History of the Center

Origins of the Center

The Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) has its origins in the Spanish department, which began offering classes on Latin American literature and history in the early twentieth century. The degree program was developed during the beginning of the Cold War, when the government began encouraging students to focus on international studies.

Since then, we have continued to grow, earning funding and grants, attracting faculty members who are well-respected in the field, and educating students who have gone on to do great work in the United States and abroad.  

Timeline through the Years

1908: The Department of Spanish began offering courses on Spanish American and Mexican literature.   

1919: Courses offered on Spanish American Commerce, Latin American History, Archaeology, Government and MA in Latin American Literature and History.

1947: Inter American degree program focused on political, economic and social relations between North and South America.

1958: The Spanish Department establishes the Committee on Latin American Affairs and an undergraduate program, the Guadalajara Summer School program begins, a cultural and scientific exchange with the University of Sonora is developed and serves as the impetus for the creation of the Arizona-Sonora commission.

1958–1974: Latin American Studies program administered by the UArizona Spanish department.

1974: UArizona develops the Latin America Area Center that offered a BA, MA and Ph.D. minor in LAS.

1982: The Center receives its first funding from the Tinker Foundation for field research grants.

1989: The Center developed and funded a Curriculum Resource Center and operated the Secretariat for the Conference of Latin American History.

1994: The Center was moved from the Interdisciplinary Programs office to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS).

1996: New director Dr. Diana Liverman successfully raises over 1 million in grant funds to expand and develop the LAS program.

2000–2002: The Center receives its first U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant as a National Resource Center (NRC) and Foreign Language and Areas Studies (FLAS) grant and continued to receive Tinker field research funding.

2003–2005: Department of Education and Tinker grants re-funded.

2010–2013: The Center receives its third  Title VI NRC and FLAS grant under the leadership of Dr. Scott Whiteford.

2016: New director Dr. Marcela Vásquez-León continues to expand and develop CLAS by securing several grants, increasing the number of core faculty and strengthening the academic and outreach programs. She brings into the Center the U.S. Department of State funded Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) for Latin American Indigenous and Afro-descendent Women Leaders.

2016–2018: The Center receives its first Department of Education Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) grant to develop the Brazil Studies Program.

2018–2022: The Center receives its fourth Title VI NRC and FLAS grant.