Exploring the Latin American Studies Program


The 1960’s were a very politically tumultuous time period in the United States due to the civil rights movement, Vietnam war, political assassinations, and countercultural movements. In turn, anti-war opposition rose in the U.S., and spread to countless college campuses. This trend, coupled with the civil rights movement influenced many at the time to reconsider education and acknowledge the lack of inclusion in academia. One response from Trinity came in the form of the development of the Latin American Studies Program.

During the 1970's, many of intitatives planned and discussed in meeting minutes from the LAS committe took place. More tangibly, the Mexican microfiliming project took form and several of the events held by the program occurred. Overall, this period appeared to be the peak for the program. 

The 1980's were a particuarly unfortunate time for the Latin American Studies Program. By 1982, the Latin American Studies and Border Studies major were no longer available. Additionally, the Border Research Institute ceased to exist around the same time, and questions regarding the hiring practices of Trinity were frequently asked. More specifically, the number of minority faculty and students decreased during the 1980's, and while it appeared many faculty were aware of the issue, how much was truly being done at the time to fix it is uncertain.

Program Planning

Planning for the Latin American Studies program started in the fall of 1965 when Dean Bruce Thomas organized a group of professors to work on the program. More specifically, this committee was led by Dr. Richard A. Johnson, the director of the interdisciplinary studies program at Trinity University. Several of the facutly involved, including Dr.Johnson were hired specifically for the creation of the program. 

Dr.Johnson had a doctorate in Latin American history and prior to working at Trinity worked as the American Consul General in Monterrey, Mexico. 

In a memorandrum written by Dr. Johnson to Dean Bruce Thomas, he outlines the objectives of the program as the following:

"An interdisciplinary approach to the ecological, historical, cultural, socio-economic and political life of Latin America permits optimal preparation for: (a) Students who may wish to acquire a general education focusing on that area, or (b) for those who may wish to prepare themselves for (1) advanced study in the Latin American field; (2) teaching social sciences or Spanish in the secondary schools; (3) social work among Latin American residents of the United States or their descendents; (4) work in Latin America or with Latin Americans in government, business, research, journalism, and engineering, or (5) service in Latin America in educational or religious fields."


Pictured is Virginia Mounce, University Archivist, and the Latin American Studies librarian.

Intial Faculty

  • Dr. Richard A Johnson, Inter-American Studies Program Director
  • Dr. Frances Hendricks, History 
  • Dr. Joe Ashby, Economics 
  • Prof Alfonso Greene, Foreign Languages
  • Dr. Harold Clark, Economics
  • Dr. Marvin Baker, Geography 
  • Dr. Gerald Benjamin, Music 
  • University Archivist Virginia Mounce

More than a Major

The Latin American Studies Program did much more outside of facilitating the Latin American Studies major though! The program was made up of several faculty members interested in Latin America who were committed to various projects relating to Latin American Studies. Broadly, the LAS program hosted performances, movie nights, lectures, conferences, and worked on the Texas Consortium to Microfilm Mexican Archives. 

Click through the exhibit to learn more about efforts of the program. Additionally, you can check out a brochure made for the program in 1970 detailing the courses offered, faculty and library resources related to the program.

Exploring the Latin American Studies Program