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Juana Carrillo, 104; Santa Ana Matriarch


Juana Carrillo, matriarch of Santa Ana's oldest Latino neighborhood, where she lived for nearly 90 years, died Thursday. She was 104.

Carrillo, who lived in the 400 block of East Central Avenue, was a fixture in Santa Ana's Delhi area.

"Even the children who didn't know her called her abuelita (little grandmother)," her great-nephew Mel Sanchez said. Children from Monroe Elementary School across the street often visited.

"It was nothing for her to see 100 children and some of their parents a day," he said.

Many were attracted to her garden, containing aloe vera, bird of paradise, avocado, tangerines and roses.

Carrillo came to California from Coahuila, Mexico, with her family in 1914 in a hand-powered railroad car to escape the Mexican Revolution, paying 2 cents to cross the border at El Paso.

She worked as a fruit picker and cannery employee.

Her husband died in 1968, but she stayed active, flying to visit her niece in Hawaii, and even taking a bus trip alone at the age of 98 to visit relatives in Delano for Thanksgiving.

She drank two beers every night, always at room temperature, relatives said.

When she turned 100, community leaders honored her.

"She would say, 'God is very large; that is why he gives me so much life,'" Sanchez said.

Carrillo is survived by Sanchez, his siblings, Juanita Sanchez and Danny Sanchez Jr., and his mother, Gloria Rivera Sanchez, Carrillo's niece.

Viewing and rosary will be this afternoon from 4 to 8 p.m. at Brown Colonial Mortuary in Santa Ana.

A funeral is scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Delhi.

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