SANTIAGO – Born in 1896 – four years before the current Guinness-listed oldest person, Nabi Tajima – Celino Villaneuva Jaramillo lost his birth certificate in the same house fire that made him destitute 20 years ago.
But the birth date on his Chilean identity card is 1896, and no one in Chile up to the president and justice minister (who personally delivered his renewed ID card in 2016) doubts his longevity.
“Checking our records, Celino Villanueva Jaramillo was effectively born on 25 July 1896 – and he’s still alive,” said Jacqueline Salinas, one of the heads of the demographic department at Chile’s office of statistics.
‘Don Celino’ was born in the town of Río Bueno, around 30 miles south of the regional capital of Valdivia. It was the year of the first modern Olympics, when Utah became the 45th US state, Victoria became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, and Ford produced its first motor vehicle.
For the past 30 years, the 121-year-old has been working for a landowner called Ambrosio Toledo.
For his 115th birthday in 2011, the billionaire president, Sebastián Piñera, personally flew down to Valdivia accompanied by the minister of social development, Joaquin Lavin, their plane loaded with generous gifts for Chile’s oldest citizen.
Lavin presented Jaramillo with a certificate verifying the government’s recognition of his age, and told him he was a shining example of health and vitality to follow for all citizens and of the government’s commitment to Chile’s seniors.
Piñera presented him with a set of earphones, two crutches and a small wood-burning stove.
Sadly, no offer was made for the provision of specialist geriatric care to Chile’s and possibly the world’s oldest living inhabitant.
Now almost 90% blind due to his (operable) cataracts, 85% deaf and toothless, the man cannot walk without a helping hand, but occasionally breaks into chat.
He never married or had any children.
This article was originally appeared on Guardian.