100 Years Young: Long Beach Woman Celebrates a Century of Life With Love and Laughter


Carmen Gonzalez sits with her certificates (center), surrounded by her family. Photo courtesy of SCAN Health Plan. 

Carmen Gonzalez has seen a lot in the last century.

Born in 1915 in Huanimaro, Guanajuato Mexico, her family, friends, faith and calm disposition resulted in her celebrating her 100th birthday last week, complete with a mariachi band, dancing and plenty of food.

The secret to her success?

“Stay calm, live peacefully and don’t have any bad habits (like gambling),” she said. “Have God in your heart. And make sure you go to bed early.”

Mayor Robert Garcia recognized her crossing the century milestone with a certificate, and she’s awaiting one from the White House as well.

Gonzalez’s serene approach to life has seen her through good times and bad, her family said. They, along with Independence at Home, a part of the SCAN health plan, take care of her.

From witnessing the Mexican Revolution to worshipping in the hillsides when Catholic services were barred from the country, her love and faith have propelled her forward.

“The Federales would kill people if they were worshipping,” said her son-in-law, Roland León. “They killed her brother-in-law during the Mexican Revolution. They thought he was a rebel.”

Gonzalez raised her nine children in a home with a dirt floor, said her daughter Alicia León. Her husband supported the family through his work as a sculptor, creating carvings out of rocks foraged in the neighboring hillsides, often for churches.

“We grew up very poor, but very loving,” Alicia said. “Our meals consisted of beans and cactus. No milk.”

One of Gonzalez’s sons had polio, and when the teacher forced him to sit on the floor rather than accommodate his needs, Gonzalez fought for equal treatment, knowing her son needed an education because he was physically unable to perform hard labor in a factory. She was ultimately successful; the teachers relented and the son grew up to become a teacher.

Her daily trips to Mass helped her adjust to a new life in the United States when she moved in 1966, and helped her through the death of her husband in the 1980s, according to Alicia.

Gonzalez’s nine children and over 33 grandchildren continue to care for her, and are proud of their smiling matriarch.

When she was greeted by a traditional Mexican mariachi band and 30 family and friends on Wednesday morning, she was “so emotional she was crying happy tears,” said León. “And everybody else was happy.”

And that was just the beginning—last weekend, the family threw a party at a local senior center with over 200 friends a family, lasting from 5:00PM to 11:00PM. Cake, music, dancing and more was scheduled to duly commemorate Gonzalez’s lasting legacy.

Gonzalez said her birthday wish was for people “to dance and sing.” For her, Gonzalez’s family is willing to do anything. But even with last weekend’s party, Gonzalez is far from finished with her lifetime plans.

“How many years more do you want to live?” asked Alicia. 

Gonzalez smiled.

“Another 50,” she said.

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