Oldest person in Catalonia celebrates 113th birthday
"For her, it's as if the years don't pass by," says head of Olot nursing home where Maria Branyas has lived for past 20 years
Pablo Picasso was just finishing his famous painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon) when Maria Branyas was born. That was in 1907, and on Wednesday Maria reached 113 years old, making her the oldest person in Catalonia, and in Spain.
"For Maria, it's as if the years don't pass by," says Montse Valdayo, the head of the Santa Maria del Tura nursing home in Olot, where Maria has lived for the past 20 years. "She carries on with the same character and good humor," she adds.
The home gave Maria a bouquet of flowers for her birthday, and the use of a private room to celebrate her special day with her family. Once the celebrations are over, Maria will go back to her room, where she likes to talk about her past experiences and current affairs.
Pointing out that Maria retains her "cognitive" faculties, Valdayo adds that "she continues to explain the story of her life and her political ideas," and she insists that Maria "continues to be a very special and magnificent woman."
Earliest memories of First World War
In an interview with the Catalan News Agency in August, Branyas, who was born in San Francisco in the year the first car was registered in Barcelona, told how one of her earliest memories is crossing the Atlantic with her family during the First World War.
"Because of the war, Germany was still attacking in the north, and there was no way of going through the Nordic seas, so you had to go further south, via Cuba and the Azores," she said at the time, almost 10 years after the last soldier in that conflict had already died.
Catalonia's centenarian population has multiplied by 14 in the past four decades, going from 140 people aged over a hundred in 1981 to 1,950 people in 2017, according to the most recent figures from the Idescat statistics institute.
In the same time period, the number of people older than 105 has multiplied by 10, with the two oldest people in Catalonia being Maria Branyas, at 113 years of age, and Joaquim Illas, aged 110 and 7 months.