LLILAS, ILAS, and the History of Latin American Studies at UT Austin
Construction of Sid Richardson Hall, which to this day houses LLILAS and the Benson Collection, was completed in 1970.
The history of Latin American studies at The University of Texas at Austin dates to the late 1890s, followed a few decades later by the beginnings of what would eventually become one of the most important Latin American research libraries in the world—the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.
The first Latin American content course at the university was taught by Herbert E. Bolton, appointed to the Department of History in 1902. Titled European Expansion, by 1904–1905 the course would be confined to Spanish colonization. Spanish professor and librarian Carlos E. Castañeda oversaw the establishment and expansion of the Latin American collection, whose origins can be traced back to the university’s acquisition of the private library of Mexican historian Genaro García in 1921. As of June 1938, historian Charles Hackett and four of his colleagues were recommending that the establishment of an institute of Latin American studies prior to 1950 be a university objective. Their plan was realized in 1940 with the founding of the institute that would be known worldwide by its acronym, ILAS.
Sixty years later, in November 2000, President Larry Faulkner announced that UT alumni Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long of Austin had pledged an endowment gift of $10 million to support the institute—"one of the crown jewels of this University"—in building toward greater excellence. As one outcome of this gift, the institute is now known as the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, or LLILAS.
In making this gift, the Longs noted that they were drawn to the institute because they wanted to make better something that was already very good. "This is our way of acknowledging the importance of Latin America in the future of this country and, therefore, the critical role that the institute continues to play in forging closer ties to Latin America," said Teresa Lozano Long.
The Lozano Long endowment is structured so that 60 percent of its resources will benefit students in a variety of ways:
- Undergraduate scholarships for Latin American studies majors
- Scholarships for study and research in Latin America for both undergraduate and graduate students
- Graduate fellowships to recruit the best graduate students both in the United States and Latin America
- Teaching fellowships that will allow LLILAS to place Spanish-speaking discussion sections in courses across the university
The endowment also recognizes that research and teaching are major components of the university's mission. It provides for visiting professorships to bring distinguished scholars from Latin America to teach at UT; professorships to support the hiring of Latin Americanist faculty and thereby maintain the integrity and preeminence of our professorate; and funding for international research teams to produce and gather the best information on important issues like immigration, economic development, and use of resources. In this endeavor, the institute will increasingly serve as a think tank charged with educating policymakers and the public at large on such matters.
In September 2011, LLILAS joined forces with the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection to create LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, an innovative partnership that pairs the abundant scholarly resources of the collection with the teaching and research focus of the institute. This historic agreement between two venerable units of The University of Texas at Austin has opened new opportunities for collaboration, and holds the promise of becoming a model for the global public university of the twenty-first century.
Through arts and cultural programming, LLILAS Benson seeks to enhance understanding of Latin American and U.S. Latina/o communities among residents of the university and the wider public. Through its digital initiatives, the resources of the library are brought to bear in making rare and special-format materials available to scholars and students. Examples include the Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive (AHPN), the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA), and Primeros Libros de las Américas, a digitized collection of the earliest books published in the Americas.
The two documents linked here chronicle the development of Latin American studies at UT in rich detail. They are a report titled “From a Shared Border to Western Hemisphere Concerns: The History of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin,” by former LLILAS staff member Carolyn Palaima, and the audiovisual presentation “Where in the World Is the BLAC” by retired Benson librarian Jane Garner.
(Portions of this story are excerpted from an article by former LLILAS director Nicolas Shumway in Discovery: Research and Scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin, vol. 16, no. 1, special issue, The Latin American Initiative, 2002.)
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