Born as María Esther Heredia Lecaro in Guayaquil, María was the daughter of a colonel, and lived a life among the upper-class elite, attending social functions and art classes. She never smoked or drank hard liquor. In 1917, she married a military officer, Antonio Capovilla, who died in 1949. Antonio, an ethnic Italian, was born in Pola, Austria-Hungary (now Pula, Croatia) in 1864. He moved to Chile in 1894 and then to Ecuador in 1910. After his first wife died, he married María. They had five children, three of whom were still living at the time of her death: Hilda (81), Irma (80), and son Anibal (78). She also had 11 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.
At the age of 100, María nearly died and was given last rites, but had been free of health problems since then. On 14 September 1999, she became the first (known) Ecuadorian supercentenarian ever. In December 2005, María was said to be in good health and was still able to watch TV, read the papers, and walk without the aid of a stick (though she was helped by an aide). However, she was unable physically to leave her home in the past two years, which she shared with her eldest surviving daughter, Hilda, and her son-in-law. In a media interview, María stated her dislike of the fact that women nowadays are permitted to court men, rather than the reverse.
By March 2006, María’s health had declined somewhat, and was no longer able to read the newspaper. She had also nearly stopped talking and could no longer walk except when helped by two persons. Still, María was able to sit erect in her chair and fan herself, and had been doing ‘fine’ until she succumbed to a bout of pneumonia in the last week of August 2006.