The history of Latino students at Notre Dame goes back to 1864, when Alexandro Perea of New Mexico became the first Spanish-surnamed student to enroll at the University. From that moment on, Latino students, staff, and alumni have worked to create community on campus and expand their professional network in a variety of ways, including with the 1999 founding of the Institute for Latino Studies.
Below is a timeline of important moments in the history of Latinos at Notre Dame, as well as key events in the history of ILS, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
March 31, 1864
Notre Dame's first Latino Student
Alexandro Perea, a native of New Mexico, became the first Latino Student to be enrolled at Notre Dame in 1864. By the 1870s, more Latino students from New Mexico and Colorado enrolled at Notre Dame, reflecting Father John Zahm's recruitment efforts in the Southwestern United States and Mexico.
May 05, 1928
La Raza club founded
A group of Latin American students at Notre Dame founded La Raza in order to "provide an outlet for the longing" for home, but the club soon expanded. By 1936, they were hosting political discussions on Spain and Latin America, and even managed to introduce soccer to the University.
January 02, 1954
Samuel Adelo becomes La Raza president
After World War II, La Raza grew to include US-born Latinos as well as Latin American students. Adelo, of Pecos, New Mexico, became the club's first U.S. Latino president in 1954. He was one of many veterans who attended Notre Dame in the post-war years. Adelo traveled with Notre Dame's football team and taught the players Spanish on long train rides.
January 01, 1959
Julian Samora arrives at Notre Dame
In 1959, Julian Samora moved from Michigan State University to Notre Dame, when University President Father Theodore Hesburgh sought to improve the social sciences at the University. Samora, who earned his Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis in 1953, became chair of Notre Dame's sociology department in 1963. His immensely influential research focused on the lives of Mexican-Americans, particularly in the areas of public health, rural-to-urban migration, and civil rights.
May 05, 1970
Chicano Civil Rights Movement comes to Notre Dame
In the Spring of 1970, students from Notre Dame and Michigan State University, as well as activists from Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago, attended the Midwest Conference of La Raza at Notre Dame. The event inspired a very small, but very active, Chicano movement on campus. Gilberto Cardenas, who decades later would become the ILS's first director, worked with other students at Notre Dame to encourage the administration to increase Mexican-American enrollment and diversify the curriculum at Notre Dame, in keeping with its Catholic values and University President Fr. Hesburgh's commitment to civil rights.
June 30, 1970
Graciela Gil Olivárez: First woman & Latina Law graduate
After become the first woman to graduate from Notre Dame's Law School in 1970, Graciela Gil Olivárez continued to blaze trails in her roles as a professor of law, director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in Arizona, chair of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and director of the federal Community Services Administration. The Notre Dame Hispanic Law Association presents an award in her honor every year.
January 01, 1971
Mexican-American Graduate Studies at ND
In 1971, Samora founded the Mexican-American Graduate Studies Program using funding from the Ford Foundation. The program, one of the first of its kind in the U.S., ran until 1985, when Samora retired. In all, the program supported the work of 57 graduate students in areas ranging from sociology, law and economics. The program graduated 40 PhDs, including Gilberto Cárdenas, ensuring that Samora's legacy would continue.
January 03, 1994
Hispanic Alumni of Notre Dame advisory board created
Under the tenure of University President Fr. Edward "Monk" Malloy, the University sought to increase minority involvement at all levels of Notre Dame. One such measure taken was the creation in 1994 of the Hispanic Alumni of Notre Dame (HAND), an advisory board dedicated to help recruit and retain Latino students.
July 01, 1999
ILS is founded
Following a two year process by a special committee to devise the establishment of an Hispanic American studies program, Gilberto Cárdenas was chosen to be the Institute for Latino Studies's inaugural director. Since his days as a doctoral student under Julian Samora, Cárdenas had moved to the University of Texas at Austin and built up the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR). In 1999 he returned to South Bend, accepting his appointment as a professor of sociology and inaugural director of the ILS, as well as relocating the IUPLR headquarters to campus. The ILS, he hoped, would make Notre Dame "the premier place in the nation to study Latino populations." The ILS inauguration was held on October 10, 1999 and featured a mass, reception, and dinner.
November 01, 1999
Galería América @ ND & Julian Samora Library open
In the Fall of the ILS' inaugural year, Galería América @ ND, the Institute's very own art gallery, opened with an exhibition of Jean Charlot's Chemin de la Croix portfolio. Since then, the work of renowned artists such as Carmen Lomas Garza, Rubén Trejo, María Tomasula, and Lalo Alcaraz have graced the walls of the Galería.
The Julian Samora library, named in honor of the pioneering scholar, opened in the Winter of 1999, providing access to rare books, manuscripts, personal papers, archives, and oral histories related to the U.S. Latino experience, particularly in the Midwest.
May 06, 2000
ILS co-sponsors visit by Actor Edward James Olmos
The Mexican-American actor, director, producer, and activist, best known for his role in the 1980s series Miami Vice and for starring in the movies American Me (1992) and Stand and Deliver (1988), was the special guest for a community Cinco de Mayo Scholarship Fundraising Dinner.
November 01, 2001
First annual Día de los Muertos celebration
The first annual Día de los Muertos celebration hosted by the Institute for Latino Studies took place on campus at the Snite Museum of Art. Since then, the ILS has partnered with various campus departments to celebrate the Mexican tradition honoring the memory of deceased loved ones.
May 01, 2002
Sueños sin Fronteras community program starts
With support from the ILS, ND undergraduates hosted local high school students on campus to give them an idea of what college life is like. The event was called "Sueños sin Fronteras: Making College Dreams a Reality." The program continues to be held annually.
November 11, 2002
Option for the Poor Conference
ILS hosts the Option for the Poor Conference to explore how Catholic social tradition can engage academics and practitioners in the challenges of the most marginalized and vulnerable people in societies today.
December 01, 2002
First Virgen de Guadalupe mass on campus
In December of 2002, Notre Dame held it's first Virgen de Guadalupe mass. It remains an annual campus tradition.
November 01, 2003
Minor in Latino Studies established
In 2003, the Institute began offering a minor in Latino Studies, the first ever undergraduate program in Latino Studies at Notre Dame. Nineteen students declare the minor in the program's first year.
March 01, 2004
Notre Dame in top ten list of colleges for Latinos
Hispanic Magazine puts Notre Dame ninth in a national survey of top colleges for Latinos.
May 01, 2004
Letras Latinas, the ILS literary initiative headed by Francisco Aragon, awards the first Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. This book competition is awarded every other year to a first book by a Latinx poet and is published in the Institute's series with the University of Notre Dame Press.
September 01, 2005
ILS launches supplementary major
In 2005, ILS launches its supplementary major in Latino Studies, following the introduction of a minor in 2003.
May 01, 2006
Historic Caribbean Lecture Series: Encuentro Caribeño
ILS organized an interdisciplinary lecture series designed to examine the cultural, political, and social consequences of internal and external Caribbean migrations and the massive population displacements to the United States. Guest speakers included Arcadio Díaz-Quiñones, Jorge Duany, Yolanda Martínez–San Miguel, Ángel G. Quintero Rivera, and Silvio Torres-Saillant.
May 01, 2007
First academic publication in new book series
David Abalos' Latinos in the United States: The Sacred and the Profane becomes the first academic publication in the ILS' new book series with the University of Notre Dame Press. Additional titles have since been published.
July 01, 2008
CCLP-LA program founded
The ND Club of Los Angeles establishes an endowment to fund a Los Angeles site for the Cross-Cultural Leadership Program (CCLP), a summer service learning program for ND students.
September 01, 2009
ILS celebrates 10 years
The celebration included a retrospective exhibition in Galería América @ ND, a symposium titled "Latino Studies: Past, Present, and Future," a literary presentation by Letras Latinas, and the rededication of the newly renovated and expanded Julian Samora Library and Archives.
October 07, 2009
Junot Díaz reads at Notre Dame
The author of the award-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao came to ND for a lecture and book signing as part of a Letras Latinas initiative.
April 18, 2011
Playwright and Producer Richard Montoya visits ILS
American playwright, actor, director, and co-founder of the performance trio Culture Clash, Richard Montoya gave a lecture, spoke to classes, and had an open art exhibition of the work of his father, artist José Montoya.
October 01, 2011
ILS welcomes former Archbishop of Los Angeles as Visiting Scholar
Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles from 1985 to 2011, serves as a visiting scholar at the Institute for Latino Studies.
November 04, 2011
ILS sponsors first U.S. Naturalization Ceremony on-campus
In collaboration with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, community partner La Casa de Amistad, and the University of Notre Dame's Office of the President and the Office of Public Affairs, the ILS hosted 150 new citizens representing 42 countries of origin, including 37 individuals from Mexico.
May 02, 2012
José E. Limón becomes ILS director
Professor José E. Limón, one of the foremost scholars on Latino Literature, is appointed ILS director following Cardenas' retirement. Limón's academic interests include cultural studies, anthropology and literature, Mexicans in the United States, U.S.-Mexico cultural relations, critical theory, folklore and popular culture.
Timothy Matovina, professor of Theology, is appointed as executive director of ILS in partnership with Limón. Matovina specializes in U.S. Catholic and U.S. Latino theology and religion.
October 31, 2014
ILS hosts conference Afro Latinos in Movement
The conference, "Afro-Latinos in Movement: Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism in the Americas Conference", brought scholars from around the country to Notre Dame to explore broader questions of black identity and representation, transnationalism and diaspora among Afro-Latinos in the United States and Afro-Latin Americans.
September 01, 2015
Luis Fraga and Timothy Matovina appointed ILS Co-directors
In 2014, Professor Luis Fraga joined the Political Science Department at Notre Dame. The following year he was made co-director along with Professor Timothy Matovina of the Theology Department, after José Limón's retirement. Fraga’s research focuses on American politics, where he specializes in the politics of race and ethnicity, Latino politics, immigration policy, education politics, voting rights, and urban politics. In 2017, Fraga became the Director of the ILS when Professor Matovina was appointed chair of the Theology Department.
September 02, 2015
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visits ILS
Justice Sotomayor came to campus as part of ILS' Transformative Latino Leadership Lecture Series. The first Latina Supreme Court Justice discussed a wide range of legal, intellectual, cultural and even personal issues arising from her life and career.
April 29, 2016
Transformative Latino Leadership Lecture with Bishop Jaime Soto
Bishop Jaime Soto of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento visits ILS, part of its Transformative Latino Leadership Lecture series.
October 04, 2016
ILS launches the Latino Studies Scholars Program
The merit-based scholarship and accompanying curriculum for undergraduate students was launched to attract and shape leaders working to support and empower Latino communities. The program's first cohort, a group of four students selected from a national pool of applicants, began during the 2017-2018 school year.
October 05, 2016
Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera visits ND
Juan Felipe Herrera, who became the first Chicana/o U.S. Poet Laureate in 2015, visited with students, participated in a public reading of his work and book signing organized by ILS' Letras Latinas program.
December 02, 2016
National Symposium: Latinos in the 2016 Election
The symposium featured a variety of lectures on themes related to the role of Latinos in the 2016 election.
February 13, 2018
Dolores Huerta visits Notre Dame
Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) and one of the most influential labor activist of the 20th century, came to speak on campus as part of the Transformative Latino Leadership Lecture series.
June 08, 2018
ILS hosts the Midwest Catholic Association of Hispanic Ministry Conference: V Encuentro
More than 175 parishioners and diocesan leaders convened at Notre Dame to discuss how to identify, consult, and inspire new leadership within the Catholic Church — especially youth and young adults.
April 01, 2019
ILS moves & celebrates 20 years on campus
In the Spring of 2019, the ILS moved from McKenna Hall to a new home on the third floor of Bond Hall. In addition, 2019 marks the ILS' 20th anniversary on campus.
June 30, 2019
ILS hosts National Symposium on Catholic Hispanic Ministry
The National Symposium on Catholic Hispanic Ministry promotes dialogue, collaboration and pastoral education among ministerial leaders and theologians who work in diverse Hispanic/Latino contexts in the areas of leadership development, parish life, multi/intercultural, and intergenerational diversity, ecclesial movements, new technologies and social media. In doing so, the Symposium seeks to link Christian faith with the pursuit of justice, thus embodying the Church’s identity and mission to proclaim the reign of God.