From Latvia to Montevideo via the world

Mike Milbrandt
Inese Lukins Bohorquez was proclaimed a Native American Princess during the 1960 Fiesta Days celebration in Montevideo. She and Uruguayan Foreign Minister Jose Zorilla de San Martin (at left) were Uruguay's goodwill ambassadors. (Photos courtesy of Carlos Bohorquez

Way back in 1960, a beautiful young woman from Montevideo, Uruguay, was chosen to represent her country as a goodwill ambassador to our own Montevideo Fiesta Days. Her name is Inese Lukins Bohorquez, and she celebrated her 90th birthday on Tuesday.

Her husband, Carlos Alberto Bohorquez, is a retired journalist who is from Montevideo, Uruguay. They have been married for 62 years, and together they have shared an incredible journey through life.

Carlos said: “It is true, we have had a very interesting life. Inese has been with me in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Miami, New York, Washington, Portugal, London, Rome, Milan, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Denmark, Sweden, Berlin, Sydney, and Melbourne. All places where I had worked over the years!”

According to Carlos, Inese Lukins was born in Riga, Latvia, on November 24, 1930, to a well-known family. “Her grandpa, Dr. Felix Lukins, was a pioneer of homeopathy along the Baltic Sea,” he said. “”His medicines were accepted in Denmark and Sweden. Her grandma was one of the greatest Latvian writers who wrote under the pen name of Ivande Kaija.”

When she was young, Inese’s father took her to study at a Parisian school. “She speaks, writes, and readds French fluently,” said Carlos. “During the Second World War, she was a refugee, along with her mother and step-father. After the war, she continued with her schooling in Germany where she learned English and worked as young translator for the American troops in the occupied country. Inese is also fluent in German.”

Later, Inese’s family emigrated to the United States and ended up in Philadelphia where the family had a sponsor. Not long after, they became U.S. citizens. Carlos said: “her stepfather was a road engineer who found a job very fast. her younger brother, Sven Lukins, became an artist who astonished New York art critics in the early 1960s with masterfully conceived and constructed shaped canvasses.”

According to Carlos, life in Philadelphia didn’t suit Inese. “She found a boyfriend who was an Uruguayan student of textiles,” he said.

Eventually, Inese and her beau were married and the young couple returned to Uruguay, settling in a village in the countryside away from Montevideo. Inese’s husband found employment in a textile factory.

Inese became restless with a life in a small village inhabited by factory workers. The couple had a daughter, but by the time the daughter was four years old, Inese knew that village life was not for her. “With no distractions or an agreeable social life, she packed her belongings and, taking her four-year old daughter, left her husband and went to Montevideo where she filed for divorce,” said Carlos.

The big city of Montevideo turned out to be what Inese had been looking for. Carlos said: “Her attractive features easily found for her a fashion modeling job at one of the largest department stores in Montevideo. She was part of a team of models who daily exhibited garments for all occasions. It was a novelty that attracted a great number of customers to the business.”

At this time, Carlos was a political reporter and deputy city editor of the afternoon paper El Diario. He was also the editor of La Manana, a Sunday supplement dedicated to feminine readers. “I was curious to see why the garment exhibitions had become the talk of the city,” he said, “so I visited the store to take in an exhibition. I knew the girls that were in the fashion circuit. Once a month they exhibited high fashion European designs in stores to the high society clients of Uruguay.”

Among all the beautiful models at the exhibition, Inese caught Carlos’ eye. “At the end of the exhibition, I approached her. It was a difficult introduction; her speech and understanding of Spanish was poor, and my English was just as poor,” he said. “We went to have some tea and we began to know each other better.”

Carlos persuaded Inese to let his photographer take pictures of her modeling different clothes. “It was a professional collaboration at first,” said Carlos. “She modeled at high fashion stores, on TV, and she was on the covers of the Sunday supplement. She became one of the most celebrated models in Uruguay!”

Carlos and Inese dated for a couple of years before they were married in a civil ceremony on Feb. 17, 1959.

At the height of her career as a fashion model in Uruguay in 1960, the government of Uruguay sent Inese and Jose Zorilla de San Martin, Uruguayan Foreign Minister, to Montevideo, Minnesota, as representatives of their country during Fiesta Days.

Since 1960, Carlos and Inese have shared many more adventures during their time together, and the couple currently resides in London, England. Still lovely, Inese blew out the candles of her 90th birthday cake on Tuesday.

Inese was the top fashion model in Montevideo, Uruguay, during the early 1960s.