El Centro de la Raza was created as a result of the Chicano movement of the 1960’s. El Centro was created by and for students under the umbrella of Chicano Studies to ensure that the university adequately addressed the needs of the largest and fastest growing ethnic population at the University of New Mexico. El Centro received its first special project state funding in 1994, the same year that Governor Bruce King proclaimed that September 16 and 17, 1994 represented the “Hispanic Student Service Days.” In 1995, Raza students at UNM organized to change the name from Hispanic Student Services to El Centro de la Raza to represent the intent by which El Centro had been created in the first place. The intent for El Centro was to serve the Chicano/Mexicano student population which had suffered the greatest challenges in coping with the social and cultural capital needed to navigate and succeed in higher education. In 2006, House Bill 2 and House Bill 799 of the New Mexico state legislature provided the following statute, “El Centro de la Raza shall provide training, technical assistance, research assistance, student academic support in the form of instruction and tutoring and information dissemination for Hispanic student recruitment and retention.”
Overall, El Centro is committed to the cultural, social, academic, and emotional experience of students. The department and its programs value the students and their families at UNM. The work of El Centro has touched the lives of many people in the state. From mentoring, recruitment efforts, cultural programming, civic engagement, advocacy, student internships, professional development and emergency scholarships emergency scholarships. El Centro is instrumental to student access and success by building strategic partnerships and supporting the development of new leaders for the future of the Latino/Hispano community. Our priorities are student advocacy, to provide excellent, relevant and meaningful programs and services, and to educate the campus community of the diverse issues that affect Latino/Hispano students attending or wishing to attend UNM.
Research demonstrates that when students have holistic programming, services and advocacy such as El Centro, they fare better in their academics. The success of El Centro’s endeavors is evidenced by the hundreds of alumni, many of whom still advocate for El Centro’s vision, which is to cultivate positive change through education and culture. (c/s)