CLAS History


Established in 1968 to coordinate University interests in research and teaching on Latin America, the University of Chicago Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) has evolved to become a locus for intellectual exchange and innovation in Latin American Studies. 

For more than seventy-five years University of Chicago linguistic anthropologists have led the scholarly study of Latin American indigenous languages, particularly those of Mesoamerica. University of Chicago scholars are also leaders in the development of instructional resources in Yucatec Maya, K'iche' Maya, Nahuatl, and Aymara.

The Center works directly with the Latin American History Workshop and the Workshop on Latin America and the Caribbean by providing space for their meetings, publicity, and supplementary funding.

In consortium with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Center for Latin American Studies has been awarded a National Resource Center grant from the United States Department of Education consistently since 1976. This funding provides a wide range of support, including Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for graduate study.

In 1980, the Edward Laroque Tinker Foundation established at the University of Chicago an endowment to support the Tinker Visiting Professor program. Tinker Visiting Professors significantly enrich academic life and research on Latin America by giving University of Chicago faculty and students access to current discussions and debates generated at some of Latin America's top universities and research and cultural centers.

In 2007, the Center was awarded a three-year US Department of Education International Research and Studies grant to modernize teaching resources for courses in Modern Spoken Yucatec Maya and Modern Spoken K'iche' Maya. First developed at the University of Chicago in the 1960s with support from the then Office of Education, these courses have since been widely distributed and form the basis of nearly all Yucatec Maya and K'iche' Maya teaching programs in the US and abroad.