November 2018 will mark the 29th anniversary of the assassination of Ignacio Martín Baró, the Spanish-born Jesuit priest, distinguished scholar, and UChicago alum slain during the Salvadoran Civil War by the right-wing Salvadoran Army.
Born in Spain in 1942, Ignacio Martín Baró grew up in the turmoil of the post-civil war years. At the age of 17 he entered the Jesuit Order, where he was sent to El Salvador to finish his novitiate training. Once his training concluded, Martín Baró spent several years studying psychology in Colombia and teaching in El Salvador. He came to the University of Chicago in 1976 to pursue graduate studies and three years later received his doctorate in Social Psychology.
Upon completion of his degree in 1979, Martín Baró returned to El Salvador to find it embroiled in a violent civil war. Despite many death threats and brutal acts of repression suffered by colleagues, students and friends, Martín Baró continued to pursue a brilliant teaching and research career at the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” where he founded the Instituto Universitario de Opinión Pública. His scholarly pursuits were balanced with his role as a Jesuit Priest through his service as pastor of a rural parish on the outskirts of San Salvador.
A seminal thinker in the field of social psychology, pioneer of liberation psychology, and consummate advocate for the oppressed, Martín Baró concentrated both his academic and advocacy efforts on peacefully healing the wounds of civil war in El Salvador. The right-wing Salvadoran government opposed his work and ultimately sent a battalion of soldiers to kill him. On November 16, 1989, armed militants of the Salvadoran army stormed the UAC campus and killed Ignacio Martín Baró, five of his Jesuit colleagues, their housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s daughter.
In 1991 the University of Chicago established the Ignacio Martín Baró Endowment to honor the life and memory of this extraordinary individual. Originally, the Center for Latin American Studies-administered endowment supported a series of major public lectures delivered by prominent social activists in Latin America, including former presidential candidate and social acitivist from El Salvador, Rubén Zamora (1993), former President of Haiti, Father Jean-Bertand Aristide (1994), and liberation theology founder Father Gustavo Gutiírrez (1995).
In 2005, the lecture series transformed into the Ignacio Martín Baró Prize Lectureship competition, an annual prize lectureship for advanced doctoral students. The award supports the teaching of one undergraduate-level course focusing on a major political issue or question pertaining to human rights in Latin America. To date, 11 doctoral students in Anthropology, Art History, Comparative Human Development, History, and Political Science, have been awarded the lectureship, teaching courses whose emphases span from the politics of art to the Cuban diaspora, and from questions of environmental human rights to medical practices. These courses provide a unique space for students to study, debate, and engage in discourse surrounding important themes in Latin American Studies.
The 2018-19 Ignacio Martín Baró Prize Lectureship was awarded to History doctoral student Inés Escobar González. In the Winter quarter, she will teach the follwing course:
Development and the Right to Housing in Latin America: A Critical Appraisal
Bringing a wide variety of disciplinary texts into conversation, this course will lead towards a holistic understanding of the historically rooted and globally entangled housing condition of Latin America's urban poor. It will encourage students to read along the grain of development discourse at different stages of the twentieth-century development, thus advancing students' capacity to critically situate and condition global and national policies. The course analytically foregrounds problems of governance, resource distribution, and sociopolitical complexity, providing students with a representative range of case studies from across the subcontinent and interrogating what it means for social and economic goods to be labeled human rights. Throughout the course, students will examine diverse housing arrangements and policies in the context of national, regional, and global development histories. Ultimately, this course advances comprehension of the particularities of contemporary Latin American societies, and that which they share with the Global South and the world at large.