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Resources: Podcasts

Celebrating 35 Years of the LAII

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Date:  Friday, October 24, 2014

Presenters:  Susan Tiano, Gilbert Merkx, Moira Gerety, Sharon Kellum, Jon Tolman, Nelson Valdes, Fernando Maresma, Gabrielle Palmer, Ramiro Jordan, Richard Holder, Johann van Reenen, Suzanne Schadl, Matías Fontenla, and Eva Encinias.

The Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) celebrates 35 years in 2014-2015. On October 24, 2015, we celebrated the LAII's 35 anniversary with a gala event held at the National Hispanic Culture Center. Director Susan Tiano designed the program to document highlights of the LAII's history and to honor people who had contributed to the LAII's past achievements. The program began with a historical synopsis provided by founding Director Gilbert Merkx, who regaled the audience with the story of how the LAI was created to merge all of UNM's Latin- and Ibero-American programs under a single umbrella. One of the most significant was the Centro Andino in Quito, Ecuador, which changed the lives of many generations of UNM students who studied there, including Moira Gerety, who shared what her experience at the Centro meant to her. The LAII's leadership in promoting education and scholarship was highlighted by Sharon Kellum, who served as managing editor of the Latin American Research Review while it was based at UNM; Jon Tolman, who helped lay the groundwork for the LAII's leadership in Brazilian and Portuguese studies; and Nelson Valdes, who founded the LAII's Latin American Data Base, which continues today as a respected electronic news service on Latin America. Other important early projects include OITEC (the Office of International Technical Cooperation), whose role in bringing Latin Americans to UNM for specialized training was detailed by co-founder, Fernando Meresma; the Camino Real Project, whose impact in preserving a record of our region's rich heritage was detailed by co-founder Gabrielle Palmer; and ISTEC (The Ibero-American Science and Technology Education Consortium), whose contribution to promoting collaborative scientific research in the hemisphere was described by its founder, Ramiro Jordan.

Bridging the LAII's formative period with its more recent history, Former Deputy Provost Richard Holder, to whom the LAII reported for many years, shared his perspective on the LAII's evolution and its importance to UNM's central mission. Johann van Reenen, who during the 2000s was Co-PI on two Department of Education-funded LAII projects--the Latin American Knowledge Harvester and LA-Energaia--described these projects, which supplemented the Title VI National Resource Center funds that have been the lifeblood of UNM's Latin American community throughout most of the LAII's existence. While Title VI NRC funds have strengthened curriculum and infrastructure and faculty ranks across the campus, two of the most salient beneficiaries are the University Libraries' Latin American collections and the interdisciplinary Latin American Studies program. Suzanne Schadl, curator for the Latin American and Iberian collections, described her objectives for maintaining the quality of the collections and ensuring their accessibility to students and faculty. Matías Fontenla, Associate Director for Academic Programs, described his objectives and initiatives for strengthening Latin American Studies. The program ended with a flare when Eva Encinias, director of the world-renowned National Institute of Flamenco, and her students exhibited their dancing prowess to an enraptured audience.