The Center of Latino Arts and Culture was established in 1992 and was a stepping stone to diversifying Rutgers University. With an architectural design that models a house, the CLAC allows students the ability to come for club meetings, during their free time, and with their classes to change the traditional classroom setting. Furthermore, the Center of Latino Arts and Culture allows Latinx artists to display their art throughout the building and by holding exhibitions that are open to the entire community. Within the building, students can find faculty who are willing to show them the immense amount of opportunities that they can and should take advantage of while studying at Rutgers. Additionally, the Center of Latino Arts and Culture serves as a link of the campus to the greater New Brunswick area which is highly populated by a Mexican community. Normally the rest of the New Brunswick area outside of campus is overlooked, but the CLAC allows both communities to join together in an effort to promote the Latinx culture. The building provides a homey feel that allows the Latinx culture to live on even when students are far from home.
On March 4, 1971, the Puerto Rican Student movement had a sit in President Richard Schlatter’s office in representation of all five Rutgers campuses: Camden, Douglass, Livingston, Newark, and New Bruinswick. The students’ protest launched the creation of the Center of Latino Arts and Culture nearly 20 years later. With an increase of Puerto Ricans to the mainland after World War II, there was an influx of Puerto Rican students to Rutgers University. Within Rutgers Newark, there was a creation of a Puerto Rican student organization that advocated for better educational opportunities for their people. Members of the P.R.O. group included not only Boricuas, but also Dominicans and Cubans. At the time, the organization claimed that there was a need for more work-study opportunities that could help link the Spanish speaking neighboring community and the undergraduates. However, their claims got lost after the university attempted to implement an Urban University Program that would help disadvantaged students enroll into college. Protests continued to escalate as the Black student movement rallied for antiwar, feminist movement, and desire for a new university President, Edward J. Bloustein and all these protests caused the Puerto Rican movement to drop from the headlines. In 1970, the Livingston Puerto Rican Studies Program was established and in 1986 redeveloped itself into the Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caribbean Studies Department. By 1992, the Center of Latino Arts and Culture (CLAC) was established in New Brunswick. By the late 1980s, these Puerto Rican student movement pushed forth efforts to diversify Rutgers with regards to the Latino community.
The creation of a Latino department was organized by Hilda Hidalgo, a Puerto Rican activist and urban studies professor, and chaired by Maria Josefa Canino. Back in 1969, there were 16 first-generation Puerto Rican students who demanded the inclusion of latinos, specifically Boricuas, within the staff and faculty at the university. They also demanded interdisciplinary studies on Puerto Rican history from the viewpoint of Boricuas because at the time there was an Eurocentric viewpoint in social science and humanities classes that legitimized the neo-colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. These students essentially launched the idea of a department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies which we see today in Rutgers New Brunswick.
The Center for Latino Arts and Culture was not located in the building we see today. On September 2017, the center moved from its last location to the building on College Avenue. Originally, back in 1992 the center opened itself to the public under the name, Hispanic Cultural Center. However, in order to be more inclusive and open the doors to all Latinx members the building was switched to being called, the Center of Latino Arts and Culture. From 1992 to 2004, the founding director of the center, Isabel Nazario, led the building to great lengths. In 2004, Nazario was appointed Associate Vice President for Academic Partnerships in the Arts and Humanities and the reins of the CLAC were passed to Dr. Carlos Fernandez. Dr. Fernandez is doing an incredible job and the CLAC continues to be open to all Latinx and ally members in the New Brunswick area.