Resident turns 116 in dilapidated Seville shanty town

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Daughter refuses to put her mother in a nursing home "where she'll die."

7 January 2008

SEVILLE - María Díaz Cortés celebrated her 116th birthday on Friday with three cakes but without any running hot water.

The centenarian María - who is believed to be Spain's oldest woman - lives in El Vacie, a shanty town built behind Seville's San Fernando cemetery. In the makeshift home, she lives with her daughter Dolores and four grandchildren. They have no running hot water or heating. In the old woman's bedroom, there is a crack in the wall from where the outside cold air seeps in.

"The only thing we have been offered is to put my mother in a nursing home, but I am not about to put my mother in any home to die," explained Dolores.

Volunteers from the Pro-Human Rights Association of Andalusia organised a birthday party in an effort to draw attention to María's living standards and demand that the regional government provide adequate housing for her and her family.

"If they have to tear down El Vacie, when will I get a new home? When she dies?" Dolores asked.

According to María's resident DNI card, she was born on 4 January 1892 in Granada, the daughter of two Gypsies. She worked as a basket maker and had five children. The family has lost count of the exact number of grandchildren she has: "At least 30 or more," says Dolores.

María came to El Vacie sometime in the 1970s when she had to abandon her home on Seville's Polvero street, her daughter said. The home in El Vacie is a small three-bedroom abode with María's room barely measuring four-square meters.

In November, Ana Gómez, social welfare counsellor in Andalusia, said in a press interview that she was working on a report to help the family acquire a new home but didn't rule out the possibility that the old woman would be taken to a nursing home - an option her daughter has rejected. According to Gómez, María arrived at the El Vacie shanty town "in 1996 and not before," and has received "numerous government benefits and aid." She said that María qualifies for assistance under the new Dependency Law but her family has not filed the necessary papers.

María can no longer walk without help and spends most of her time in bed except when she is lifted out of it for meals. But she can still sew. On Friday, she ate a large batch of cookies for breakfast, talked to reporters for a while before asking to be taken back to bed.

[Copyright El Pais / TEREIXA CONSTENLA 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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