Dancing ‘Like a Spinning Top’ at 105

Fidel Feliciano dances with his caregiver Vernetta Darby of Throgs Neck Extended Care Facility. (Photo by José Acosta via El Diario-La Prensa)

Of the 312 million U.S. residents, it is estimated that around 70,000 are 100-years-old or older. Fidel Feliciano from Puerto Rico is one of them. Feliciano was recognized for reaching the ripe old age of 105 during the third annual Centenarian Celebration at the beginning of Bronx Week.

There were eight people who were 100 or older at the festival. Fidel Feliciano wasn’t just the only Latino, but also the first who stood in the middle of the floor to dance salsa. He said he began learning to dance from birth.

Fidel Feliciano, 105, with a copy of El Diario-La Prensa, a newspaper that’s five years younger than him. (Photo by José Acosta via El Diario-La Prensa)

Don Fidel, El Diario/La Prensa is celebrating its 100th anniversary and is five years younger than you. Are you familiar with El Diario and did you read it?

I came to New York when I was 28, and El Diario was one of the newspapers that I used to read, but five years ago I lost my sight and I stopped reading. I liked all the paper, and I read it front to back.

Which city in Puerto Rico were you born in and what kind of work did you do there?

I was born in San Juan. I worked there in the sugar industry. I started out by cutting sugar cane and weeding, and was able to move up to become a sugar chemist, despite the fact that I did not have much formal education because I grew up in a poor area and didn’t attend school for long. Later on my family moved to New York and I followed in their footsteps.

How did you earn a living in New York?

I was a cook in a hospital until I retired. I never learned English because that language is too hard. But I was able to make progress. I married three times and I have six children and heaps of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

What did you enjoy doing most?

Dancing and drinking. I danced like a spinning top and I still dance today, although I can’t stay on my feet for very long. I liked dancing to “wind music” [from wind instruments]. I would go from party to party and I had bags of ladies who were my girlfriends, but I no longer sing, not even to the moon.

What type of food do you like?

I eat all kinds of food, but very little. I was never a big eater. My favorite dish is rice with green beans.

What do you miss most from the past?

Walking around by myself. Now I can’t go anywhere alone. Now they bring me everywhere, whether it’s one of my daughters, my caretaker or a friend.

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