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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.

First paragraph of memo establishing CLAS

Provost approves the formation of the Committee on Latin American Studies, a non degree-granting, interdisciplinary/interdivisional office to support faculty and graduate student research and encourage interdisciplinary faculty collaborations.

The Committee is consolidated into a Center for Latin American Studies.

The US Department of Education awards the Center for Latin American Studies, in consortium with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Title VI National Resource Center grant and Foreign Language & Area Studies fellowships. These grants are sustained for more than 40 years. The National Resource Center grant and Foreign Language & Area Studies Fellowships provide support for faculty and graduate student research in Latin American area and language studies, and for community outreach to provide public education programs and professional development workshops for Chicago-area educators.

An interdisciplinary/interdivisional Master of Arts in Latin American & Caribbean Studies is established, administered by CLAS.

The Tinker Foundation establishes a new Tinker Visiting Professor endowment to support teaching and research residencies at the University of Chicago for distinguished Latin American scholars, journalists, or practitioners. The University of Chicago is one of only five universities to host a Tinker Visiting Professor endowment (along with the University of Texas-Austin, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Stanford University, and Columbia University). University of Chicago faculty and students benefit enormously from the presence of outstanding scholars and practitioners brought to campus through this program.

The Tinker Foundation awards CLAS a three-year grant to support graduate students' pre-dissertation exploratory field research. These grants fill an important demand for early field research to assess field sites, establish contacts, and test the feasibility of dissertation projects, and contribute greatly to the unparalleled success enjoyed by University of Chicago doctoral students in obtaining long-term field research support from Fulbright-Hays, National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren, and Social Science Research Council, among others. The Center continues to award Tinker Field Research Grants to present day.

The Hewlett Foundation awards CLAS a one-year planning grant to prepare a proposal for the establishment of a new Mexican Studies Program

The Mexican Studies Program is established as an autonomous unit of CLAS, which provides office space, logistical support, and other services to the program

The MacArthur Foundation awards CLAS a grant to support the "Cuba Scholarly Exchange" program, which continues through 1999 and sponsors 71 participants from the University of Havana and other regional universities and cultural institutions in Cuba to spend short-term research residencies as Visiting Scholars at the University of Chicago and UChicago scholars to spend short-term research residencies in Cuba. The Cuba Scholarly Exchange program helps establish a tradition of interdisciplinary research into Cuban social, economic, and cultural studies, and fosters a high level of exchange with Cuban scholars.

The Mellon Foundation establishes the Ignacio Martín-Baró endowment in honor of a slain colleague and distinguished member of the University of Chicago community. The Martín-Baró endowment supports public lectures on current affairs in Latin America by distinguished visitors, annual essay prizes for best essays on human rights, and an annual prize lectureship for an advanced graduate student to teach a course on Latin American human rights and/or politics of their own design. Activities funded by the Martín-Baró endowment continue to the present.

The Rio Branco Institute of Brazil establishes at CLAS the "Rio Branco Chair of Brazilian Studies" to provide for one Brazilian social scientist to spend one quarter teaching and conducting research at the University of Chicago each year. The program continues through 2003.

The Katz Center for Mexican Studies is established upon the retirement of Friedrich Katz, Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor of Latin American History. Friedrich Katz is perhaps the most eminent historian of modern Mexico working in the United States. His books have been awarded numerous prizes and honors, including the Bolton Prize for the best book in English on Latin American Studies, the American Historical Association’s Beveridge Prize, and the Latin American Studies Association’s Bryce Wood Award. In 1998, Friedrich Katz was awarded the Orden del Águila Azteca, the highest honor Mexico can bestow on a foreign national. By establishing the Katz Center for Mexican Studies, the University acknowledges the work of this important scholar and the important place in this institution’s history occupied by a deep and significant tradition of social science research and teaching on Mexican politics and society.

The US Department of Education awards CLAS a Title VI International Research and Studies Materials Development grant to develop updated versions of the Modern Spoken Yucatec Maya and Modern Spoken K'iche' Maya language teaching texts first developed at the University of Chicago in 1963–66. This grant continues through 2010. For more than 75 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 National Science Foundation/National Endowment for the Humanities awards CLAS a two-year grant under the “Documenting Endangered Languages” program. The project digitizes and catalogues a unique collection of early- to mid-twentieth-century ethnographic and linguistic manuscripts produced by University of Chicago scholars working on indigenous Mesoamerican languages and cultures.

Funding from the Tinker Foundation and the Mellon Foundation allow CLAS to establish the Tinker Field Research Grant endowment, providing a permanent source of support for graduate students' pre-dissertation exploratory field research.

With funding from the Mellon Foundation, CLAS awards the first CLAS Mellon Dissertation Research Travel Fellowship, which supports outstanding doctoral students in the Social Sciences who need to conduct dissertation research or fieldwork in Latin America. The fellowship is awarded annually.

CLAS launches a formal graduate certificate in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, which provides graduate students in any MA or doctoral program in the University with transcript documentation of interdisciplinary area studies specialization.