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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois in the Cold War Era 1945-1975: Latina/o Students at U of I

Latina/o Students at U of I

Latina/o students protest in front of the administration building, circa 1980

Although people of Latina/o backgrounds have lived in what is now the United States since the 17th century, the first large wave of migration to Illinois did not occur until the late 1910s and 1920s, as word spread of jobs in Illinois industries spread and  Mexicans were exempted from the restrictions of the 1924 Immigration Act.  However, the Great Depression checked Latina/o migrations as Latina/o workers endured high rates of unemployment.  Efforts to prohibit immigration and remove Latinos from the United States by groups such as the American Legion rounded up hundreds of unemployed workers and their families and put them on trains bound for the U.S.-Mexico border, regardless of citizenship status, an endeavor that came to be known as “Mexican Repatriation.”  During the 1930s, the Mexican population in the Chicago area was cut nearly in half.  But World War II labor demands eased immigration restrictions, and Latina/o migration to Illinois, especially from Mexico and Puerto Rico, renewed. 

In 1968 the University of Illinois initiated Project 500, an effort to enroll students traditionally underrepresented on campus. In that year, 565 newly admitted African American and Latina/o students entered the student body.  Latina/o students were energized by the Chicano Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, which was a struggle to obtain civil rights and cultivate cultural pride among Mexican Americans.  The Chicano Movement and the protest cultures of the era led to amplified political consciousness among Latina/o Americans of all backgrounds.  This new consciousness encouraged other Latina/o groups to emphasize their historical and cultural connections in order to create political bonds.

University of Illinois Sources:

La Casa Cultural Latina Records, 1973-92, 1995 (RS: 41/64/40)

La Casa Cultural Latina Publications, 1979-93 (RS: 41/64/840)

Sigma Lambda Beta Records, 1990-2002 (RS: 41/71/123): Records of the University of Illinois Kappa Chapter of Sigma Lambda Beta, a multicultural fraternity with an emphasis on Latino culture.

Student Organizations Publications, 1871-  (RS 41/6/840): Includes publications from the La Casa Cultural Latina, La Colectiva Latina, and the Latin American Students Assn.,

Minority Student Affairs Office Issuances and Announcements, 1978-79, 1981- (RS: 7/1/821)

Campus Security Office Campus Unrest File, 1968-1972 (RS: 37/4/9): Includes information on campus food boycotts to support the United Farm Workers.

Minority Student Publications (RS: 41/12/801)

Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action Office Issuances, 1968-1997 (RS: 24/9/803)

Dean of Students Subject File, 1966-98 (RS: 41/1/6)

Daily Illini, 1874- (Microform in Newspaper Library)



Rodolfo F. Acuña, Sometimes There is No Other Side: Chicanos and the Myth of Equality (Notre Dame, Ind.: 1998).

Jeanett Castellanos and Lee Jones, eds., The Majority in the Minority: Expanding the Representation of Latina/o Faculty, Administrators, and Students in Higher Education, (Sterling, Va.:  2003).

Nicholas De Genova and Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas, Latino Crossings: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and the Politics of Race and Citizenship (New York: 2003).

Nicholas De Genova, Working the Boundaries: Race, Space, and "Illegality" in Mexican Chicago (Durham, NC: 2005)

Peter J. Duignan and L.H. Gann, The Spanish Speakers in the United States: A History (Lanham, MD: 1998).

Alexander Jun, From Here to University: Access, Mobility & Resilience Among Latino Youth (London: 2001).

David J. León, ed., Latinos in Higher Education, (Boston: 2003)

Felix M. Padilla, Latino Ethnic Consciousness: The Case of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in Chicago (Notre Dame, IN: 1985).