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Aoy, Olives Villanueva (1823–1895)

Conrey Bryson Biography Entry

Olives Villanueva Aoy (born Jaime Aoy Olives Vila), school founder, was born in Mahon, Menorca, Spain, on March 24, 1823, the son of Jaime Vila and Margarete Olives. He journeyed from Spain to Havana and for a time lived among the Mayas in Mexico. In Arizona or Utah he was converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became a valuable assistant in translating the Book of Mormon into Spanish. At the Mormon temple in Logan, Utah, probably in November 1884, sacred ordinances were performed for him under the name Jaime Aoy Olives Vila. He left Utah and traveled to Silver City, New Mexico, where he edited a newspaper. Around 1887 he arrived in El Paso. The first public school there had opened in 1883, and surviving rolls from that time do not show a single child with a Spanish surname. A school census from that time, however, listed more than 100 Mexican children of school age. The El Paso school board had not made provisions to teach non-English speakers. Aoy, supported by concerned parents and using funds he had saved from his translation project, in 1887 founded an escuelita and began teaching Mexican children in English and Spanish. He also supplied them with food and clothing and cared for their health. In 1888 the school board incorporated Aoy's school on a segregated basis, and it eventually became known as the Mexican Preparatory School. A vacant customhouse building was made available to Aoy in 1891, and with two assistants he taught English to nearly 100 first and second grade students. When he died in El Paso on April 27, 1895, he was virtually penniless, having spent most of his income and savings on supplies for his students. Administrators of his estate used money owed him by the school board to provide a granite headstone for his grave in Evergreen Cemetery. After Aoy's death, the school board fulfilled its commitment to the school and appointed W. H. T. Lopez as principal. By 1897 the small school had grown to an enrollment of 200 students with a staff of three teachers. The board in 1899 built a six-room schoolhouse, named Aoy School, which could accommodate 300 students. In 1900 Aoy School was holding double sessions and reported an enrollment of 500-the largest enrollment of any El Paso school at that time.

Conrey Bryson, "A Man Named Aoy," Password 35 (Summer 1990). Mario T. García, Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso, 1880–1920 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981).

Categories:

  • Education
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Educators
  • Religion
  • Mormon

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Conrey Bryson, “Aoy, Olives Villanueva,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 04, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/aoy-olives-villanueva.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

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