A century — give or take a few years — sounds like a long time, but for Marcelo Encinas of South Hall, who just celebrated his 107th birthday, it’s gone by in a flash.
“Our life goes by really quick,” he said, in Spanish with his granddaughter Ruby Nash translating. “The best moments, the best memories that I have are from my hometown and how much I loved the nature there.”
Encinas was born Jan. 15, 1915, in Corongo, a province in the northern highlands of Peru flanked by picturesque rivers, waterfalls and hot springs still vivid in his mind’s eye.
“Back then, when life was simple, you would go into the hot springs and after that, eat a good, good breakfast,” Encinas said.
Around age 20 or 30 — specific details that have grown foggy with time and age — he moved to Lima, where he worked as a police officer before retiring to pursue a degree in education, which launched his second career as an elementary school teacher.
He stayed in Lima until just before his 100th birthday, when he moved to Hall County to be near his family. Now, he lives in Braselton with his daughter, Perla Encinas, who left her industrial engineering career to become her father’s primary caregiver.
The oldest in a family of five children, Encinas has three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His one remaining sibling, a sister, will turn 100 this year.
Having gone a full century with no need for the English language, Encinas is fluent in Castilian Spanish and Quechua, an indigenous language of Peru.
Encinas is still quick on his feet with the aid of a walker, which he didn’t start using until he was 102, Nash said. An avid swimmer in his prime, Encinas said that a lifetime of physical activity — including daily dips in Corongo’s hot springs — and a good appetite are his secrets to good health.
The senior has managed to steer clear of any major health issues, including COVID-19.
“It doesn’t want me,” Encinas said. “Thank goodness, I don’t really get sick much — (I’m) usually healthy and strong, thanks to God. It’s a privilege.”
While he’s still pretty spry, subtle reminders bring Encinas to terms with the fact that he’s growing older. He knows a song that, translated to English, sums it up best: “Yesterday I went to look at myself in the mirror and an old man was looking back at me with wrinkles in his face. His hair had turned gray and his eyes had that glazy look to them, and those lips that once used to give away many kisses are all wrinkly.”
Encinas’ lifetime has seen no absence of hardship, but he’s held onto his faith and his sense of humor, finding joy in recounting life’s brighter moments and bringing laughter to those he loves.
“God is the first thing, Encinas said. “We all go through rough times — nobody is free of having tough times. It’s better to be funny than to be angry.”
And although he’s far removed from the days of his youth, Encinas’ childlike wonder persists.
“When you’re a kid, you enjoy everything so much; you enjoy life so much, you just go everywhere full of happiness,” he said. “It might not seem true, but you do go back to being like a little kid when you’re really, really old — you have that same spark that you did when you were a kid.”
According to Perla, the family’s patriarch has been fortunate to experience — and relive through memory — countless moments in time, and she considers herself lucky to bear witness of it.
“When you remember something good, it’s like living the same moment you’ve lived before again in your today,” she said. “Everything is borrowed in this life. It’s like a picture, a movie, our life. We start at one point and finish at another point. I only ask God for strength, patience, wisdom and I try to do my best.”
“We appreciate all that he did for us when we were little — it’s our time to give back,” Nash added.
As he reflects on the years behind him, Encinas offers a tidbit of wisdom to younger generations: “To all the young people, I would tell them to live a good life with tenderness and love and understanding — because we all need to be a little bit more understanding.”