Our Historia

August 27, 1970, a community takeover of Chancellor’s office and Chapman Hall lead to more dialogue and the creation of a Spanish Speaking Outreach Institutute, now the Roberto Hernandez Center.
Roberto Hernandez Center

“On August 27, 1970 at UW-Milwaukee, about 200 Latinos (mostly Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans) staged a sit-in in of Chancellor J. Martin Klotsche’s office in Chapman Hall.  This sit-in was followed by negotiations that led to the creation of the Spanish Speaking Outreach Institute (SSOI) on the UWM campus charged with the recruitment and retention of Latino students and with facilitating the Latino community’s access to university courses and other programs.  The SSOI offered classes in Latino studies (history and literature) in the South Side and the near North Side where large numbers of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans resided.  The UWM sit-in was followed one year later with a nine-day march from Milwaukee to Madison which concluded with a sit-in at Wisconsin governor Patrick Lucey’s office on August 24, 1971. The marchers who met with Lucey included several who were also involved in the UWM protest.  In Madison they demanded Latino representation on state migrant labor commissions and boards and improved services for migrant workers…”  continue reading: “Latinos at UWM: A History of the Spanish Speaking Outreach Institute and the Roberto Hernández Center” by Joseph A. Rodriguez, Associate Professor, UWM Department of History and Director, UWM Urban Studies Program.

Visit UWM Latino Activism Collection, which documents the origins of the Roberto Hernandez Center.

DVD of 40th Anniversary can be purchased at our office in Bolton Hall 183

Who was Roberto Hernández?

robertohernanRoberto Hernández was one of the most active Latino leaders in the city of Milwaukee during the 1970’s. In the late 1960’s, he was one of less than a dozen Latinos enrolled at UWM. He became one of the leading voices in the Latino community’s efforts to increase Latino access to and representation at the university, negotiating with administrators for the creation of the Spanish Speaking Outreach Institute (SSOI) in 1970.

As chair of the negotiating team for the Council for the Education of Latin Americans (CELA), Hernández presided over the committees that chose the first SSOI director and staff. He was also one of the key individuals that helped to negotiate the first language maintenance bilingual program in Wisconsin and assisted in the enactment of Wisconsin’s first Migrant Worker’s Act.

After leaving Milwaukee, Hernández continued his youth and community advocacy in Texas where he was regarded as one of the most successful organizers and social transformers. In 1994, Hernández died prematurely of a heart attack.

Roberto Hernández was a major force in shaping the collaborative work of Latinos in Milwaukee. One of his goals was to work towards educational advancement and a better life for all Latinos in and around the Milwaukee area. It is our hope that this Center, dedicated to his memory in the 1990’s, will make important contributions towards the advancement of Latinos in Milwaukee and the rest of the state.