Latin American and Latino studies program celebrates 40 years

LALS Lesinski (F)

Faculty member Otto Pikaza (center) and students at a University Hall sit-in that helped lead to the founding of the Latin American and Latino studies program in 1974. Photo: Carlos Flores


The Latin American and Latino studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a series of events that includes a scholarship fundraiser, a film screening and panel discussions.

“Our program’s research and courses reflect the uniqueness of Chicago, which brings together Latinos of diverse national origins,” says Amalia Pallares, director of Latin American and Latino studies. “We look forward to strengthening our connections with faculty, students, alumni and friends in the community.”

The founding of the program in 1974 was driven by student activism. UIC students mobilized to raise concerns to the university administration and called for curriculum changes and targeted recruitment of students and faculty to make the campus more reflective of its neighboring Latino and multicultural communities.

Today, Latin American and Latino Studies at UIC is a degree-granting program that offers undergraduate and graduate courses on Latin America and on Latinos in the U.S., with a focus on their history, politics, culture, migration and development, especially in Chicago and the Midwest.

The program is also a member of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research, a UIC-based national consortium of 25 university-based Latino research centers.

The kick-off event for the celebration is an Oct. 29 fundraiser benefiting the program’s new scholarship fund that will help undergraduate and graduate students pay tuition, study abroad, or attend national or international conferences.

The fund is being created at a time of growth for UIC’s Latino student population, which now accounts for more than a quarter of the undergraduates, said Pallares, who is associate professor of political science and Latin American and Latino studies. “We hope the anniversary events serve to inspire and support our current students to achieve their academic goals.”

Admission is free, except for the Oct. 29 fundraiser. For more information call (312) 996-2445 or visit the event’s website


Wednesday, Oct. 29
“From Vision to Legacy: LALS 40th Anniversary Celebration.” Kick-off event and fundraiser for LALS Student Scholarship Fund. Features music and presentations on the history and future vision of the program. 6 – 9 p.m. National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St. $15 students/$30 non-students

Wednesday, Nov. 5
“The Founding of LALS: Together in the Struggle.” Dialogue between key players and former students who mobilized for the creation of the program and current student organizers. 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. UIC Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Residents’ Dining Room, 800 S. Halsted St.

Monday, Nov. 10
“Storming the Gates.” Screening of documentary on African-American and Latino entrance into higher education in Illinois followed by a panel discussion –“Bridging Communities on Campus, in Chicago and Beyond” – on collaboration across diverse groups. 3 – 5 p.m. UIC Latino Cultural Center, Lecture Center B2, 803 S. Morgan St.

Wednesday, Nov. 12
“Latina/o Students on the Move: 40 Years of Struggle and Engagement.” Overview of different key moments of student organizing followed by a student workshop on political issues and strategies. 3 – 5 p.m. UIC Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Residents’ Dining Room, 800 S. Halsted St.

Friday, Nov. 14
“LALS Agents of Change Celebration.” Award and networking event to recognize those who have made an impact on the program. 6 – 8 p.m. National Museum for Puerto Rican Art and Culture, 3015 W. Division St.

Event co-sponsors include Telemundo Chicago, Kern Importers & Marketing, Inc., UIC Latino Cultural Center, UIC Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services (LARES), National Museum of Mexican Art, UIC Hispanic Center of Excellence, the UIC Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Latinos.

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