Margarita Medrano Ahumada, among the oldest residents of the San Fernando Valley and nation, turned 107 years old on June 30, 2018.
Born during the turbulent decade of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, she immigrated to the United States with her parents at three years of age in 1914. She told her family how she remembered the soldiers’ bullets firing at the train they were traveling in and her parents telling her to hide under the seat, says her daughter, 66, who lives with her.
They settled in El Paso, Texas where she grew up and married Manuel Castro Ahumada on Sept. 29, 1930, who she remained married to for 78 years.
Looking for work during the Great Depression, they moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s and later moved to Sylmar in 1957 where they purchased a home and continued to raise their family in what was then a rustic community of small ranches, dirt roads and rows of orange and olive groves.
Their daughter, “Conchita,” would be among a handful of Mexican-American students to attend Valley College in 1958, now called Los Angeles Valley College and later become a Bi-lingual teacher in the 1960s.
For many years, Ahumada tended to an abundance of plants and trees and still today, continues to live in the same house surrounded by mature orange trees.
But “sticking together” as a family has always been at the heart of her home, which she has enjoyed and has grown to include 23 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren.
Reading the newspaper from front-to-back was always part of her daily routine, keeping her abreast of current issues, whereas now she skims and looks briefly only at what interests her.
Once an “exceptional” cook of traditional Mexican food, her daughter recalls, “the mid-day meal was the most important and often included soup, fresh tortillas, meat, vegetables and fruit.”
Her husband, Manuel, who lived to be 99 1/2, often began the day with a hot bowl of “avena” (oatmeal).
While life has many ups and downs, including the tragic loss of a daughter in a major airline crash and the loss of a grandson, her resilience has been boosted by faith in God and daily prayer. She has always stayed focused on the needs of her family and with her husband lived the motto of “minding their own business.”
It’s now become a family tradition to celebrate Ahumada’s birthday with a gathering of family, friends and neighbors attending a home mass held in Ahumada’s spacious yard. Rev. Henry Kiwanuka, originally from Uganda, sometimes travels a great distance to celebrate Holy Mass, and on one of his most recent visits asked Ahumada to bless him.
Now less than three years away from becoming a supercentenarian, and cared for by her daughter who is her youngest offspring, Ahumada “takes life one day at a time.” She enjoys receiving visits and love from her family and likes to sing the songs she still remembers from her youth, even while sleeping.
While she still enjoys the written word, the daily newspaper has gradually been replaced with children’s prayer books and different kinds of picture books in Spanish and English.
Ahumada’s longevity amazes all those around her including her Mission Hills physician, Dr. Joel D. Clarfield, who quipped during one office visit, “If she keeps getting any younger, she’s going to bury all of us.”