On July 1, 2012 the University of Connecticut inaugurated El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies, a new research institute in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The institute bridged the constituent elements of the former Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (est. 1974) and the former Institute of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies (est. 1994). At a time when many public universities were cutting funding for research centers, UConn committed additional and on-going funding and support for its interdisciplinary institutes, including new tenure-track faculty lines and enhanced collaborative programming budgets.

Offering BA and MA degrees grounded in both traditional disciplinary and interdisciplinary methodologies, El Instituto is at the forefront of new ways of thinking about hemispheric Latina/o disaporas, U.S. Latina/os, Latin American and Caribbean societies and U.S./Latin American relations related to coloniality, race, migration, education, media, economics, health, cultural studies and human rights. El Instituto provides a central place for research, scholarship, and academic programs uniting over 60 scholars at the University of Connecticut. It also offers linkages to local, regional, national and hemispheric academic communities and areas of investigation with a historical research focus on the life of Latino and Puerto Rican communities in New England.

El Instituto plays prominent roles in national organizations such as the Puerto Rican Studies Association (PRSA), Latina and Latino Critical Theory (LatCrit), South-North Exchange on Theory, Culture, and Law, and the Consortium for Latin American Studies Programs, and its faculty are active in research consortia throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The inauguration of El Instituto also marked the beginning of a formal collaborative relationship with the university library and its dedicated librarian and curator for the significant holdings in U.S. Latino, Latin American and Caribbean materials http://www.lib.uconn.edu/services/liaison/Ramos.html. Endowed funds help procure new primary materials for the collection and sponsor the annual Eyzaguirre and Mead lecture series that bring renowned scholars to campus for talks and workshops.

History of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS)

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Connecticut advanced teaching and learning about Latin America and the Caribbean through formal programs of study, scholarly research and extracurricular activities. The oldest area studies program at the University of Connecticut, Latin American Studies was initiated in the late 1940s through the efforts of two noted Latin Americanists, Nathan Whetten (Rural Sociology) and Robert G. Mead, Jr. (Spanish). Professor Hugh Hamill (History) founded the Center for Latin American Studies in 1974, and fostered the development of the B.A. and M.A. degree programs at UConn. Under his leadership, the Center initiated a pattern of resource sharing and collaboration with Latin American Studies programs at other institutions in southern New England that continues to this day. In 1984, the Center added Caribbean to its formal name, the better to reflect the actual scope of its academic programs and faculty expertise.

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies drew its faculty from departments throughout the university, ranging from agricultural economics to tropical zoology, with particular strength in the traditional liberal arts disciplines, migrant and development studies, ecology and human rights. In addition to earning renown for their scholarly credentials, Connecticut faculty have played a major role in the promotion of Latin American and Caribbean Studies regionally and throughout the United States. The University of Connecticut was a founding institutional sponsor of the Latin American Studies Association, the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), and the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). It also contributed five of the first nine presidents of the New England Council of Latin American Studies (NECLAS) and is a member of the Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities (LASPAU).

History of the Institute of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies (IPRLS)

The Institute of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies (IPRLS) was a multipurpose interdisciplinary research and teaching program with a comparative focus on the Puerto Rican, Mexican, and other Latin American origin populations in Connecticut, the northeast, and other regions of the continental United States, as well as in Puerto Rico.

Established in 1994, the Institute’s specific goals were: (1) to promote, sponsor, and promulgate the results of comparative, interdisciplinary research on Puerto Rican and other Latino peoples in the United States, emphasizing Connecticut and the northeastern region; (2) to develop and coordinate a multi- and inter- disciplinary academic program, including an undergraduate concentration (minor), as well as graduate courses, in the field of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies; (3) to promote a more culturally diverse and aware university environment through a colloquia and publications program addressing the diverse contributions of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos to U.S. history, society, and culture; (4) to provide institutional links among Puerto Ricans, other Latinos, and non-Latinos at this University and throughout the state of Connecticut on academic issues related to the Puerto Rican and Latino experience; (5) to produce, diffuse, and promote knowledge and information on public policy issues with special impacts on Puerto Ricans and Latinos; and (6) to foster ties between the University and the external Puerto Rican/Latino community by serving as a resource center for issues affecting that community.

The Institute also promoted the hiring of full-time faculty in other units with background, training, and interests in Puerto Rican/Latino Studies and incorporated them into its program to the maximum extent possible. The Institute’s development priorities included interdisciplinary research/teaching, organizing colloquia and inviting scholars of national visibility to campus, strengthening course offerings in support of the minor and developing new partnerships and collaborative projects with other Latino organizations.