José Dominguez with 5-year-old Laura del Pilar Alonzo, a family friend.
When I interviewed José Dominguez for a story about aging, he looked like a man in his 70s or 80s. He looked incredible. He told me:
To still be alive after all these years is my destiny.This was in 2003. I wrote that while Cuba had one of the highest life expectancy rates in the Americas, the country's "aging population is also a demographic time bomb." The story continued:
By 2015, as many as one in five Cubans will be 60 or older. By 2025, that number will be one in four, and by 2035, one in three - which would be unprecedented in the world, Cuban researchers say.
Dominguez told me that work had helped him live longer, though it had taken a toll on his once sturdy back. The 2003 story said:
He was born in the Canary Islands in 1896. At 24, he journeyed to Cuba seeking his fortune. He worked for many years in agriculture and tended tobacco fields.
He smoked, too, although he gave that up at age 51. His eyesight and hearing are good, and he spends many afternoons sitting on the porch of his home in Varadero, east of Havana.
I also interviewed José Oscar Jimenez, a retired doctor in Varadero. He was 101 at the time. His daughter Rosa Maria Jimenez, 51, told me that while his hearing and vision were poor, his mind was strong. She said:
He has a fighting spirit. He has guts. He fights for every minute of life he can get.
She also credited Cuban health care for her father's longevity, saying doctors are available "any hour of the day or night. If you call, they're here in three minutes with oxygen, medicine or whatever he needs. And it's all totally free."
She described her father's daily routine:
He wakes up at 8 or 9 a.m. and eats breakfast. A few hours later, he bathes. He has lunch between noon and 1 p.m. and takes a nap. At 7 p.m., he eats dinner and at 10 or 10:30 he goes to sleep. He's like a clock.He doesn't drink but has smoked cigars since age 13, she said.