Idelisa “Yaya” Oliviera laughs beneath birthday balloons at her 105th birthday party on Aug. 14, 2021, in Tampa.

At 105, Tampa woman shares the secrets to a long, happy life

Idelisa “Yaya” Oliviera celebrated her milestone birthday with her family.
Idelisa “Yaya” Oliviera laughs beneath birthday balloons at her 105th birthday party on Aug. 14, 2021, in Tampa. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Idelisa “Yaya” Oliviera celebrated her milestone birthday with her family.
Published Sep. 13
Updated Sep. 20

The woman everyone calls Yaya turned 105 in August.

Idelisa Oliviera, who also goes by mama, hermana, tia and bisabuela (great-grandmother), was surrounded by happy friends and family. At her Tampa home, they celebrated with homemade Cuban food, cake and presents.

Idelisa “Yaya” Oliviera poses for a portrait during her 105th birthday celebration.
Idelisa “Yaya” Oliviera poses for a portrait during her 105th birthday celebration.

Yaya was born on Aug. 15, 1916, in Oriente Province, Cuba. She was the seventh of 15 children. Her mother lived to be 92, a sister to 99 and another sister to 103. Now, only one sister, Dulce Martinez, 97, is also alive. Yaya and Dulce share a deep bond.

Seated between her sister, 97-year-old Dulce Martinez, left, and her daughter, Borja Magro, 74, Yaya chats with family gathered to celebrate her 105th birthday.
Seated between her sister, 97-year-old Dulce Martinez, left, and her daughter, Borja Magro, 74, Yaya chats with family gathered to celebrate her 105th birthday.
Yaya poses for photographs among doting family members during her 105th birthday party.
Yaya poses for photographs among doting family members during her 105th birthday party.

When Yaya left Cuba in 1972, she immigrated to Spain before moving to Tampa in 1974. She worked as a seamstress and raised her daughter on her own. Throughout her life, Yaya has enjoyed her independence: She gardens and loves cruises and taking care of others. When she was 100 she moved in with her daughter and son-in-law to let them take care of her.

“My daughter is very good for me,” Yaya said of Borja Magro, her only child. “She takes care of me. I love her.”

Family surrounds Yaya to sing the birthday song. From left, standing, are daughter Borja Magro, grandsons Alex and Jamy Magro and great-grandson Jonathon Magro. Yaya's sister, Dulce Martinez, is seated at right.
Family surrounds Yaya to sing the birthday song. From left, standing, are daughter Borja Magro, grandsons Alex and Jamy Magro and great-grandson Jonathon Magro. Yaya's sister, Dulce Martinez, is seated at right.
When there are no 0 candles at the store, you have to improvise. Yaya’s great-grandson Jonathon Margo had the idea to cut an 8 in half to make a 0 to complete the 105 on top of Yaya's birthday cake.
When there are no 0 candles at the store, you have to improvise. Yaya’s great-grandson Jonathon Margo had the idea to cut an 8 in half to make a 0 to complete the 105 on top of Yaya's birthday cake.
Yaya blows out the candles on her birthday cake next to her sister, Dulce Martinez. Born in Cuba, Yaya and Dulce are the last of a group of 15 siblings.
Yaya blows out the candles on her birthday cake next to her sister, Dulce Martinez. Born in Cuba, Yaya and Dulce are the last of a group of 15 siblings.

Yaya’s days are filled with puzzles to keep her mind active, and she’s proud that she can master 1,000-piece challenges. Some are framed to decorate the walls, others are gifted to family.

How did she live such a long, happy life? “Don’t smoke, don’t drink liquor,” Yaya said.

“And have a good daughter,” added Magro from the kitchen.

Yaya opens a gift from grandson Jamy Magro, a new puzzle. Yaya loves puzzles, and the family often gifts her puzzles related to their favorite things: Cuba, movies, history, travel. She gives them the completed puzzles, which they frame.
Yaya opens a gift from grandson Jamy Magro, a new puzzle. Yaya loves puzzles, and the family often gifts her puzzles related to their favorite things: Cuba, movies, history, travel. She gives them the completed puzzles, which they frame.
Yaya reads a birthday card while opening presents filled with candy, jewelry and puzzles. Her birthday wish was to celebrate with family.
Yaya reads a birthday card while opening presents filled with candy, jewelry and puzzles. Her birthday wish was to celebrate with family.

She unwrapped presents of chocolates, jewelry and puzzles. But Yaya’s only real birthday wish was to be surrounded by family.

“That gives me a lot of joy.”

Yaya's birthday wish is met as she's surrounded by her family around the table for lunch. Holding hands, they say grace in English and Spanish before digging in to a meal of homemade Cuban food made by Yaya's daughter, Borja Magro, who cooked traditional Cuban dishes of salad, rice and beans and roast pork.
Yaya's birthday wish is met as she's surrounded by her family around the table for lunch. Holding hands, they say grace in English and Spanish before digging in to a meal of homemade Cuban food made by Yaya's daughter, Borja Magro, who cooked traditional Cuban dishes of salad, rice and beans and roast pork.