Thursday, August 28, 2014

Celebrating Latino Heritage at Mizzou in 2014

September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month. In celebration of the event, the Missouri Student Unions has installed an exhibition showcasing the history of Hispanic and Latino students at Mizzou. Hispanic American heritage has been recognized nationally since 1968, but Hispanic and Latin American students have had a presence on our campus since the mid-nineteenth century.

This year’s exhibition highlights notable alumni of Hispanic and Latin American descent and campus organizations that support and advocate for students whose heritage is based in the Latino culture.

Here are just a few of the people who have contributed greatly to the history of Hispanic and Latino heritage at Mizzou.

(Photo credit: Kalamazoo College, Boiling Pot, 1981)

Dr. Betty Rita Gomez Lance of Costa Rica attended MU in 1949 as a graduate student. She went on to become Professor of Romance Languages and Literature at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Amongst her publications is Vivencies (1981), a volume of poetry in Spanish. 

(1930 Savitar)
An international student, Sucre Perez (PhD Journalism ’31) returned to Ecuador after completing his doctorate and became the director and managing editor of El Universo, Ecuador’s largest newspaper. During his time at MU, Perez was active in the International Club and the Spanish Club. 

(MIZZOU Magazine, Winter, 2003)
Dr. Christina Vasquez Case (PhD Rural Sociology ’04; Lt. Col. Army National Guard) researches studies of diversity and demographics.  She also works to find wealth-building strategies in the Latino community. Case is now the director of Alianzas for the University of Missouri Extension, a group that advocates for Hispanic/Latino Missourians and works to ensure the recruitment and retention of Latino faculty, staff, and students. 

(1924 Savitar)
The Spanish Club was first organized at MU in 1920. While many students in the early years joined the club as a way to practice Spanish as a second language, some were native Spanish speakers. The Spanish Club’s president in 1924, Manuel Marcelino Mortola (B.J. ’25), was an international student from Argentina.  Mortola was also the president of Sigma Delta Pi, a national honorary Spanish fraternity, and editor of the Gold and Black, a Spanish language student magazine.  After receiving his degree, Mortola returned to Argentina where he became an executive in one of the first international offices of the J. Walter Thompson Agency, a world-renown marketing firm.

Missouri Student Association Officers (1976 Savitar)
Linda Martinez (B.A. ’76 - top left) entered MU as pre-med hoping to follow in her father’s footsteps, who moved to the U.S. from Mexico for his medical residency where he met and married her mother, a nursing student. It was only later that she realized law was her true calling. While at MU Martinez was very involved in student government (shown here with the Missouri Students Association). In 2009, Governor Jay Nixon appointed her director of the Missouri Department of Economics. Martinez has worked as an attorney in St. Louis for the last three decades.

Celebrating Latino Heritage at Mizzou is on view now until October 13, 2014, in the University of Missouri Student Center.

You can view the exhibition in Lower Lounge of the MU Student Center to learn more. For information about MU’s diverse community, visit the Multicultural Center on the ground floor of the MU Student Center or at

Also, read about our previous Latino Heritage exhibition at:

Authored by Sarah S. Jones, Curator of Public Arts, Missouri Student Unions