Northridge Opens Central American Studies Program


The birthplace of two of the nation’s first ethnic studies departments is now home to the first Central American studies minor, Cal State Northridge officials announced Monday.

The program will focus on the half-million Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Honduran and other Central American immigrants in Southern California, a number projected to reach more than 2.5 million by 2010.

“Cal State Northridge is the de facto intellectual center of Central Americans and Central American studies in the United States,” said Roberto Lovato, the program’s coordinator.


Lovato, a Salvadoran immigrant who is president of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, said the program will focus on the effects of globalization on Central Americans, many of whom frequently shuttle between nations, cultures and languages. The minor, which requires 18 units of course work, will explore the legacy of Central American wars and government oppression over the past century.

Two of the first Chicano and African American studies departments in the United States were established at Cal State Northridge in the late 1960s.

Cal State Northridge is home to 1,200 students of Central American descent, more than at any other American university, Lovato said.

Interim President Louanne Kennedy said members of the Central American United Student Assn. approached her with the idea in 1993, but a year later the Northridge earthquake derailed those discussions.

Students suggested the minor again in 1997, this time to College of Humanities Dean Jorge Garcia, who enlisted the support of other professors and campus administrators.

Siris Badios, a member of the Central American United Students Assn., was one of the students who renewed the push for the program in 1997. She is pursuing a minor in the new program. “I wanted to go to college in a place to help me understand what had happened in El Salvador,” said Badios, 20.


Until this year, when she started taking Central American studies courses, Badios said she knew little about the history of her country. Her parents, traumatized by their experiences during El Salvador’s civil war, barely speak of their lives there, Badios said.