Tribute to Panchita: One of the Oldest People in the World

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A hundred years is nothing for Maria Francisca Isolina Castillo Carrillo – she is one of the oldest people in the world and for that reason the Nicoyan Cultural Radio System decided to pay tribute to “Panchita” on Saturday, February 14.

The homage was made by Abdenago “Nago” Torres Melendez on his program “Nago de Nicoya,” which is broadcasted on Saturdays at 11 a.m.

Maria Francisca was born on November 3, 1906, in Matina de La Mansion de Nicoya. Cuban blood runs through her veins, as her father, Tomas Castillo Armas “Cuba Libra,” was Cuban. He was a trusted companion of General Antonio Maceo y Grijales.

At 108 years old, Panchita is still able-minded, eats everything and even dances. Proudly she mentioned that during the recent fiestas in Hojancha she danced to the sound of the marimba. But above all, Panchita is famous for her blessings that she learned as a girl, which she still joyfully shares with those who ask for them.

Steeped in tradition, dressed in an old-style dress and apron, Maria Francisca blessed the majority of those in attendance, including some who arrived late to the station to listen to her words.

She says that she never got married because men in her time were very machista, and after drinking, they would beat women. “I don’t get married nor do I get together [with anyone for a long time]. They would hit me once, but not twice.” She explained that she would “leave fleeing” any time a man would hit her. She had five children – Pablo, Ramon, Calixto, Israel and Marcos.

Although she can only hear from her left ear and her vision is foggy, Panchita is an example of good health. She does not suffer from any serious illness, and she only gets sick once in a while. She is cared for by her granddaughter Magdalena Mendoza Mendoza, the daughter of Pablo Castillo Carrilllo, Panchita’s oldest son.

Her granddaughter describes Panchita’s routine as very calm. They live together in their house in Lapas de Mansion. “She gets up when I do; I always bathe her from six to 6:30, then I move her. Her breakfast is a pork tamal with coffee. After eight she eats two oranges, at nine she eats yogurt, at 10:30 she’s ready for lunch, she lays down and at 1:30 drinks coffee and at 5:30 she has some egg soup and goes to bed,” she explained.

Marcial Castillo Matarrita is Panchita’s grandson, and he says that what he most appreciates about her is her knowledge and gift with people. “She applies everything she has learned in her life and tries to help those around her. She always tells me you have to be humble.”

Abdenago Torres, president of Cultural Radio, said he was excited to be able to have Maria Francisca on the program and to pay her tribute. “It’s very exciting because sometimes we have things that are so close but we can’t appreciate them, and for that reason we make a lot of mistakes and miss what’s most important. The fact that the most important scientists in the world have declared Nicoya as the best place in the world for longevity should make us very proud and happy.”

During her visit to the radio station, Panchita delighted those present and those listening with a song she wrote for one of her boyfriends. As a girl, she sewed, took care of domestic chores, worked all over with the machete, shaped tortillas and cooked everything. “But what I never tried was liquor… that belongs to the Devil,” she stated seriously.

The centenarian was accompanied by her grandchildren, officials and students from the Nicoya High School, and radio authorities who presented her with a painting of a traditional house in the Guanacaste countryside by Miguel Angel Allan.