The private life of Jeb Bush’s Mexican wife Columba

When Columba married Jeb Bush 40 years ago, all she wanted was to form a family and live a quiet life with her husband. But…
The private life of Jeb Bush’s Mexican wife Columba

In this photo taken on Feb. 12, 2004, in Tallahassee, Fla., Jeb Bush and his wife Columba reflect on their marriage with five other couples at a dinner. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

When Columba married Jeb Bush 40 years ago, all she wanted was to form a family and live a quiet life with her husband.

But that was difficult to do, given that the native of Mexico married into one of the nation’s most politically active families: the Bush family.

Keeping a private life became even more difficult to do when her husband decided to pursue his own political ambitions and became the governor of Florida in 1999. Jeb Bush served two full four-year terms as governor.

SEE ALSO: Governor Jeb Bush weighs in on GOP’s appeal to Latinos

Columba Bush, who is now 60 years old, has supported her husband throughout his political career but has preferred to stay away from the public eye.

“Jeb is a natural-born politician, but I’m not a political person,” Columba said in a rare interview with the Chicago Tribune 25 years ago. “At home we’re a common, ordinary couple.”

Now, as Jeb Bush considers running for president in 2016, several media outlets have reported that his publicity-shy wife might be reluctant. Bush has repeatedly said he will decide by the end of this year based on whether his wife and family are on board, as well as whether he can run “joyfully.”

Rafael A. Peñalver Jr., a Miami lawyer who has been friends with the Bush family since the early 1980s, recently told the Washington Post he believes Columba will support her husband’s run for president.

“She’s supportive and will stand by him, even taking roles that are not in her nature,” he said.

Another Bush confidante, who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, said Bush will not run for president if Columba objects to the idea.

Love at first sight

The couple first met in the early 1970s while Jeb Bush was on a study-abroad trip to Mexico as a high school student. He often speaks fondly of his wife Columba.

“I saw her face, and I fell in love. I can’t explain it, but that’s the way it is,” Bush said recently at a Connecticut GOP dinner, according to Politico. “You’re going to have to trust me on this one. And for 40 years we’ve been married and it’s (been an) incredible joy.”

He added, “Forty years of marriage for me is a big darn deal, and I love her very much.”

The couple got married in Texas in 1974. A few years later, they moved to Florida where Bush began pursuing his political career.

Jeb Bush

Columba Bush held the family bible when Jeb Bush was sworn in for a second term as Florida governor in 2003. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

SEE ALSO: 2016 and the inevitability of Jeb Bush

Columba knew of her husband’s great desire to run for public office, so she didn’t stand in his way when he ran for governor and won in 1998.

As a first lady of Florida, Columba mostly stayed away from the limelight. She didn’t like public speaking, especially speaking in English, which is her second language. And she found the media attention on her family to be overwhelming.

However, she tried to make the best of it. Using the platform she had as Florida’s first lady, she advocated for issues she considered important, such as substance abuse, domestic violence, the arts and education.

Nowadays, she remains engaged in her own quiet way on issues she cares about.

For example, she has written several columns about domestic violence and is involved with several organizations that advocate for treatment and prevention of substance abuse. She also continues to give out scholarships to Florida high school students with outstanding achievements in the arts through Arts for Life!, a program she launched in 1999.

Throughout the years, she has also maintained her Mexican heritage. The Chicago Tribune article reveals her eyes moisten whenever she hears the Mexican national anthem. And like many Mexican Americans, Columba likes watching juicy Spanish novelas, making huevos rancheros for breakfast and hearing a good mariachi band.

As for politics, she rarely appears with Jeb Bush at political events. She also continues to maintain a low profile. But that doesn’t bother Bush, who once said: “I don’t want a political wife — I want someone who when I get home I can have a normal life with.”

Jeb Bush’s family controversies

So why does Columba appear hesitant about her husband running for president? Some say the biggest reason is because she wants to protect her family’s private life.

Another reason could be that she wants to avoid subjecting her family to the unavoidable public scrutiny that comes with a national campaign.

SEE ALSO: Marco Rubio vs. Jeb Bush: Will both run for president in 2016?

In the past, two of the couple’s three children were arrested on charges related to drug possession and intoxication. Their son, Jeb Bush Jr., was arrested at a popular bar districts in Texas in 2005 and charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest. He was 21 years old at the time.

Three years before that, their daughter, Noelle Bush, was arrested on other more serious charges. In 2002, she was arrested and charged with trying to fill a false prescription of Xanax at a pharmacy. She was later charged for hiding crack cocaine in her shoe while staying at a drug rehabilitation center.

Noelle’s drug problems led Columba to get involved in raising awareness about substance abuse. She became involved with organizations like the Informed Families of Florida, which educates families about the dangers of drug abuse.

As for Columba, she had an embarrassing encounter with the law as well. In 1999, immigration agents briefly detained her at the airport after she falsely stated that she bought only $500 worth of clothes and jewelry during a shopping spree in Paris, when in fact she had purchased $19,000 in clothing and jewelry.

“It was very painful, the attention and the criticism I brought on,” she said at the time, apologizing for what she did. “It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”

Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, told Politico Jeb Bush’s family controversies will undoubtedly be brought back into light if he runs for president.

“If these matters are brought up, it would hurt him, not politically but personally,” said Cardenas, who headed the Florida Republican Party while Bush was governor. “He has to make up his mind whether that’s a burden he wants to bear.”

SEE ALSO: Do Jeb Bush’s ‘act of love’ comments hint immigration tone for 2016?

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