The mission of the Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) is to promote a greater understanding of Latin America and Iberia. LAII fosters research and education within UNM about the cultures, languages, history, and societies of these world regions, and works to share UNM’s expertise and resources with partners including Central New Mexico Community College, K-12 schools, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Instituto Cervantes, and other organizations in the community.
Our efforts are sustained and bolstered by UNM's community of scholars of Mexico, Central America, South America, the Spanish speaking Caribbean, Spain, and Portugal. Over one hundred and twenty faculty members at UNM conduct research or teach on these regions, representing a wide range of disciplines, interests, and approaches. The Institute facilitates this scholarship, provides a focal point for interdisciplinary discussions, and distributes resources to seed new research projects for faculty and their students. Drawing on university resources, and in partnership with outside funders, LAII helps departments recruit highly qualified faculty and students, and enables students to acquire new languages, conduct field research, and complete their degrees efficiently.
The origins of the LAII date back to 1941 with the establishment of the School of Inter-American Affairs under the leadership of Professor Joaquin Ortega. From the outset, UNM’s Latin America initiatives have stressed community engagement within New Mexico and beyond. Today, this takes the form of helping K-12 teachers in the state bring Latin American cultural, language, and social studies content to their classrooms across grade levels. In a typical year, LAII holds over 50 K-12 events reaching over 700 teachers and impacting thousands of students. LAII also produces curriculum materials that build upon books, films, and art exhibits. Our programs place particular emphasis on promoting literacy, through the Vamos a Leer book group and blog that has created and maintained a community of teachers who exchange ideas regarding both adult and youth books and how best to incorporate these in teaching. Community engagement also stands out in the work of many affiliated faculty and students, who work on vital issues ranging from migration to food production to language preservation.
LAII supports area specialists in all fields, facilitating ties to Latin American institutions, and providing an extra-departmental community of scholars with shared regional interests, skills, and commitments. Faculty Field Research Grants seed new research; Interdisciplinary Project Development grants facilitate collaboration, workshops, and proposal development; and ongoing faculty working groups promote interdisciplinary dialog. Each year an interdisciplinary symposium endowed by the late Professor Richard Greenleaf highlights a different Latin American theme, with participation by outside and UNM scholars.
LAII houses and funds the interdisciplinary Latin American Studies program, which offers BA, MA, and PhD degrees drawing on course offerings from 23 departments across 9 colleges of the university. LAS alumni hold a variety of positions in business, government, education, and non-profit work, using the languages skills, regional knowledge, and analytical tools they learned through the program. UNM hosts 5 dual degree programs pairing the LAS degree with professional degrees in law, population health, education, business administration, and planning.
LAII is above all a community, and I urge you to visit the institute, attend events, and participate in the discussions that result from an eclectic, interdisciplinary group of people with shared interests.
Director, Latin American & Iberian Institute
Professor of Political Science
The University of New Mexico