Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University


Tulane University is a liberal arts institution founded in New Orleans in 1834. Located in a Franco-Hispanic city on the Gulf of Mexico, the city has served as a mediator between the circum-Caribbean world and the Anglo-American North from its foundation.

Tulane’s academic mission and programs have also evolved as partnerships with regional neighbors linked by history and shared inheritances. Early Tulane scholars studied the tropical diseases prevalent in New Orleans and the Gulf-Caribbean. They also gave attention to the tradition of civil code law which Louisiana shares with the French and Spanish world to the south. Even today Louisiana is the only place in the U.S. where civil law is taught. Consequently, Tulane has a long-standing special strength in the study of Central America and Mexico.

This early historical trajectory was given a firm organizational foundation in 1924, when Tulane benefactor Samuel Zemurray, the president of the Cuyamel Fruit Company, made a large gift of a library, archaeological artifacts, and an endowment to establish the Department of Middle American Research. The library was the William Gates Collection; it furnished the foundation of Tulane’s internationally distinguished holdings of resource materials on Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Mexico. This scholarly collection later constituted the base of Tulane’s Latin American Library established in 1962.

The Department of Middle American Research was founded to conduct “advanced research into the history (both Indian and colonial), archaeology, tropical botany (both economic and medical), and natural resources and products, of the countries facing New Orleans across the waters to the south; to gather, index and disseminate data thereupon; and to aid in the upbuilding of the best commercial and friendly relations between these Trans-Caribbean peoples and the United States.” The new division launched systematic expeditions and publications that described and analyzed the archaeology, customs, and languages of Central America and Mexico. It became Tulane’s first internationally prestigious program, responsible not only for innovative research, but for the highly popular Maya exhibit at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago in 1933-34.

William Gates was the first director of the Department in 1924, Franz Blom replaced him in 1926, and Hermann Bayer joined him in 1927. The Department attracted important participants in its research programs. Doris Zemurray Stone, who graduated from Radcliffe in 1930, joined the Department as an associate in ethnography during the 1931 academic year and subsequently was named as an associate in archaeology. She remained active in the program until 1939, when she moved with her husband Roger Thayer Stone to Costa Rica. She lived in Latin America until her father’s death in 1961, when she and her husband returned to New Orleans. Matilda Geddings Gray was associated with the Department from 1927, assembling an important collection of textiles during an expedition she led in 1935. Both of these researchers were to become major contributors and benefactors of the Department and Latin American Studies at Tulane.

In 1930, Blom presented an ambitious plan for the establishment of the Middle American Research Institute (MARI) to the Rockefeller Foundation, which dismissed them as overly ambitious. He labored throughout the 1930s to found this new institute, actively promoting plans for the construction of a new $2,000,000 building on campus modeled after the Castillo de Chichén Itzá. The fundraising campaign was authorized in 1938, but they were not to be completed. Franz Blom and Hermann Bayer were dismissed from their posts in 1940 and 1941, and only the name change took effect.

Maurice Ries and Arthur Gropp guided MARI until 1943, when Robert Wauchope became Director. Although called to service in the Navy in 1944-46, on his return he worked to integrate the research functions of the MARI with the teaching goals of the university. He served as the first chair in 1945-1946 of the Faculty Senate Committee on Middle American Studies, which oversaw the instructional programs on Latin America in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He was succeeded in 1946-47 by Professor of Spanish John Englekirk, Jr., who served through 1949-50.

Throughout the 1940s, and early 1950s, studies of Latin America expanded to include an increasing number of Tulane departments and faculty. Anthropology, history, literature, art history, political science, economics, sociology, biology, and earth sciences formed the core disciplines in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, while the Schools of Law, Business, Engineering, Medicine, and Public Health developed Pan-American programs as well.

In 1947, the Carnegie Corporation awarded Tulane University, Vanderbilt, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of North Carolina five-year grants to develop area studies programs for Latin America. The President’s Report of September 1948 described the fruits of that funding, announcing the creation of three new B.A. programs in Public Administration, Foreign Service, and Latin American Studies. All were targeted at newly perceived professional opportunities for students after WWII.

Latin American Studies was constituted as a minor and certification program and required 24 hours of Latin American content; the 1948 Report described it as the “equivalent of a second major.” Seventeen courses were listed that year. The same Report announced the Graduate Council’s approved a new M.A. degree in Latin American Studies; and in 1948 the Faculty Senate Committee on Middle American Studies was renamed the Committee on Latin American Studies,

In 1951, William J. Griffith (History) assumed the chairmanship of the Committee on Latin American Studies that included Dean Roger P. McCutcheon, Hugh B. Carnes (Business), Gustavo Correa (Spanish), John E. Englekirk, Jr. (Spanish), Frank L. Keller (Business), Arden R. King (Anthropology), Kalman H. Silvert (Politics), Robert Wauchope (Anthropology), and Daniel S. Wogan (Spanish). Munro Edmonson (Anthropology) joined them a year later.

Carnegie Institute funding in 1953 enabled full-scale coordinated group research at MARI in coordination with the Committee on Latin American Studies. But the group research projects were not completely successful, as researchers and faculty preferred individual projects. In spite of committed efforts from both parties to forge a coherent and unified program, the research mission of MARI and the instructional program of the Committee on Latin American Studies would move forward on separate tracks.

In 1956, the Latin American Studies Instructional Program, the Institute of Comparative Law, and MARI submitted a grant to the Rockefeller Foundation to establish an Institute of Latin American Studies. They were unsuccessful, but in 1956-57 Latin American Studies became a department of instruction. By 1960, it had expanded to include Bernard Gicovate (Spanish), Donald Robertson (Art), Philip B. Taylor, Jr. (Politics), Jan P. Charmatz (Law), Rodolfo Batiza (Law), and Gilbert Chase (Music).

In the interim, MARI continued its research and publication mission. In late 1957, the National Science Foundation approached Wauchope about undertaking the general direction of the publication of the Handbook of Middle American Indians, which was to become a major focus of MARI for many years. E. Wyllys Andrews IV, who had become an associate of MARI in 1949, had established important excavations at Dzibilchaltun, north of Mérida. E. Wyllys Andrews V followed his father as the director of MARI’s projects in Yucatán in 1972-74 and took over as MARI’s director when Wauchope retired in 1975.

In 1962, the U.S. Department of Education awarded funding to Tulane University to establish a National Resource Center in Latin American Studies under provisions of the newly established National Defense Education Act. In 1965, the Ford Foundation awarded the university a major five-year grant to expand both the faculty and the curriculum. Consequently, in 1966, Tulane University established the Center for Latin American Studies. William Griffith (History) was its first director; Richard Greenleaf (History) became its second director in 1970. By then, the Center’s new faculty included Roland H. Ebel (Politics), James D. Cochrane (Politics), Paul Lewis (Politics), Victoria Bricker (Anthropology), and Ralph Lee Woodward (History). A

Richard Greenleaf directed the Center for twenty-eight years, retiring in 1998. The achievements of the Greenleaf era were fundamental in establishing the Center as one of the preeminent academic programs at Tulane University and in the nation. He increased the size and breadth of the faculty, which reached its current size under his directorship. He garnered major support for its programmatic development from the Mellon, Rockefeller, Ford, Tinker, and Zemurray Foundations to name only a few. In 1975, in partnership with Samuel Z. Stone, he helped launch the Centro de Investigación Adiestamiento Público Administrativo in San José, Costa Rica, as a sister institution of the Center. In 1974, he established a new Ph.D. degree in Latin American Studies. His many other accomplishments are the subject of a special issue of the Center’s Newsletter on the occasion of a symposium in his honor (see Archive).

In addition to Greenleaf’s many achievements, the Center flourished because of the indefatigable support of eminent scholar and benefactor Doris Stone. The Center was renamed the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies in 1983 in honor of her husband, in whose memory she made significant contributions to the Center’s endowment. Doris Stone died in 1994 , and her son Samuel Stone and his family continue as active collaborators in the Center’s life and programs.




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Upcoming Events

Dennis A. Georges Lecture in Hellenic Culture

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Join Dr. Emily Greenwood as she will be speaking about Greek language/literature, slavery, and the “politics of the human” when she delivers the Dennis A. Georges Lecture in Hellenic Culture.

Emily Greenwood is Professor and Chair of the Classics Department at Yale University where she also holds a joint appointment in African American Studies. She is one of the pre-eminent thinkers on Greek historiography of her generation as well as the leading figure in re-evaluating the legacy of Graeco-Roman culture in colonial and post-colonial contexts. In addition to her book Afro-Greeks: Dialogues Between Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Classics in the Twentieth Century (Oxford 2010) [Joint winner of the Runciman Prize], she has published over a dozen articles and book chapters that investigate the rich and nuanced reception of ancient Greek literature in the African Diaspora, especially in Caribbean literature.

Africana Studies Brown Bag Lecture with Prof. Dan Sharp

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“Naná Vasconcelos: Afro-Brazilian Percussion in Paris and New York City”

Dan Sharp is currently research for a book that revolves around the 1980 album Saudades by Afro-Brazilian Naná Vasconcelos. The book will situate Naná‘s reimagining of percussion and voice in the context of his itinerant life in New York, Europe and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s. Snacks provided!

Why Marronage Still Matters: Lecture with Dr. Neil Roberts

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What is the opposite of freedom? Dr. Neil Roberts answers this question with definitive force: slavery, and from there he unveils powerful new insights on the human condition as it has been understood between these poles. Crucial to his investigation is the concept ofmarronage—a form of slave escape that was an important aspect of Caribbean and Latin American slave systems. Roberts examines the liminal and transitional space of slave escape to develop a theory of freedom as marronage, which contends that freedom is fundamentally located within this space.In this lecture, Roberts will explore how what he calls the “post-Western” concept and practice of marronage—of flight—bears on our world today.

This event is sponsored by the Kathryn B. Gore Chair in French Studies, Department of French and Italian.
For more information contact Ryan Joyce at or Fayçal Falaky at

Newcomb Art Museum to host María José de la Macorra and Eric Peréz for Gallery Talk

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Join us at the Newcomb Art Museum in welcoming Mexican artists María José de la Macorra and Eric Peréz for a noontime gallery talk as they discuss the current exhibition Clay in Transit: Contemporary Mexican Ceramics (which features works by María José de la Macorra) and the focus and process of their work. The talk is free and open to the public.

The Newcomb Art Museum is featuring two ceramic exhibitions entitled Clay in Transit featuring contemporary Mexican ceramics and Clay in Place featuring Newcomb pottery and guild plus other never-before-exhibited pieces from the permanent collection.The exhibit presents the work of seven Mexican-born sculptors who bridge the past and present by creating contemporary pieces using an ancient medium. The exhibit will feature works by Ana Gómez, Saúl Kaminer, Perla Krauze, María José Lavín, María José de la Macorra, Gustavo Pérez, Paloma Torres.

Exhibition curator and artist Paloma Torres explains, “In this contemporary moment, clay is a borderline. It is a material that has played a critical role in the development of civilization: early man used clay not only to represent spiritual concerns but also to hold food and construct homes.” While made of a primeval material, the exhibited works nonetheless reflect the artists’ twenty-first-century aesthetics and concerns as well as their fluency in diverse media—from painting and drawing to video, graphic design, and architecture.

The exhibit will run from January 18, 2018, through March 24, 2018. For more information on the exhibit and the artists, please visit the Newcomb Art Museum’s website.

Clay in Transit is presented in collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Jennifer Wooster (NC ’91), Lora & Don Peters (A&S ’81), Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University, Andrew and Eva Martinez, and the Newcomb Art Museum advisory board

Bate Papo! Practice your Portuguese and enjoy some Brazilian treats: kibe

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Bate Papo! Try a bit of Brazil’s Middle Eastern flavor with these kibe treats. This event is sponsored by TULASO and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Admission is free. All levels welcome. For more information, please contact Megwen at

Bate Papo! Practice your Portuguese and enjoy some Brazilian treats: bolo de aipim

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Bate Papo! Drop by the LBC mezzanine floor for a slice of manioc sponge cake. We will be spread out across the green couches so come by to take a load off and chat for a bit. This event is sponsored by TULASO and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies. Admission is free. All levels welcome. For more information, please contact Megwen at