In the oft-told tale of Jeb and Columba Bush’s early courtship days, there has tended to be a glaring omission – Columba’s late father, José Maria Garnica Rodríguez.
When any mention of Garnica Rodriguez has come up, it more often than not has been in vague or disapproving terms.
The father, the story goes, abandoned the family, leaving when Columba was a teenager and virtually falling off the face of the earth.
But in interviews with Politico in Mexico, Garnica Rodriguez’s relatives said that it was Columba who essentially cut off communication with her father after she began her life with Jeb Bush in earnest.
“He never abandoned her. She was the one who left with Jeb,” Politico quoted Garnica Rodriguez’s second wife, Antonia Morales Mendez, as saying. “Once she left with this guy, she had no relationship at all with her father.”
She speculated that fame and money might have made Columba Bush less inclined to maintain ties to her father.
Jeb Bush met Columba when he was just 17 and an exchange student in Mexico; she was 16 and her parents were already divorced.
The former governor speaks glowingly of their first encounter, saying he fell in love instantly despite their differences.
He came from a political family that attended Ivy League schools. Her father’s world was quite different – he grew up in a rural Mexican village, working as a waiter and, later, fruit picker in the United States, where he was undocumented for a while.
Columba Bush’s uncle, Antonio Garnica Rodríguez, cast his brother as the victim, the abandoned one, in the soured relationship between the daughter and father. He told Politico his brother agonized over his daughter and her husband’s refusal to let him see his grandchildren.
“He knew them only out of magazines, newspapers and TV,” Morales Mendez, the second wife, said through tears. “He died really wanting to meet his grandchildren.”
However, Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told Politico that much of the story the relatives have offered is either inaccurate or incomplete. “It’s not surprising Mrs. Bush wouldn’t want to maintain a relationship with the man who abandoned her mother and family,” she said.
In past interviews, Columba has told reporters that her childhood was sad.
Politico cites a biography about Columba Bush in which her father reportedly described her as “a bad daughter” who forgot her modest Mexican roots. The book mentioned that Garnica Rodriguez also did not have many kind things to say about Columba Bush’s mother, a seamstress at the time.
“For whatever reason, she speaks ill, she has bad feelings,” Mendez said, according to Politico.
“Probably, Columba had that opinion about her father because her mother told her these things. Columba’s mother was three years older than José Maria. She was extremely jealous of him. If he would sit next to a girl on the bus, she would make him miserable for that.”
Politico noted that after Columba and Jeb Bush met, Columba went to California, where she stayed with her father for less than a year. Politico also noted that Jeb Bush’s 2013 book, titled “Immigration Wars,” mentioned that she lived for a while in California, but omits that she stayed with her father.
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