100 Years Of Love

By: Anamarys Cruz

 

When you travel for the first time to Las Marías, you can’t leave the town without visiting Las Marías’ grandmother. Also known as Zoila Martínez, she is 5’3” of pure love.

“I love having people over at my home. I say everyone is welcome to visit me, I love talking and learning new things from people of all over Puerto Rico… and Miami too,” she said in a recent interview.

When you set foot in her house she greets you with cheese, crackers and a cup of delicious fresh coffee. While talking to you she will start watering her white and red roses in her small garden. Her red lips and cute smile will captivate you and her angelic and sweet voice will entice you to linger on.

Every second week of the month, Martínez is visited by her neighbor Pedro Gustavo Méndez, 87. Martínez knows that she loves white roses and every time he visits he brings one rose to her. “She is just so special and the way she treats everyone, like family, is very admirable, I just can’t stop visiting her,” said Gustavo Méndez.

Born to a family of few resources she grew up to be an example to her townspeople. From an early age, she always loved helping her family. “I remember that my mom taught me to knit and I started making miscellaneous and every Friday I went to the market to sell them,” she recalled.

She never had the opportunity to study, but that didn’t stop her because she raised her 11 children well. She is proud to state that she never needed a man to take care of herbecause she dedicated her entire life to working at her farm to provide for her children. “I remember like if it was yesterday that my last husband didn’t want my kids to eat pork and I told him if my kids don’t eat it, you don’t eat either. I got him out of the house threatening him with a machete and he cried like a baby,” said Martínez.

Around the figure of Martínez, evolves a familiar story where a mother’s love prevails infinitely. As her three eldest reached their adulthood, they faced the risk of being recruited to the war in Vietnam. They were in danger of being recruited immediately to the war in Vietnam. She clung to her Catholic faith and pledged to the Three Kings that if they intervened to deter her kid’s recruitment, she would honor them with sung prayers every January 5. Today, her party in honor of the Three Kings is one of the most recognized in Puerto Rico and is attended each year by family and friends from across the island.

In spite of all she has a sense of accomplishment about her long life. “I’m very proud of what my eleven children achieved, all of them have their families and a very decent job, that was all I ever asked for. “She recalls that all of her children were very responsible and respectful since childhood. They helped her in the farm and also selling their produce in the market.

Martínez admits that it wasn’t easy for her to raise so many kids on her own, but she did give up in the effort. “The problem we have had for generations now is that parents do not teach their kids values, do not educate them to be good people,” she added.

Her sense of pride is reflected in other aspects of herself. At 100 years of age, Martínez always has her hair done by her daughter and never leaves her home without lipstick on.. Her daily ritual includes a splash of her special cologne. “I can’t go out looking horrible or not smelling good. What if my lover is waiting for me in the supermarket; you never know. I’m still young,”she says grinning.

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“Zoila Martínez putting some makeup before her doctor’s appointment.”

Former Las Marías mayor Edwin Soto Santiago dedicated one of the editions of the Festival de la China (The Orange Festival) many years ago to her because of her humility with the townspeople. They made a replica of her house and people all over the town got to know her a little more.

“I love visiting Zoila Martínez, I could spend all day in that wooden chair listening to her stories and drinking that amazing coffee,”said Soto.

Martínez is very proud of the woman she turned out to be. Today she is convinced that people don’t need to be rich to have everything in life; the most important thing is always being humble and grateful for “God’s daily gifts.”

For her 100th birthday on November 28, 2013 everyone gathered in a really nice birthday party where she was very surprised by how many people came to show their love.

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“Some of Zoila Martínez grown up children on her 100th birthday celebration on November 28, 2013.”

If you ever think of visiting Las Marías, take a time to visit Zoila Martínez and let her personality charm you. She has many stories for you… and a warm cup of coffee.

 

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