More than 200 people passed through the doors of the Eagles Club in Taos Saturday (April 7) not to catch a game of bingo but to celebrate the centennial of a woman known as a mother figure to many.
Rebecca Peña met with family members from across at least six different states who came to celebrate her 100th birthday party. Relatives and friends packed the Eagles Club for an afternoon of food, dancing and celebration for Peña, who spent most of the party hugging and talking with several generations of family members.
Peña, still able to show off some moves on the dance floor, was the subject of several stories and memories shared on the microphone and at the dinner tables. "I'm very glad that my family is here," Peña said. "I'm very grateful to have everyone here."
Peña's daughter Bennie Fernandez joined in the celebration Saturday.
"I'm so lucky to have her," Fernandez said through tears and a smile.
Fernandez holds fond memories of driving around and hitting the casinos in the area with her mom. Laughing at the flashbacks, Fernandez said she was grateful for the family attendance and support for her mother at the party.
A lifelong resident of La Madera, Peña has spent her time caring for family members and working her garden, which family members said was always a sight to see. She never learned how to drive and has never held a license, but she never let that get in her way of having a good time.
Peña has seen several pivotal events in both New Mexico and U.S. history. Born in 1918, World War I was coming to a close as she entered the world, and many homes throughout New Mexico had yet to be put on the electrical power grid.
Peña witnessed several send-offs of New Mexican soldiers including World War II, Korea and Vietnam. New Mexico had several momentous moments during Peña's lifetime, including the arrival of Route 66 in Santa Fe in 1926 to Indigenous people winning the right to vote in New Mexico in 1948.
Despite her years, even at 100 years old, Peña was up and around at her party and even shared a dance with her son Fructoso.
The crowd at the event spent time both on the dance floor and beside Peña, who many said they considered to be a mother, friend and powerful feminine presence in the family. Between the celebrity-like meet and greets, Peña only had enough time to eat a few bites before the attention turned to the dance floor, and it was time to boogie.
"She deserves this," said Peña's niece, Pricilla Jaramillo Johnson. "She is an amazing matriarch of our family, and she's been there for us all these years since we've been born."
Jaramillo Johnson traveled from Utah to assist family with planning the party.
Peña has survived her three brothers and sister and is the first member of her family to reach 100 years of age.
"She has survived hard times and has always been a loving, caring mother to us all," said goddaughter Margaret Jaramillo Koch. "She is a good example for all of us to follow."