Eugenio, 101: “At 95, I Was Still Working Every Day”
To celebrate Service95’s 100th issue, we interviewed a group of very special people – all over 100 years old – inviting them to share their wisdom. Here, 101-year-old Eugenio shares his story…
Eugenio, 101, was born in Córdoba, southern Spain. He now lives in the province of Seville, where he was the first inhabitant of his village. On his 100th birthday, they renamed the street he lives on after him. He is warm-hearted and kind; when he takes a spin on his bike he is greeted by every neighbour, but he has experienced hardship.
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In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) many people suffered malnutrition, and it became known as the ‘years of hunger’. Eugenio recalls that during his military service, he was so hungry that he convinced doctors he had appendicitis because he knew he would be fed in hospital. It worked – he had surgery, though he had no appendicitis, and he even got leave to go home afterwards to recuperate. He tells this story with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, remembering his ingenuity. His education was limited, as he needed to help in the harvest from a young age, but he has worked hard all his life. Eugenio prides himself most, though, on treating his family, friends and neighbours with kindness. He still rides his bike twice a day – and when he turns the pedals, decades fall away.
What has been the happiest moment of your life so far?
When my wife was alive and we had all our children here, that was the happiest thing in the world. Caring for the family is the most important thing, there’s nothing else to aspire to.
What was life like when you came to your village?
We’ve been here since 1968. I was the first one here – this was all marshland and grazing land, but the government gave each of us a house and a bit of land and we planted all sorts, even cotton. I worked in the agricultural cooperative for 40 years – I was the security guard. Every day at 7am, I opened the gates. Up until six years ago, at 95, I was still going every day for a couple of hours.
Have you had a lifelong hobby?
I ride the bike because it gets me around quicker!
How would you describe yourself?
My desire is to help people. I even learned to give vaccines when we didn’t have a doctor here. My wife had a haemorrhage and the doctor had to come from the next town to give her an injection, so he said, “I’m going to teach you.”
Why do you think you are enjoying such a long life?
When I was seven or eight years old, my brother and I used to carry the animal feed and look after the animals, and another man said to my dad, “Your children are made of steel!”
What is the hardest thing you’ve overcome?
The years after war, when there was a lot of hunger. I earned 12 pesetas working in the fields [less than £0.01 in today’s money] and with 12 pesetas, you couldn’t live. If you had a little patch of land, you could just about live because you had something you could sell, like wheat, or if you raised a pig, chickens or turkeys, but those were very hard years.
If you could go back, would you change anything?
No, because I’ve always tried to do good. I’ve always made do with what I’ve had and I’ve never taken advantage of anyone or anything. If anyone needed anything – whoever it was – I would always help.
A Few Of My Favourite Things…
- Favourite Place I enjoyed travelling with my wife – we went to Tenerife and Valencia, but there’s nowhere like home.
- Favourite Book I’ve barely had time to read, with all the work I did in the countryside.
- Favourite Music I’ve always loved flamenco. When I was 11, I saw Canalejas de Puerto Real and El Niño de la Huerta, with Niño Ricardo playing guitar. Later, I liked Juanito Valderrama and La Niña de la Puebla, who sings beautifully.
- Favourite Film I like the films of Joeslito [a Spanish child singer and film star from the 1950s].
- Favourite Drink I don’t drink much, but I like a little glass of red wine.
Laura Potter is a freelance editor, writer and interviewer whose work has appeared in The Observer Magazine, The Guardian’s Saturday magazine, The Times Magazine, Women’s Health and Men’s Health