One hundred years, three wives and thirteen children after he was born on December 1, 1921, Sunnyvale resident Santiago Ramos Aguilar, a native of El Salvador, is still an invincible family patriarch, in love with Yolanda, his wife of 65 years, and dedicated to God and his family.
“He mocks old age and refuses to let it deter him from accomplishing anything he wants,” said his daughter Alma Estiva from Utah.
In 2018 Aguilar, Yolanda and two daughters went to Cuba, where he rode a Brahma bull. In October of this year, he and Yolanda returned to El Salvador, hoping to get his singing career off the ground by promoting his second album of original songs about El Salvador. And, oh, yes, he went horseback riding.
At his home, which he finished remodeling when he was 89, Aguilar does repairs and dismantles and recycles old appliances. He’s a carpenter and, planning ahead, made wood caskets for himself and Yolanda.
Aguilar, who doesn’t need a cane, is more comfortable speaking Spanish than English and is a little hard of hearing, so Estiva interviewed him for this story while she was in town for his 100th birthday party on Dec. 4.
About 150 friends and family from California, Utah, Colorado, North Carolina and Maryland gathered to honor Aguilar, including eight of his nine living children and even a great-great-grandchild.
Members of the Fremont High School Band played big band music outside the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints in Sunnyvale while friends drove by and congratulated Aguilar. Inside the church cultural hall, attendees celebrated with food and dancing.
Aguilar’s biggest accomplishments in life are his family—all American citizens—and joining the church. The teachings of Jesus Christ have guided him in his happy and blessed life. His mother taught him to work hard and be a man of character.
He and his older sister were raised by their single mom, who died when he was 12. At 13, he was adopted and put in charge of planting and selling crops from the family’s ranch, plus raising and selling cattle.
At 18, while finishing high school, Aguilar also began training in construction and then civil engineering.
“His vocational training helped him build a career as a general contractor and this, coupled with his great work ethic, helped him be part of a team that built theaters and big name buildings in El Salvador,” said Aguilar’s daughter.
Though personally successful, Aguilar watched El Salvador’s economic and political situation decline. So, in 1968, he began efforts to emigrate. He came to Sunnyvale in 1975—just four years before civil war broke out, seeking better opportunities for his family.
He was 54. Working as a general contractor was difficult due to the language barrier, so he worked as a custodial engineer. Then at 66, he started a home remodeling business, retiring at 94.
“I love the U.S. because it’s the land of opportunity where anyone can get ahead in life,” he said.
Aguilar’s advice for living a healthy, happy life?
“Keep moving and never stop dreaming. Have a daily schedule with goals to reach.”