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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Cayey woman celebrates her 104th birthday

Emilia Rivera Espada of Cayey as a young woman (at left), and at age 104

By The Star Staff

For many people, a birthday -- any birthday -- has significant meaning, while for others it may not mean much at all. Regardless of whatever someone’s perception is of birthdays, they in fact mark another year of a person’s life on planet earth. Another spin around the sun, in other words. Some people have spun around the sun more than 100 times, and to many of us this is a difficult-to-fathom event, when compared to having only experienced birthdays six,17, 27, 34 or 47 times.

Based on a 2022 estimate by the United Nations, there are 593,000 centenarians around the world and Emilia Rivera Espada is one of them. The Cayey resident has completed four additional spins around the sun after turning 100.

Cayey Mayor Rolando Ortíz Velázquez announced late last week that Rivera Espada’s family celebrated her 104th birthday with the enthusiasm that the occasion deserved.

“Without a doubt, today’s positive news is that tomorrow, Saturday, July 29, this beloved family once again celebrates the honor and joy of spending another year with this extraordinary woman, who has already lived a century,” the mayor stated on Friday.

Rivera Espada is recognized in Cayey as one of the town’s truly exemplary residents. Born in 1919, she is originally from the Barrio Matón Abajo neighborhood in the Cartagena sector. For as long as she can remember she has always loved gardening, especially when it comes to planting roses. She now enjoys five generations of the Rivera and Espada family, which makes her the oldest person in her neighborhood by far.

“We want to congratulate her children Bienvenida, Jorge, Félix, Estanislao, Augusto and Juan,” the mayor said. “We also want to congratulate her grandchildren, great grandchildren and other family members. All of them are great examples of the love and education cultivated by Emilia within them.”

Somewhat oddly, not much has changed in 104 years, because in the year Rivera Espada was born, another pandemic took place -- the influenza pandemic known as the Spanish Flu. Moreover, on Oct. 11, 1919, when Rivera Espada was merely a baby of four months, Puerto Rico suffered a magnitude 7.3 earthquake on the Rossi-Forel scale (which was used during those times). According to historical records, the earthquake struck at around 10:14 a.m. on the day of Saint Fermín in the Catholic calendar, and so it was thereafter associated with that day.

In 1919 and throughout 1920, the United States military built three steel towers in Cayey, each measuring 620 feet tall. The towers were built with the purpose of establishing a high-powered radio station on the island. Decades later, the towers were dismantled.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Rivera Espada was born right after peace came to the world, considering that the day before she was born, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in Paris, which put an end to the First World War.

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