La Bolivar Network was founded in 1997 by Alexandra Alvarez Minoff (CLAS 2000) and was inspired by was inspired by the Ridley African American Scholarship Fund (http://aig.alumni.virginia.edu/ridley/).
Alexandra attended ‘Leadership 2000’ where she studied the feasibility of creating such a network. She worked closely with Alumni Hall, where the idea was spearheaded to go through yearbooks to spot out Latino alumni since University record-keeping did not have this data recorded. The first Board Meeting was held that October 1997, Alexandra Minoff was a second-year student, but had the vision of an upperclassmen. Alexandra also served as president of La Sociedad Hispanica, where Gina Marie Flores (CLAS 2000) served as Vice President and Claudia Knez (CLAS 2000) served as Secretary. Alexandra is the visionary of the BN Network though La Sociedad Hispanica, but would not have been able to make it successful without the dedication and ownership Gina and Claudia display through La Bolivar Network’s early years.
Gina Marie Flores went onto serve as Chairman of Board for many of La Bolivar Network’s early years. Alexandra credits the efforts of Gina and Hernando Herrera, former Chairman (CLAS 1989) for being instrumental in building her vision into reality.
The Bolivar Network’s name was inspired by the Bolivar Family. Similar to when UVA named the Spanish House in honor of alumnus Fernando Bolivar, nephew and adopted son of South American Hero, Simon Bolivar.
Fernando Bolivar was born in 1810 in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital and was one of the first students at UVA, coming here to study in 1827 because he and his uncle were both admirers of Jefferson and his ideas about freedom and democracy. Simon Bolivar, “the Liberator,” helped create independent democratic nations in South America. Simon assisted Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia to establish their independence from Spain. When Fernando’s father was killed in the fighting, Simon Bolivar, who had no children of his own, adopted his nephew and sent him to the United States to be educated.
The U.Va. Board resolution cites Fernando Bolivar as “an early exemplar of the strong and historic ties between the University and Latino America” and the goal of La Bolivar Network is to grow and strengthen this bond by enriching students and alumni experiences, careers and lives.
Fernando Bolivar came to the United States in 1822 to attend Germantown Academy in Germantown, PA and after five years considered going to West Point but decided on the newly opened University of Virginia because he admired Jefferson. Jefferson died the summer before the young Bolivar came to register. Simon Bolivar sent a letter to the University faculty detailing how he wanted Fernando to be educated. A typed copy of the letter, along with other material relating to Bolivar’s days here, is in Alderman’s Library’s manuscript collection. Among other aims, Fernando’s education was to include modern languages, “not neglecting his own,” his uncle wrote.
Portraits of Fernando and Simon Bolivar, gifts to the University from the Venezuelan government in the 1940s, can be found in the Casa Bolivar at 1408 Jefferson Park Ave. Alderman collection is a copy of Fernando Bolivar’s memoir, “Recuerdos y Reminiscencias,” published under the pseudonym “Rivolba” (an anagram of Bolivar) in Paris in 1873. In it he describes his days at U.Va.: “The buildings were exceedingly beautiful and very well arranged. . . On the ‘Lawn’ or principal plaza, which occupied the top of a low ridge, there were about 12 pavilions. . . There was no wall around the university grounds to keep the students in . . .” He notes that his professors were “very eminent men secured by Jefferson for the express purpose of teaching at his university.”
In a recent novel, “The General in His Labyrinth,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, writes a historically based novel of Simon Bolivar. In the novel, it notes Fernando Bolivar had been a student in Charlottesville at the University founded by Thomas Jefferson.
For more history about the Bolivar Network and the Hispanic/Latinx community at UVA please visit Hispanic and Latinx Oral History @ UVA here: https://www.reflectionsoralhistory.com/latinx-history
Chairs of the Bolívar Network
Alexandra Minoff ’00 1997-1998
Pedro Medina ’82 1989-1999
Alexandra Arriaga ’87 1999-2001
Gina Flores ’00 2001-2003
Carlos Soles ’95 2003-2007
Faviola Rubio ’05 2007-2008
Hernando Herrera ’89 2008-2011
Chris Rodriguez ’05 2011-2013
Luis Maes ’00 2017-2020
Claudia Quintero ’11 2017-present