The Center for Latin American and Latino/a Studies is an interdisciplinary teaching, research, and community service program for the Latin American and Latino/a communities in Georgia.We offer students extensive knowledge of Latin America and the Caribbean and their corresponding communities within the United States through academic study, personalized training, and research abroad. Additionally, we provide a forum for dialogue among faculty, students, and the Atlanta metro population. Our program embraces a variety of fields and is committed to historically informed and interdisciplinary approaches that promote a more thorough understanding of differences within Latin America and beyond its borders in a global context.
To enhance awareness of Latin American and Latino/a issues through interdisciplinary research, teaching, and outreach activities in Atlanta and Georgia, as well as at the national and international levels.
For a number of years, the College of Arts and Sciences of Georgia State University supported a Latin American Studies Consortium for the University of Georgia System. The original intent behind this college support was that other units in the system would contribute to the program so Georgia could develop a statewide effort to promote Latin American and Latino studies. In 1998, the members of the Latin American Studies Consortium of Georgia State University created the Center for Latin American and Latino/a Studies (CLALS) in the College of Arts and Sciences to specifically address the goals and mission of the university with regard to the study of Latin American and Latino culture and history.
The creation of CLALS responded to important local and regional demographic changes. Over the past two decades, the number of residents of Latin American and Latino origin in Georgia has grown from an almost insignificant number to well over 900,000, accounting for about ten percent of the state’s population. According to 2012 census estimates, there were 912,239 Latinos living in Georgia (up from 462,000 in 1996), making it the 10th largest state for Latinos in the nation. Of those 912,000, approximately half lived in four counties located in the Atlanta metro area: Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett. The metropolitan Atlanta statistical area (MSA), the 9th largest urban enclave in the country, currently supports four Spanish-language television stations or affiliates (TV Azteca, Telemundo, Univisión, MundoFOX), a variety of radio stations, several newspapers, dance, theater, and art groups, and numerous cultural events like the Festival Peachtree Latino, the largest multicultural event in the entire Southeast. At Georgia State University, the increased presence of Hispanic/Latinos on the campus and in the greater metropolitan area was recognized by the establishment by President Carl V. Patton (1992-2008) of a Hispanic Heritage Week to be held each October.
These demographic and cultural facts coincide with the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 and of similar trade agreements with other Latin American countries (Chile, 2004; Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, 2005; Peru, 2007; and Colombia, 2011) in recent years. These agreements significantly increase the importance of Latin America to the economy and culture of Georgia in general and Atlanta in particular, given Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s status as the busiest one in the world since 1998.
Taking into account these economic, cultural, and demographic trends, there is a need in Atlanta for a research and outreach center where the opportunities and challenges presented by the emerging presence in the region can be addressed, where Georgia State University’s already important role in the Latin American and Latino community can be further emphasized, and where the public in general—and Georgia State University students in particular—can be educated on the growing importance of Latin American culture, economy, and politics in the United States and the world.
To enhance the internationalization of Georgia State University as described in the Strategic Plan of 2005 – 2010.
In collaboration with other academic units at Georgia State University, CLALS facilitates the availability of existing resources that develop and expand excellence in Latin American and Latino studies. The Center serves the university by:
- Providing an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of ideas among faculty and students in agreement with the stated intent of internationalization of the curriculum at Georgia State University, particularly in programs such as international studies, culture and values, business, biosciences, and health, as well as government and economics.
- Disseminating information on Latin American and Latino issues to students, the general faculty, and the public in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
- Reaching out to the local communities and the Latino students at Georgia State, thereby establishing and securing links between both.
- Contributing to the internationalization of the academic curriculum through the support of a wide array of courses with a total or partial Latin American/Latino component. Key examples of this aspect are the Latino Freshman Learning Community (FLC) and the study abroad programs to Cuba and Mexico.
- Generating and supporting additional research related to Latin American/Latino issues.
- Fostering the development of international links and intellectual exchange between Georgia and Latin America.
- Seeking external funding for the promotion of Latin American studies and related activities.