Dr. Virginia "Ginny" Bouvier
Dr. Virginia "Ginny" Bouvier (or "Ginny de la Paz" as she was called by those she worked with in Colombia) was a senior advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. since 2003. She was recognized as one of the key international advisors to Colombia's peace process with the FARC by President Santos and helped to insure the inclusion of women, Afro-Colombians, and other, previously excluded groups. She was made an honorary Colombian citizen and invited by President Santos to the signing of the Peace Accord there.
She served as process design expert for the United Nations Standby Team of Mediation Experts. She has also been a consultant and research director for the Women's Leadership Conference of the Americas, and as a consultant for USAID, UN-Women, and the World Bank.
Her areas of expertise included Colombia, mediation ad peace processes, conflict analysis and prevention, civil society and gender and peacebuilding. Her blog entitled "Colombia Calls" offered a continuing and careful analysis of Colombia's efforts to build peace after over fifty years of war.
Before joining USIP, she taught as an assistant professor of Latin American literature and culture at the University of Maryland. She has also more recently taught a class on the Colombian peace process at Georgetown University.
From 1982 to 1989, she served as a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America, where she focused on Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Her books include: "Columbia: Building Peace in a Time of War," "The Globalization of U.S.-Latin American Relations," "Whose America? The War of 1898 and the Battles to Define the Nation," "Alliance or Compliance: Implications of the Chilean Experience for the Catholic Church," and "Women and the Conquest of California, 1542-1840."
Despite having been diagnosed with systematic lupus while she was in college, she traveled extensively. On her final trip to Colombia in April 2017, she succumbed to salmonella and typhoid fever and together with complications of lupus, she passed away in July at the age of 58. During her stay at the hospital, peace advocates all over Colombia stopped what they were doing and formed a Circle of Prayer to pray for her recovery.
She was remembered on the floor o the House of Representatives by Congressman James McGovern, with whom she had worked for many years, as a "powerful voice for peace, a strong, loving, generous spirit...." who "created the conditions... so that peace might take hold, even during violent conflict."
Among many other tributes, theologian Father Gustavo Guttierez of Peru praised her as "a remarkable witness to peace, and to the people of Colombia, especially the poorest people who suffer the worst violence.... she will be long remembered for her labor and untiring efforts to promote human rights."
Dr. Bouvier grew up in Hamden, Connecticut, one of seven children of Edouard and Jane Bouvier. She graduated from Hamden High School and Wellesley College, where she designed her own major in Latin American studies, the first at Wellesley. She earned her MS in Spanish at the University of South Carolina and her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, in Latin American studies. She was married to James Lyons of Silver Spring, Maryland. Her daughter Maya Bouvier-Lyons lives in Brooklyn, New York.