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‘She would always enjoy every single moment’: Olivia Laura Rojas’ friends reflect on her legacy

and | Friday, November 13, 2020

Olivia Laura Rojas had a special talent for bringing people together. Those who knew her remember her as someone who lived life passionately, formed strong relationships easily and remained loyal to every friend she made along the way.

Although she was only a first-year student, Olivia’s friends said the tight-knit Latino community at Notre Dame all knew of her.

“She was a leader, that type of girl that everyone kind of knows and everyone wants to know,” said junior Juliana Salvatierra Moreno, who knew Olivia when both were children.

Olivia was born Oct. 15, 2001, and hailed from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. On campus, she lived in Cavanaugh Hall and planned to study in the Mendoza College of Business before she and two others were struck by a car Oct. 24 on Ironwood Road. Olivia and another first-year, Valeria Espinel, both died in the accident.

People who knew Olivia said she was outgoing and made friends quickly, and she often influenced the people she met for the better.

First year Gaby del Rosario met both Olivia and Valeria through an admitted students group chat, and the three quickly became close through all-night Zoom calls and daily messages.

“One night the three of us, along with two other boys from Panama, stayed up until 5 a.m. talking to each other. We just had an instant and natural friendship,” del Rosario said.

Del Rosario said before she met the two girls she was rather shy and quiet, but they really helped her come out of her comfort zone.

“It’s crazy to think that I’m a completely different person now, and that’s because of Olivia and Valeria,” del Rosario said. “In a way, with them passing, I feel it’s kind of my duty now within our close group of friends.”

Olivia also taught del Rosario to not allow her self-doubt to hinder her life experiences.

“I remember one time we were FaceTiming with her friends from back home while getting ready to hang out, and Olivia just looked so beautiful, and I felt so bad about myself in comparison and didn’t even want to go out,” del Rosario said. “She and her friends started consoling me, and then Olivia shared a life lesson from her mom. She said, ‘You don’t have to think about your weight or about how you look. You’ll never be this young, so have the time of your life and enjoy every moment.’”

After that particular instance, del Rosario became closer with Olivia’s friends from back home. Throughout the course of their friendship, del Rosario even spoke with Olivia’s relatives over FaceTime calls at Hesburgh Library.

“Olivia just had a really special way of getting people together,” del Rosario said. “She always brought everyone she cared about together. I think that’s why if you ask anybody who knew her, they will tell her she was an incredibly beloved person.

Del Rosario said Olivia worked to prioritize her friends even when she was busy with her own work because she wanted to make sure each of them knew how important they were to her. 

“I told Olivia I was not eating because I didn’t like going to the dining hall alone, and she told me that from then on she would make sure we would eat together every day. Literally every single day at 11:30 a.m. I would get a text from her saying, ‘Meet you at North Dining Hall.’ She was truly always there for me,” del Rosario said.

Olivia was also close friends with Valeria, who died in the same car crash, and junior Camila Antelo Iriarte said Olivia often made it clear how important Valeria was to her. Antelo Iriarte mentioned the work Olivia put in to celebrate Valeria’s birthday earlier in the semester, buying a cake for het and organizing a gathering outside on Library Lawn.

“I’ve never seen someone so excited for another person’s birthday,” Antelo Iriarte said. “She was just so concentrated on making a day better for another person.”

Courtesy of Carlos Fabrega
Valeria, left, and Olivia, right

While she loved her friends, Olivia was also close with her family, particularly her mother. Antelo Iriarte said she was shocked to hear how much Olivia told her mom. 

“Olivia could tell her mom everything. She was her best friend,” Antelo Iriarte said. “She had such a beautiful relationship with her mom.”

In addition to being a loving friend, daughter and sister, Olivia’s friends described her as confident and very sure of herself. She always seemed to be encouraging her friends to believe in themselves.

Sophomore Isabella Cardenal first met Olivia in July when she invited her to have dinner with a couple of friends. 

Cardenal said she was surprised to see how confidently Olivia walked up to them and interacted with their group. Though Olivia exuded self-assurance, Cardenal said she was surprised to find out that this was not the case.

“Apparently she was feeling very bad, and she was scared to go to eat and whatever. But she appeared as if she was very confident, very sure of what she was doing, and I admired her. I admire that a lot,” Cardenal said.

Despite Olivia’s outgoing and confident nature, sophomore Manuela Trigo, who had known Olivia since they were young, said Olivia would never shy away from being direct.

“Olivia was so straightforward. She could say anything to your face, but it was great because she wasn’t the type of person who would say something behind your back without telling you anything,” Trigo said. “No, she would just march towards you and tell you what she thought. It was so hilarious.”

Though Trigo knew Olivia as a child, the two became closer friends after they began school at Notre Dame. Though their friendship was cut short, Trigo said Olivia taught her that the greatest friendships are not always the longest.

Olivia enjoyed documenting her life, often recording TikToks and sharing snippets of her life through Instagram, which Salvatierra Moreno said was important to her.

“She was obsessed with taking pictures, but that’s nice because at the end of the day, we have so many memories of her concrete in pictures because of how many pictures she took of herself,” Salvatierra Moreno said.

Cardenal and Olivia bonded over TikTok dances, filming videos together constantly.

“There was one specific song that I knew a TikTok dance to, and she also knew it. So every time that they played the song, we would run towards each other, and she would put her phone and we filmed. I don’t really do TikToks — I just did them with her,” Cardenal said.

Olivia’s friends said they’ll remember her fondly by the small things that made her unique. She enjoyed wearing black and online shopping — her friends said she was particularly fond of Amazon. She also loved animals. When she was a kid, Olivia spent time with her brothers and her pets — a fat cat, a bulldog and a Dalmatian. As she grew older she enjoyed horseback riding and going on trips with her friends. Although she died young, Trigo said Olivia was a “free spirit” who loved being surrounded by people.

“She would always enjoy every single moment. When we would chat through WhatsApp, she would send five minute voice notes and pictures just laughing,” Trigo said.

Olivia’s friends thought she made the most out of her life, engaging with every person she encountered and taking advantage of the opportunities Notre Dame had to offer.

“She lived her life as if it was literally the last day that she was going to live it,” Cardenal said. “She had no regrets. She didn’t overthink things. She was like what’s done is done.”

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About Serena Zacharias

Serena is a member of the class of 2021 majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She hails from the great cheese state of Wisconsin and is a former ND News Editor for The Observer.

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