The Oldest man on earth is Spanish…again
Saturnino de la Fuente García, from León, may already have been officially the earliest-born surviving male on the planet since there has been some dispute over whether Emilio Flores could be legally considered as such.
Flores had given his date of birth as being a few months before Saturnino’s but did not have a proper birth certificate since, at the time, in many countries, either these were not automatic, did not exist at all, or contained errors.
In fact, although Saturnino’s national ID card gives his date of birth as February 12, 1909, his son-in-law Bernardo Marcos explains he was actually born on February 8, 1909.
This is because it was habitual in the early years of the last century to wait about four days before registering a birth – at a time when infant mortality was very high all over the world, it was often considered that there was no point in going through the paperwork until you were fairly confident the newborn was going to live.
Briefly, Spain was once home to the oldest man and the oldest woman in Europe – Ana María Vela Rubio, from Barcelona, turned 116 in October 2017, but passed away in December that year; from August 11, 2017, Francisco Núñez Olivera, from Extremadura, became the oldest man on earth, turning 113 on December 13 that year, but passed away on January 29, 2018.
It is much harder to live long enough to be the planet’s oldest woman – for men, this title can reach them within months of their 112th birthdays, but women normally have to live to be over 117.
Ana Vela became the world’s third-oldest, but at present, the longest-living woman on earth who is still alive is Kane Tanaka, from Japan, who will be exactly 118 and nine months if she survives until September 2, having been born the day after New Year in 1903.
Nobody born in the 19th century remains alive today – the last living person with a date of birth prior to the 20th century was Italy’s Emma Morano, who came into the world on November 29, 1899, and died on April 15, 2017, aged 117 years and 137 days; although one or two people claim to have been, they are unable to prove it.
Emma Morano was, at the time, the only remaining human who had been alive in three different centuries.
As for Saturnino, he has been the oldest man in Europe since Francisco Núñez Olivera passed away, but he now enters the Guinness Book of Records once again, this time at the global level.
He was born during the reign of King Alfonso XIII, lived through the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (from 1923 to 1930), remembers life during the Second Republic, and also during the Civil War.
Saturnino was not on the front line during the 1936-1939 conflict – he did not, apparently, make the cut – but his shoe factory was used to make boots for the national Armed Forces.
He went on to have eight children, although three of them have died, the most recent being in 2020.
The Covid crisis is the second pandemic Saturnino has lived through – he survived the so-called Spanish ‘Flu in 1918 – although this time around, he was the first man in the whole of his province to be vaccinated, given that the Covid jabs have been administered in descending order of age.
Welcoming 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren into the world over his long life was something Saturnino could never have guessed he would get to see – especially as he seriously thought he was going to die when he was 28.
He found himself trapped under the rubble left by an air crash, when a Cóndor Legion plane went down in 1937, falling onto the C/ La Rúa in León city – but, clearly, somehow, he survived.
A shoemaker by trade, Saturnino started work in a footwear factory aged 13 and remained there for over 30 years, until it closed down; at this point, he decided to return to live in the neighbourhood he was born in, the Puente Castro area of León city.
It was here that he founded the local football team, CD Puente Castro – which is still active, and Saturnino is an honorary member.
Published thinkspain.com 21 August 2021