Maria Capovilla


September 14, 1889


August 27, 2006 (aged 116)

Place of death


María Esther Heredia de Capovilla (née Lecaro; known internationally as María Capovilla; 14 September 1889 – 27 August 2006) was an Ecuadorian supercentenarian, and, at the time of her death at age 116 years 347 days, was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living person. She was the last remaining person born in the 1880s, excluding the alleged Brazilian supercentenarians.

Capovilla is the oldest person ever of South America as well as of the southern hemisphere, and is one of nine people who have lived to age 116 without question. Furthermore, she was the first 116-year-old to live across three centuries, and the oldest person born in the 19th century to have lived into the 21st century; historically she is the oldest person ever to have lived across three centuries. Capovilla is also the oldest person from a developing country.


Born as María Esther Heredia Lecaro in Guayaquil, she was the daughter of a colonel, and lived a life among the upper-class elite, attending social functions and art classes. She never smoked or drank hard liquor. In 1917, she married a military officer, Antonio Capovilla, who died in 1949. Antonio, an ethnic Italian, was born in Pola, Austria-Hungary (now Pula, Croatia), in 1864. He moved to Chile in 1894 and then to Ecuador in 1910. After his first wife died, he married María. They had five children, three of whom were living at María's death: Hilda (81), Irma (80) and son Anibal (78). She also had twelve grandchildren, twenty great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.[1]

At age 100, Maria nearly died and was given last rites, but had been free of health problems since then. In December 2005, at the age of 116, Maria was in good health for someone of her age and watched TV, read the paper and walked without the aid of a stick (though she was helped by an aide). Unfortunately, Maria was not able to leave her home in the two years before her death and she shared her home with her eldest daughter Hilda, and her son-in-law. In a media interview Maria stated her dislike of the fact that women nowadays are permitted to court men, rather than the reverse.

By March 2006, however, Capovilla's health had declined, and she was not able to read the newspaper any more. Maria had nearly stopped talking and no longer walked except when helped by two people. Still, Capovilla was able to sit in her chair and fan herself, and had been doing fine until she succumbed to a bout of pneumonia in the last week of August 2006, just 18 days before she would have celebrated her 117th birthday.

Age recordsEdit

Capovilla was named the World's Oldest Person by Guinness World Records on 9 December 2005, thus superseding both Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper of the Netherlands thought to be the world's oldest person from 29 May 2004 to 30 August 2005, when she died, and Elizabeth Bolden of the United States, thought to be the world's oldest person from 30 August 2005 to 9 December 2005.

Guinness noted that "María Esther de Capovilla has beaten the odds – not only to live past 116, but to have the records to prove it." Their spokesman, Sam Knights, added in a telephone interview from London that "while a lot of the time it's difficult for people to prove their age, there was no problem with any of the documents we were shown in Mrs Capovilla's case".[2] Capovilla was finally added to the Guinness website on 12 April 2006.

On 10 February 2004, Capovilla surpassed Australian Christina Cock to become the oldest person ever from the Southern Hemisphere (since Guayaquil lies below the Equator).

At the time of her death at age 116 years 347 days, she and still is the fifth-oldest fully documented and officially validated person to have ever lived.

Following her death on 27 August 2006, her successor as oldest person was Elizabeth Bolden, the previous "titleholder". Bolden became only the second person to regain the title after losing it (Frenchwoman and all-time world recordholder Jeanne Calment was the first). On August 15, 2006 when Elizabeth Bolden turned 116 there were two people living above the age of 116 until 12 days later when Capovilla died. Elizabeth Bolden died 104 days later and it took just over six years after Bolden's 116th birthday until Besse Cooper reached 116 in August 2012.

She is almost 300 days older than Yoshi (116 years, 54 days).

Capovilla was the last remaining person outside of Brazil, born in 1889 and the 1880s.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

Template:S-achTemplate:End box
Preceded by
Ramona Trinidad Iglesias-Jordan
Oldest recognized living person
29 May 2004 – 27 August 2006
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Bolden
Preceded by
Jeanne Calment
Last surviving link born in a decade
Succeeded by