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New York Post
Esperanza Marrero: NY Golden Oldie Reaches Spry 110
June 9, 2003
She lived through every second of the 20th century, from the Wright Brothers to the space shuttle, from barber-shop quartets to hip hop.
And now, Esperanza Marrero of the Lower East Side is the oldest person in New York state, at 110 years and 4 1/2 months.
Marrero achieved her status last week after Emma Stark of Rochester died at 110 years, 5 months. Stark, a New Year's 1893 baby, was Marrero's senior by only 18 days.
The spunky Marrero, who has a third-floor apartment in the Jacob Riis Houses, came to America at age 56 in 1949. The Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, native has outlived two husbands - not to mention six of her 11 children.
She has 15 grandchildren, including Victor Valentin, 55, who stays with her overnight after her home attendant leaves, and dozens of great-grandchildren - perhaps 40 or so - relatives say.
Marrero, who speaks no English, credits her longevity to getting off to a great start in Puerto Rico.
"We ate mangos, fresh fruit and fresh tropical vegetables. Never heavy foods," she said through a translator.
She said her grandmother survived to 120. "Her mother died young," said home attendant Angelita Salgado. "She was 79." Salgado takes Marrero to the East River to watch the boats or to stores on 14th Street. They also make daily visits to the Lillian Wald Senior Center, where Marrero plays bingo.
An important member of the household is Benji, a 6-year-old mongrel. "He's saved her life a thousand times," said Salgado. "When she gets up in the middle of the night, he'll bark and makes sure someone gets up and monitors her. And he barks when she may lose her balance and bump into the wall."
Coming to America was the greatest thing that ever happened to her, says Marrero. "I was dying to get here," said Marrero, who worked as a cook and domestic here in the U.S. "Look, I'm still here, with God's blessings."