Columba Bush is an eminent Mexican–American philanthropist. The wife of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, she served as the First Lady of Florida for a period of 8 years. Generally fond of remaining away from the limelight, she is quite famous for her numerous humanitarian efforts, most of which have been kept away from the media. Among all her notable works, she is particularly well-known for her campaigns for anti-domestic violence groups and for her constant support for young artists. Additionally, she is famous for being a keen patron of arts and related subjects. Despite being strongly associated with the political domain, through her husband and her in-laws, she tends to remain aloof from political activities.
Childhood & Early Life
Columba Bush was born on August 17, 1953, to Josefina Gallo Esquivel and José María Garnica Rodríguez, in the neighborhood of Arperos, located in the city of León, in Mexico. Her maiden name was Columba Garnica Gallo. Her father, José, was an immigrant worker and attendant.
In 1956, when Columba’s father left them, she was only 3 years old. Her parents got divorced in 1963. Columba continued staying in León with her mother. Her schooling began at ‘Instituto Antonia Mayllen,’ a Catholic institute located in the historic hub of the city.
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After her marriage, her first political endeavor was a Spanish-language promotion in 1988, held as part of the presidential campaign in support of George HW Bush, her father-in-law. She also gave a recommending speech in Spanish in favor of him, at the ‘Republican National Convention,’ in New Orleans. Apart from these activities, she has hardly been involved in politics and prefers not be involved in it.
After becoming the First Lady of Florida, Columba worked as an activist in support of organizations and groups such as the ‘Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence,’ the ‘Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse,’ and ‘Arts for Life!,’ a program that offers scholarships to budding artists.
Her activities in support of arts are quite noteworthy. In 1999, she played an important role in the creation of ‘Arts for Life!,’ a program dedicated to enhancing the value of arts in the education system. ‘Arts for a Complete Education/Florida Alliance for Arts Education’ (ACE/FAAE) played the main role in executing the project, and Columba collaborated with them. Additionally, she also sponsored several art exhibitions on the works of renowned artists such as Salvador Dalí, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, as well as young promising artists from Florida.
Columba Bush has taken up an active role in various campaigns against drug abuse and the use of drugs among minors. She has served as the co-chair of the ‘National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’ (NIAAA) for their project ‘Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free’ and several other addiction treatment and prevention programs. She has also served on the panel of the ‘Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse’ at ‘Columbia University.’
Columba used her stature to work as an activist for issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, and the arts. She has been engaged with associations that promote substance-abuse cure and prevention. During her tenure as the First Lady, she visited asylums, revised details on addiction among the youth, arranged exhibitions, and introduced contributors to aid organizations.
In 2003, she participated in an entrustment to Rome, at ‘St. Peter's Basilica,’ as the First Lady of Florida, to commemorate John Paul II's 25th anniversary as Pope.
During her husband's 2016 presidential voting operation, she made a visit to women's shelters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The book ‘Mamá: Latina Daughters Celebrate Their Mothers’ by María Pérez-Brown includes a brief sketch depicting Columba Bush's relationship with her mother.
In 2004, a biography of Columba Bush, written in Spanish by Beatriz Parga, was released. The title of the book, if translated into English, would be ‘Columba Bush: The Cinderella of the White House.’ The book detailed the strained relationship her mother had had with her father, partly due to her father’s abusive nature.
Family & Personal Life
Columba met Jeb in 1970 in León, where he was teaching English as a second language and helping in the construction of a school in the adjacent rural community of Ibarrilla. The couple got married on February 23, 1974, in Austin, Texas. The ceremony took place at the chapel in the Catholic student center on the campus of the ‘University of Texas. ‘
They have three children: George Prescott Bush, Noelle Bush, and John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, Jr. The eldest son, George P Bush, is a lawyer, a ‘US Navy’ reserve officer, a property shareholder, and a politician. He serves as the commissioner of the ‘Texas General Land Office.’ Their daughter, Noelle Lucila Bush, works for a software firm in Orlando, Florida. John Ellis Bush, Jr., the youngest son, works for a Miami-based commercial real-estate firm.
Jeb and Columba Bush have four grandchildren: two by their eldest son and two by their youngest son.
Columba’s sister, Lucila Del Carmen Schmitz, lives with their mother in the Miami area. Her older brother, Francisco Jose Garnica, lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Columba Bush got her US citizenship in 1979.
Due to her inability to speak English fluently, a part of her wedding was conducted in Spanish. According to close sources, Jeb Bush speaks Spanish at home.
Her campaigns against the use of drugs by adolescents were said to be triggered by her daughter’s struggle with drug addiction in her youth. As stated by her close friends, Columba’s main concern now is to help her daughter lead a normal life.
Quiet and reserved by nature, Columba had wanted to live a quiet life prior to her marriage with Jeb Bush.