Carmelo Flores Laura, a Bolivian cattle and sheep herder, was born in 1890 — 123 years ago — according to Bolivian public records. That’s a year before the invention of the rotary-dial telephone and two years before the first Ferris wheel spun at the Chicago World’s Fair.
If the records are accurate, Flores is the oldest living person ever documented.
Associated Press reporters recently visited Flores at his straw-roofed hut near Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca. Although he has no teeth and is nearly deaf, Flores walks without a cane and speaks in a firm voice, the news agency reported.
“I see a bit dimly,” Flores told the AP. “I had good vision before. But I saw you coming.”
A Bolivian official presented as evidence of Flores’ age a registry listing his birthdate as July 16, 1890. He said Flores’ birth predates the existence of birth certificates in Bolivia by 50 years.
A Guinness World Records spokeswoman told the AP that she knew of no claim being filed for Flores. But if his age is correct, the Bolivian has bested by one year Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died in 1997 at the verified age of 122.
Flores chalks up his long life to a lot of walking.
“I go out with the animals,” said the longtime sheep and cattle herder.
He eats barley, instead of rice or noodles, and drinks water that originates on Illampu, the fourth-highest mountain in Bolivia.
As the Los Angeles Times reported in an obituary after Calment’s death, the French woman credited her longevity to an occasional glass of port wine and eating plenty of olive oil.
Calment smoked until 1995, when she became too blind to light her own cigarettes and disliked asking anyone else to do it for her.
On her 121st birthday, in 1996, she released a CD, “Time’s Mistress,” which showcased her reminiscences over a background of rap and other music.
As for Flores, he says he very much misses his wife, who died more than a decade ago. One of his children is still living, 67-year-old Cecilio. Most of his 40 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren have moved away from his small Bolivian hamlet.