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Columba Bush  

Mexican-born American Philanthropist and Wife of Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Columba Bush is a Mexican-born American philanthropist. Bush, who served as First Lady of Florida from 1999 to 2007, is the wife of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Bush was born in León, Guanajuato, Mexico, the daughter of José María Garnica Rodríguez (1925-2013), a migrant worker and waiter from Arperos, Guanajuato, and Josefina Gallo Esquivel (born 1920) from León, who were married in 1949. Her father abandoned the family when she was 3 years old in 1956. Her parents were divorced in 1963 when Columba was 10 years old. She remained in León with her mother while her father immigrated to the United States. She attended Instituto Antonia Mayllen, a private Catholic school in the historic center of León.

Bush has two older siblings, a brother, Francisco Jose Garnica (born December 1949), and a sister, Lucila del Carmen Schmitz (born October 1951). Her brother currently lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. She met Jeb Bush in 1970 in León when she was 16 years old and he was 17 years old and teaching English as part of a Phillips Academy foreign exchange program. They were married on February 23, 1974, in Austin, Texas at the chapel in the Catholic student center on the campus of the University of Texas. The couple have three children: George P. Bush, Noelle Bush and John Ellis Bush, Jr. In 1979, she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1979.

Bush has been active in promoting the arts. In 1999, she worked with Arts for a Complete Education/Florida Alliance for Arts Education (ACE/FAAE) to develop Arts for Life!, a program devoted to increasing the importance of art in the education system. Bush has been active in programs to warn young people of the dangers of drug abuse. She has worked on treatment and prevention programs such as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She has served as co-chair of the NIAAA initiative, Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, and has served on the board of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.


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