. Juan came on horseback to visit and they sent notes to each other.
They were 23 when they met, and after about a year of dating, they married. Simona had some adjusting to do. “I was very proud,” she related. Her family were merchants and she had enjoyed many comforts. her husband’s family worked in agriculture and livestock and, although they had means, they lived with the basics. As well, she couldn’t go buy things nearby. She had to send for things from Puntarenas. Happily, Simona’s father-in-law was very affectionate and bought things for her, including a sewing machine, which allowed Simona to explore her creativity in fashion. “I saw a fashion and I stored it,” she explained, pointing at her temple. From memory, she designed clothes. As her family grew, they were well dressed in Simona’s creations. One of her daughters, Nuri Guevarra Villegas, took up sewing following her mother’s example.
Simona had her first child at 24. “I didn’t know what it meant to be a mother,” she recalled. But she learned. They lived on a finca in Caballito of Nicoya. There was no television, but Simona sang to her children. Her husband would travel about 37 kilometers on horseback to Nicoya to buy things for the family, bearing treats like candy or granizados (snow cones), which would melt in route, but the family enjoyed the flavor.
Although she and her husband came from very different families, Simona is grateful that they knew how to understand and respect each other. “He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t treat me like a fool,” she elaborated. And he is attentive to her.
The Sorrows and Joys of Motherhood
The saddest moments Simona has lived have been the deaths of three of her children. One died at birth and another at five months; but the hardest was when one of her sons died at age 28. He died of throat cancer in the hospital in San Jose. She was alone with him when he died and had to return home alone with his body in order to bury him, passing through Liberia by bus because the Friendship Bridge didn’t exist yet. Afterward, three of her son’s four children came to live with her and she raised them as if they were her own children.
Now Simona lives in the Virginia neighborhood of Nicoya. She and her husband have been married for 70 years and are surrounded by family as most of her children live in the same neighborhood and visit daily. Two of their children live in San Jose and one lives in Tilaran, but they visit every month.
“We’re big partygoers,” her daughter Nuri smiled, as she and Simona described how the family celebrates special days like birthdays and Mother’s Day. They get together for lunch, smiling, joking and teasing each other without any bad behavior.
“As a mother, she has been exemplary,” Nuri boasts. She taught them many values, including how to respect themselves and other people, respecting other’s opinions and decisions. For example, when their father divided up the finca amongst them, they all respected his decisions, not questioning who was given which part.
At 94, Simona has mild diabetes and recently fractured her wrist when she fell in the bathroom, but her vision has not dimmed and she shows off her legs, which have no spider veins. Her vitality is evident as she strongly embraces visitors, and with so many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she has plenty of people to hug!