If Bolivia’s public records are correct, 123-year-old Carmelo Flores Laura is the oldest living person ever documented.
"I should be about 100 years old or more," Flores said, though his memory is weak.
Flores' 27-year-old grandson said he fought in the 1933 Chaco war with Paraguay, though Flores recalls very little of the event.
Though Bolivia did not begin issuing birth certificates until 1940, births were often registered with the Catholic Church when a child was baptized. The state recognizes the certificate as a valid document, so the registry lists Flores’ birth date as July 16, 1890.
The native Aymara lives in a straw-roofed and dirt-floor hut in isolated Frasquia near Lake Titicaca, at a high elevation of 13,100 feet. He is illiterate, speaks no Spanish and has no teeth.
Though Flores can walk without a cane and see without glasses, one must talk into his ear to be heard.
Flores attributed his health to walking and staying away from rice or noodles. He drank alcohol only in his youth and has drunk water from the snow-capped peak of Illampu alone, one of the highest in Bolivia.
Flores added that he has never traveled far from his home, citing La Paz as the furthest destination at about 50 miles away.
Though electricity came to Frasquia three years ago, many of the peasants continue to plow fields with ox and prepare Chuno. Most of the village’s residents are elderly or middle-aged, and the young have seemed to move on.