On Oct. 18, María Josefina Cruz Blancas y García put on a black gown and mortarboard and graduated with a university degree in business education. She was 93.
“I was so happy and so proud, but I was afraid I would faint,” Blancas y García said. Her school, Consultores Educativos Saxum SC in Santiago de Querétaro in Mexico, threw a tiny reception for some of her close family members to mark the occasion.
Blancas y García — a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother and lifelong student — went to secondary school and received a vocational education as an accounting assistant in her small hometown, Tulancingo Hidalgo. She worked as a teacher throughout her life.
After a lifetime of working and raising children, Blancas y García said she wants to focus on furthering her studies in the future and is not looking for a job.
She spoke with The Lily over a Zoom video chat and sat next to her granddaughter, Maricruz Rodríguez Silva, 27, who interpreted the conversation.
When she was 60, Blancas y García moved to Querétaro after her husband died. She currently lives with another granddaughter, with whom she is extremely close, she said, and with other family members, including two great-grandchildren. Once she settled in the city three decades ago, she looked for a high school she could study at. But between helping care for grandchildren and teaching classes in typing and shorthand, it was hard to squeeze in time for a degree. Blancas y García is the mother of seven and a grandmother of 14, a great-grandmother to nine and a great-great-grandmother, or tatara abuela, to one.
In 2016, she started studying at a private high school at 88. Her principal encouraged her to apply to university, and she received a full scholarship to go. She matriculated at Saxum SC in 2018.
During the pandemic, when school moved online, the ever-punctual older student was still the first person to show up for class early, her granddaughter said.
“She is so sweet,” added Rodríguez Silva, a nutritionist.
In addition to working toward her business education degree, the nonagenarian also studied theology, earning a diploma in August. Her dream, she said, is to continue studying religion.
“More than the degree she just did, her dream is to get a degree in theology,” said her granddaughter, who is researching such programs now. “She would love that.”
Blancas y García is a devout Catholic who has been an avid reader throughout her life. She loves the Bible, she said. In fact, she just started another course for a two-year diploma in pedagogy on Saturday, also on a full scholarship.
She said she’s used to being the oldest person in her classes — including her teachers. “The younger students are very good to me,” she said. “Even if they are the same age as the son of my granddaughter, they are super sweet and super cute with me. They are so young, but they are super cute.”
When she isn’t studying, she goes to church, volunteers or teaches, or watches religious programming on television.
She also loves pan dulce, or sweet bread, more than anything, she said. But on her graduation day, they celebrated with a tres leches dessert.
Her grandchildren often tell her that she’s an amazing example, and say she is “such a lovely person,” according to Rodríguez Silva. “She is always looking after everyone else. She is endlessly curious. If she doesn’t know the answer to something, she will search for an answer.”
And her grandchildren are still learning about her. Through the course of the interview, Rodríguez Silva discovered the reason Blancas y García married later — when she was 30, which was late for her generation. It turns out she had a story of young love with a sad ending.
“She had another boyfriend when she was young — I didn’t know that,” Rodríguez Silva said, exhibiting surprise as she interpreted for her grandmother. “They wanted to get married but were waiting, but then the boyfriend died. Then she met my grandfather and got married.”
Rodríguez Silva is also the reason her grandmother’s story is getting international attention: Last week, she posted a graduation photo of her grandmother on social media that went viral, and Blancas y García has since done 13 interviews. “It’s like a dream,” the graduate said.
Asked what she thought people should take away from her story, Blancas y García said, “People need the will or volition to do what they want in life. There are so many great examples of what you can do with your life, you just really need the will to do it.”