Synopsis of key persons, events, and associations in the history of Latino psychology
Padilla, Amado M; Olmedo, Esteban. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology Vol. 15, Iss. 4, (Oct 2009): 363-373. DOI:10.1037/a0017557
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In this article, we present a brief synopsis of six early Latino psychologists, several key conferences, the establishment of research centers, and early efforts to create an association for Latino psychologists. Our chronology runs from approximately 1930 to 2000. This history is a firsthand account of how these early leaders, conferences, and efforts to bring Latinos and Latinas together served as a backdrop to current research and practice in Latino psychology. This history of individuals and events is also intertwined with the American Psychological Association and the National Institute of Mental Health and efforts by Latino psychologists to obtain the professional support necessary to lay down the roots of a Latino presence in psychology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved) (Source: journal abstract)
First Generation of Latino Psychologists
George I. Sanchez
Carlos Albizu Miranda
Rene A. Ruiz
National Associations and Organizations
The 1978 Dulles Conference
National Latino Research Centers
Spanish Speaking Mental Health Research Center (SSMHRC)
The Spanish Family Guidance Center
Hispanic Research Center
Lake Arrowhead, California, Conference
Figures and Tables
In this article, we present a brief synopsis of six early Latino psychologists, several key conferences, the establishment of research centers, and early efforts to create an association for Latino psychologists. Our chronology runs from approximately 1930 to 2000. This history is a firsthand account of how these early leaders, conferences, and efforts to bring Latinos and Latinas together served as a backdrop to current research and practice in Latino psychology. This history of individuals and events is also intertwined with the American Psychological Association and the National Institute of Mental Health and efforts by Latino psychologists to obtain the professional support necessary to lay down the roots of a Latino presence in psychology.
Our purpose here is to provide a firsthand account of contemporary developments in the field of Latino psychology between 1930 and 2000. We begin by presenting the careers of early pioneer Latino psychologists who contributed in significant ways to psychology in general and to Latino psychology in particular. These psychologists are deceased, but all left a lasting imprint on Latino scholarship because of their research, commitment to their cultural roots, and their advocacy on behalf of future generations of Latino psychologists. We discuss these pioneers in the context of their time and the struggles they overcame as Latino psychologists when there were no ethnic role models and when culture was not valued in the discourse of psychological inquiry as it is today.
In addition, we highlight several major developments that also contributed in unique ways to Latino psychology. The events in particular have to do with the creation of professional associations and centers of research that contributed directly or indirectly to the professional development of Latinos in psychology. Our historical account is not intended to be comprehensive but rather heuristic, with the goal of encouraging others to take up the study of the history of Latino psychology. Our perspective too is personal because we knew most of the individuals whose names we give in this history or participated in the events documented here. [ 1 ]
First Generation of Latino Psychologists
George I. Sanchez
The first Latino psychologist was George I. Sanchez (1906–1972). Nathan Murillo (1977) wrote an excellent biography of Sanchez for the first volume of Chicano Psychology (Martinez, 1977). At the conclusion of editing Chicano Psychology, Joe Martinez dedicated the volume to George Sanchez and called him the father of Chicano psychology. Sanchez was born in New Mexico and spent most of his professional career in Texas. Throughout his life, Sanchez was an advocate of social justice and an activist for the rights of Chicanos. Sanchez received his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, and for a time was on the faculty in education at the University of New Mexico and then became professor of Latin American education at the University of Texas at Austin. At Berkeley, Sanchez concentrated his studies on what would today be educational psychology, but remember that this was in the late 1920s and early 1930s and psychology was still evolving as a field of study.
The earliest contributions to Latino psychology are found in four articles Sanchez authored between 1932 and 1934 on the topic of intelligence testing of Mexican American children. In these four articles, Sanchez (1932a, 1932b, 1934a, 1934b) argued that standard intelligence tests lacked validity when used to assess Mexican American children. Sanchez provided exceptional insights into why IQ testing of Chicano children was inappropriate when these children did not have the same life experiences or English-language proficiency as majority-group children, on whom the tests had been standardized. More important, at the time these articles were written and published, the intelligence testing movement was beginning to be used to justify the eugenics movement and to foster the belief in the intellectual superiority of Whites (Jackson & Weidman, 2006), The four articles are as appropriate today as they were nearly 80 years ago. Not surprisingly, mainstream psychologists at the time ignored Sanchez’s call for caution in testing Mexican American children (Padilla, 1988). Even today, there are concerns about high-stakes educational testing of Latino children on tests similar to those discussed by George Sanchez some seven decades earlier (Borsato & Padilla, in press). In addition, Sanchez also published one of the earliest articles on the acculturation of Latinos in New Mexico (Sanchez, 1941). This monograph would likely also garner Sanchez the title of Chicano sociology, although no one has done this to our knowledge.
Sanchez continued to contribute to the educational and social science literature for many years. His last publication was a keynote address at a conference in the early 1970s on bilingual education titled “Educational Change in Historical Perspective,” which appeared in the volume Mexican Americans and Educational Change, edited by Alfredo Castaneda, Manuel Ramirez III, Carlos E. Cortes, and Mario Barrera (1971). In this article, Sanchez expressed his anger and disappointment with the poor academic progress that Latino students had made in education. He expressed his frustration with these words:
While I have championed the cause of educational change for American children of Mexican descent for more than 45 years, and while I have seen some changes and improvements in this long-standing dismal picture, I cannot, in conscience or as a professional educator, take any satisfaction in those developments. The picture is a shameful and an embarrassing one. (p. 14)
Sanchez, as he had done countless times before, pointed the blame at an educational system that either failed or chose to neglect the impact of poverty, cultural and linguistic differences, discrimination, and educational inequity on Mexican American students in public education. His call for reform in education is as relevant today as it was nearly 40 years ago.
Another major figure in the history of Latino psychology is Alfredo Castañeda (1923–1981). He earned his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in 1948 and received his master’s (1951) and doctorate (1952) from Ohio State University. After receiving his doctorate, he served as an assistant professor at the State University of Iowa, where he remained until 1959. Castañeda moved to the University of Texas at Austin in 1959 for a full professorship in clinical psychology, where he also served as director of child research. He remained at the University of Texas through 1962 and subsequently relocated to New York City, where he held various teaching and research positions until 1968. During the period 1968–1970, he served as professor of psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. At the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, he was also a faculty member at the Institute for Child Study.
Manuel Ramirez III (1981) eulogized Castañeda in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences with these words: “With the passing of Alfredo Castañeda, the fields of psychology and education have lost an important leader and pioneer” (p. 107). As a leader in psychology, Castañeda was one of the most cited and prolific researchers in the area of child experimental psychology from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s. In 1970, Castañeda made a break with his earlier and more traditional experimental work and became professor of education and chairman of Mexican American Studies at the University of California, Riverside. This marked an intense and productive period in which he concentrated his talents on bilingual and multicultural education.
It is difficult to summarize in a few lines the impact that Castañeda’s research and writing had on psychology. For more than two decades, Castañeda was known for his creative laboratory experiments on such diverse topics as the development of word association norms for children, paired associate learning in children, development of the Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale, conflict behavior in children and adults, effects of anxiety on complex learning, and the relationship between anxiety and scholastic motivation. His papers were widely cited in the major research journals and handbooks of the time (see Reese & Lipsitt, 1970). In addition to his research and writing, he also served on the editorial board of the prestigious journal Child Development and was the first Latino to do so.
Of major significance in this history is the fact that Castañeda recognized the importance of biculturalism from a psychological perspective and with his students initiated a research program on the topic of biculturalism. This work culminated in a 1974 book with Manuel Ramirez titled Cultural Democracy, Bicognitive Development, and Education (Ramirez & Castañeda, 1974). The book offered a vision for multiculturalism in education that was on the threshold of emerging as a recognizable field in education and that argued that language and culture shaped cognition and needed to be a cornerstone in the instructional planning of Latino children.
In 1972, Castañeda was appointed professor of educational psychology at Stanford University. At Stanford, he taught two very popular graduate seminars: Cultural Pluralism and Educational Policy and Bicultural Processes in Education. Today, courses with similar titles are commonplace, but in the mid-1970s, this was a bold step in the direction of multicultural instruction, especially at an elite private university.
In addition to Castañeda’s eminence as a child experimental psychologist, he was also an important contributor to the development of Chicano studies and the professional development of Latinos in psychology. In 1973 while on the faculty at University of California, Riverside, he and Manuel Ramirez obtained funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to convene a conference to bring together Chicano psychologists for the first time. The theme of the conference was “Increasing Educational Opportunities for Chicanos in Psychology.” Chicano psychologists at this first conference called for recommendations having to do with admissions, recruitment, training, faculty and staff development, and supportive services for undergraduate and graduate Chicano students interested in pursuing a career in psychology. These recommendations were directed at Departments of Psychology, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the NIMH.
We recognize Castañeda for his groundbreaking work in showing the need for cultural pluralism in education, for Latino biculturalism as a viable alternative to cultural assimilation, and for leading the way in advocating classroom instructional strategies that could enhance the learning potential of Latino students.
Carlos Albizu Miranda
Few psychologists have had as profound an impact on the training of Latino psychologists as Carlos Albizu Miranda (1920–1984; See Figure 1). Carlos Albizu Miranda was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and lived most of his life in Puerto Rico. He completed his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Puerto Rico. After World War II, he worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs in the area of vocational rehabilitation. Later, Carlos Albizu did graduate work at Purdue University, where he completed his master’s degree in experimental psychology in 1951 and his doctorate in clinical psychology in 1953.
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Carlos Albizu Miranda – Elected First President of the National Hispanic Psychological Association, 1979.
Carlos Albizu returned to Puerto Rico and took a teaching position at the University of Puerto Rico, where he quickly rose to the rank of full professor. Increasingly, he saw the need to train a larger number of students in psychology than was possible at the university. In addition, he was concerned that even in Puerto Rico, traditional training in clinical psychology failed to take into account the special circumstances that Puerto Ricans had as Latinos who because of Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status with the United States were U.S. citizens and could travel freely between the island and the mainland, but who were marginalized on the mainland because of their culture, language, and skin color. In response to this, Carlos Albizu founded the Instituto Psicologico de Puerto Rico in 1966. The goal of the institute was to provide culturally appropriate training in clinical psychology. This bold step forward constituted the establishment of the first professional school of psychology. This was a remarkable feat when one considers that the first free-standing school of professional psychology on the U. S. mainland was the California School of Professional Psychology, founded in 1969 by the California Psychological Association, whereas Carlos Albizu did not have the professional backing or support of an association of psychologists ( California School of Professional Psychology, n.d.).
In 1971, the institute changed its name to the Caribbean Center for Advanced Studies. A sister branch, called the Miami Institute of Psychology, was opened in 1980. Together, these two professional schools have played a major role in the clinical and research training of Latino psychologists not only on the island of Puerto Rico, but throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States. As the founder of the Caribbean Center for Advanced Studies, Carlos Albizu’s vision and enthusiasm for psychology was infectious. He communicated the firm conviction that the science and practice of psychology could contribute to the social well-being of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos both on the island and on the mainland.
Carlos Albizu Miranda was active in the APA. He received special recognition in 1980 from the American Psychological Foundation for his work in the professional development of psychologists in the Caribbean region. Also in recognition of his vision and pioneering spirit, on January 1, 2000, the Board of Trustees of the Caribbean Center for Advanced Studies officially changed the name of the institution in both Puerto Rico and Miami to the Carlos Albizu University. Finally, Carlos Albizu was elected the first president of the National Hispanic Psychological Association (see the Lake Arrowhead, California, Conference section for a discussion of this association).
Rene A. Ruiz
Another influential psychologist was Rene A. Ruiz (1929–1982). Like the other early Latino psychologists, Ruiz did not begin his career with the intent to focus on Latinos. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California in 1954 with a major in psychology. He completed his graduate training in clinical psychology in 1963 at the University of Nebraska. Early in his career, he held faculty appointments in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Kansas Medical School and then in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona. The turning point in his career came in 1971 when he published an article in the American Psychologist titled “Relative Frequency of Americans With Spanish Surnames in Associations of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Sociology” (Ruiz, 1971). In this article, Ruiz reported that less than 1% of the total APA membership for 1970 was of Spanish-surnamed origin. From that time forward, he worked in various ways and in numerous capacities to increase the number of Latino students in psychology and to show that minority-related content had to be integrated into the graduate curriculum if psychology was to be relevant to ethnic communities (Padilla, 1985).
Later academic appointments took Ruiz to the University of Missouri—Kansas City and to New Mexico State University, where he served as professor and chair of the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology until he died unexpectedly in 1982. In addition to his academic appointments, Ruiz was also a visiting scholar (1979–1980) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Spanish Speaking Mental Health Research Center.
In conversations with Amado M. Padilla, Ruiz remarked that he was motivated to advocate on behalf of Latinos in the profession because he had spent the first 20 years of his career without any professional contact with other Latino psychologists and he had no intention of allowing this to happen to other Latinos.
Like Carlos Albizu, Ruiz invested his time and talents in working with the APA to bring minority issues to the attention of the membership. He was proudest of his work on the APA Committee for Equality of Opportunity in Psychology (1972–1976), of which he was a charter member and which he helped to bring to fruition through his insistence that APA be responsive to minority concerns. He also served as an APA Visiting Psychologist on numerous occasions and traveled to different universities around the country where he consulted and lectured on emerging themes in Latino psychology. In addition, he was often called on by the NIMH as a consultant on minority group mental health.
In 1973, Ruiz collaborated with Amado M. Padilla on a volume titled Latino Mental Health (Padilla & Ruiz, 1973), which constituted the first state-of-the-art review of the literature on Latino mental health. The primary intent of the monograph was to serve as a catalyst for subsequent investigators interested in Latino mental health. Ruiz continued his research and writing on Latino mental health and authored many works on a variety of themes, including mental health services for Latinos, acculturation and mental health, ethnic identity among children, and issues of Latino aging and mental health.
Martha Bernal (1931–2001) was born in San Antonio, Texas (see Figure 2). Her parents were Mexican immigrants, and Bernal was educated in Texas, receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas Western University in El Paso (now known as the University of Texas at El Paso). She earned her master’s degree from Syracuse University and completed her doctorate in clinical psychology in 1962 at the University of Indiana. Bernal was the first Latina to receive a doctorate degree in psychology from a U.S. university. From Indiana, she relocated to the University of Arizona, then moved to the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and began work with children with behavior problems and children with autism. Her early publications were on behavioral techniques for eliminating “brat syndrome” behaviors in maladjusted children and on establishing desirable behaviors in children with autism. From UCLA, Martha Bernal moved on to academic appointments first at the University of Denver and then at Arizona State University.
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Martha Bernal lecturing on the Latino family in 1978 at a seminar on family research at the Spanish Speaking Mental Research Center.
In an autobiographical account, Martha Bernal described how after attending the 1973 Conference on Chicano Psychologists organized by Castaneda and Ramirez, she turned increasingly in the direction of Latino research (M. E. Bernal, 2004). In her autobiography, she recounted her effort over a period of approximately 20 years to increase multicultural training in clinical and counseling psychology. Bernal’s work in multicultural training (M. E. Bernal & Castro, 1994; M. Bernal & Padilla, 1982; Quintana & Bernal, 1995) has had important policy implications for the identification, recruitment, and training of Latino psychologists. Bernal coupled this interest with her advocacy on behalf of Latinos by serving on numerous APA boards and task forces addressing ethnic minority concerns in the profession (Vasquez & Lopez, 2002).
Martha Bernal received many awards for her professional contributions. Among the more prestigious awards given to Bernal were the Distinguished Life Achievement Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues (Division 45), the Carolyn Attneave Award for lifelong contributions to ethnic minority psychology presented in 1999 at the first National Multicultural Conference and Summit, and in 2001 the APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Public Interest.
In a seminal book titled Ethnic Identity: Formation and Transmission Among Hispanics and Other Minorities, Bernal and colleague George Knight (1993) provided a rich array of findings on the theme of ethnic socialization and th
a seminal book titled Ethnic Identity: Formation and Transmission Among Hispanics and Other Minorities, Bernal and colleague George Knight (1993) provided a rich array of findings on the theme of ethnic socialization and the intergenerational transmission of ethnic identification. Bernal’s research focused on how children process information about ethnicity and form their first impressions of ethnic identity through socialization by parents and other adults and peers.
Finally, as the first Latina to receive a doctorate in psychology, Martha Bernal proved to be a shining beacon to younger Latinas in psychology. She was generous with her time even though she was ill during most of the last 2 decades of her life. She was a role model and mentor (Vasquez & Lopez, 2002) who showed through her resilience that it was possible to overcome racism and sexism and to excel in psychology.
Another early contributor was Edward Casavantes (1927–1980). Casavantes was an educational psychologist who worked on Latino educational and civil rights issues. He worked for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in Washington, DC, for nearly a decade during the 1960s and 1970s. While with the Civil Rights Commission, Casavantes worked on its far-reaching study of the education of Mexican American students. The study resulted in a multivolume series titled Education of the Mexican American (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1974).
In 1969, Casavantes founded the Association of Psychologists por La Raza. As a member of APA and Division 9 (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues), Casavantes received a grant from the division to carry out the organizational work necessary for establishing the Association of Psychologists por La Raza. Casavantes played a critical role during this period in trying to identify other Latino psychologists when there were no established Latino professional networks to call on for assistance. This is what prompted Rene Ruiz (1971) to do a manual search of the APA membership directory to identity individuals with Spanish surnames. This was the only method at that time for identifying possible Latino APA members. Surnames are not the best way to identify Latino origin, but it was still years before APA and other organizations began to include ethnic identification on their membership rolls.
Casavantes showed how social scientists were often responsible for creating cultural stereotypes about Latinos. For instance, in an article titled “Pride and Prejudice: A Mexican American Dilemma,” published in the Civil Rights Digest, Casavantes (1970) argued that Oscar Lewis’s portrayal of the culture of poverty was misdirected and that Lewis’s observations were not really depictions of Puerto Rican and Mexican culture so much as they were observations of poor and oppressed people irrespective of culture. In addition, Casavantes was the first to comment on the diversity among Chicanos and argued that Chicanos were not a homogeneous ethnic group but were diverse in a number of respects, ranging from skin color and social class to professed ethnic self-identification. In El Tecato: Social and Cultural Factors Affecting Drug Use Among Chicanos, Casavantes (1974) showed creativity and daring in his study of drug addiction among Latinos. One important theme taken up in El Tecato is the necessity of culturally relevant psychotherapeutic approaches in the treatment of drug abuse in Latinos. In his discussion of drug treatment, Casavantes (1974) argued that therapists needed to extend their treatments in culturally appropriate ways to be effective with Latino addicts. Although this may appear to be common sense today, it was not 30 years ago. The National Coalition of Spanish Speaking Mental Health Organizations published Casavantes’s book. The book is the first contribution to the clinical literature on substance abuse and treatment of Chicanos.
The six individuals whose lives and careers are described here are unique because in numerous ways, each gave meaning to how psychology as a science and practice needed to be open to cultural and ethnic diversity. These six individuals in their own independent and unique way, without mentors or intellectual guideposts, challenged the prevalent assumptions of mainstream psychology that culture was not an important variable in psychology. It is also is important to emphasize two important points:
First, there may have been other Latino and Latina psychologists working between 1930 and the 1960s, but with the exception of Peter Ossorio, Abel Ossorio, and John Garcia, we are not familiar with them. Moreover, we have not commented on the Ossorio brothers because of a lack of information; as for John Garcia, his history as a renowned Latino experimental psychologist must still be documented.
To our knowledge, Martha Bernal was the only Latino psychologist with a doctorate through the mid-1960s. More work is necessary to confirm this, but considering the sexism and racism in academia, it is not surprising that only Martha Bernal has surfaced in the pages of Latina psychology.
Today, we take much for granted in our profession when it comes to the importance given to multiculturalism. Our young colleagues have an established body of literature on Latino psychology and can feel comforted when attending professional association meetings because it is commonplace to have Latino symposia and to interact with other Latino psychologists; none of the individuals whose careers are highlighted here had any training or experience in Latino psychology. Each of them because of their own cultural experience and professional resilience followed paths that opened the door for so many Latinos and Latinas who have come after them. With no support of peers or professional organizations, they opened the doors of APA, NIMH, and Departments of Psychology to Latinos and Latinas and showed that mainstream psychology could be enriched by diversity. Moreover, these six individuals created an intellectual foundation for a Latino psychology of which younger psychologists may not be aware; thus, our primary motivation for writing historical essays such as those that appear in this special issue is to enable our younger colleagues and future generations of psychologists to understand their origins and where they are going. We owe a special debt of appreciation to these founders of Latino psychology because they took a risk in their professional careers to open doors that others might pass through. Jones (1998), in reflecting on ethnic minority psychology in the 20th century, said it best:
We all stand on others’ shoulders to reach for new possibilities. We walk through doors that are now open where in the past no door existed at all. Our present is the cumulative consequence of our past, our collective past. Our predecessors worked in different venues in different times. We now reap what they have sown. (p. 206)
However, this is far from the end of the story on historical figures in Latino psychology. Numerous others have come more recently, whom we call the second wave or second generation of Latino psychologists, whose life stories are still evolving. Most of these individuals are still active professionals and have in some cases been honored for their contributions; nonetheless, to have a complete history their stories need to be incorporated into this accounting of how Latino psychology has evolved throughout the later part of the 20th century and into the new millennium. We only name some of the individuals whose stories and work will make this a more inclusive history. The individuals whose stories still need to be told include Peter and Abel Ossorio, Hortensia Amaro, Melba Vasquez, John Garcia, Jose Szapocznik, Manuel Ramirez, Joe Martinez, David Santisteban, Manuel Casas, Olivia Espin, Lillian Comas-Díaz, Gerardo Marin, and Patricia Arrendondo.
One individual whose name also belongs on this list is Israel Cuéllar (1946–2008). Manuel Zamarripa (2009) has written a fitting tribute to Cuéllar, who will be remembered as the developer of the widely used Acculturation Scale for Mexican Americans.
We turn now to the efforts of other individuals who through their perservance and foresight saw the need to unite psychologists through national organizations and research centers for the purposes of improving both the science and the practice of psychology for the enhancement of the Latino community.
National Associations and Organizations
As mentioned earlier, Casavantes founded the Association of Psychologists por La Raza in 1969. The first meeting of Latino psychologists was held in 1970 at the APA Annual Convention in Miami. A handful of psychologists attended the meeting and elected Casavantes president; Albert Ramirez, who was then at the University of Alabama, was elected vice president, and Manuel Ramirez III from the University of Texas was elected secretary–treasurer.
A year later, a second meeting of psychologists was held at the APA annual convention, this time in Washington, DC. Casavantes also took the initiative to organize a symposium on Chicano psychology titled “The Effects of Cultural Variables on Mexican Americans.” The panelists for the symposium were Casavantes, Manuel Ramirez, Albert Ramirez, Rene Ruiz, Ernest Bernal, and Amado M. Padilla. This symposium was historic because it was the first time that Latino psychologists had organized a symposium at an APA annual convention. Since this first symposium in 1971, it has now become expected that Latinos and Latinas will present their research at regional and national psychological conferences. This is certainly something that Latino and Latina students may not appreciate today, but in the 1970s and into the 1980s there was no Division 45 nor much of a positive response from the existing APA structure and divisions to share programming time for ethnic minority symposia and panel presentations.
At the 1971 meeting, Alfredo Castañeda was elected president of the Association of Psychologists por la Raza, and Casavantes was elected executive director because he worked in Washington, DC, and could lobby the APA and the NIMH. The officers of the association remained unchanged until 1973. In the spring of 1973, Alfredo Castañeda and Manuel Ramirez organized a conference at the University of California, Riverside, “Increasing Educational Opportunities for Chicanos in Psychology.” The details of this conference were described earlier in the Alfredo Castañeda section. Although it is not possible to name all of the individuals at this first conference of Chicano psychologists, the names of a few individuals and their institutional affiliations at the time are presented for historical purposes. In attendance were Martha Bernal; Ray Buriel, then a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside, and now professor and chairman of psychology at Pomona College; Ed DeAvila, who was with the Bilingual Children’s TV in Oakland, California; John Garcia, then at the University of Utah and now professor emeritus of UCLA; Richard Lopez, a postdoctoral fellow at Notre Dame University and later with the NIMH; Joe Martinez, then at California State University, San Bernardino, and later at the University of California, Irvine; Albert Ramirez, University of Colorado; and Rene A. Ruiz. At this meeting, the Association of Psychologists por La Raza elected Floyd Martinez as its second president. Floyd Martinez, a clinical psychologist, worked for the NIMH and was instrumental in assisting Latino psychologists in obtaining funding for community mental health services programs, training programs, and research projects.
From the late 1960s through the mid-1980s, the NIMH was particularly helpful to Latino psychologists in their efforts to develop capacity. Early efforts to organize Latino psychologists were facilitated by Juan Ramos, who held a doctorate in social policy from Brandeis University and who became chief of the Division for Special Mental Health Programs at NIMH. Among Ramos’s early activities was organizing a conference in Washington, DC, in July 1971 that was attended by Latino mental health professionals from around the country with the agenda of prioritizing Latinos’ mental health needs. The attendees concluded that a national mental health organization was needed to advocate for the mental health service needs of Latinos, as well as for the training of Latino professionals in the various mental health professions. The attendees went so far to as name the new organization the Coalition of Spanish Speaking Mental Health Organizations (COSSMHO) and appointed a committee to write bylaws for the new organization. COSSMHO was established in 1974 with Rodolfo Sanchez, a former social worker, as its executive director. Several years later, Sanchez broadened COSSMHO’s charter to include all human services; it is now known as the National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services Organizations and maintains its office in Washington, DC.
In 1975, Joe Martinez, who was then a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychobiology at the University of California, Irvine, secured funds from the Ford Foundation to convene the First Symposium on Chicano Psychology, which was held in May 1976. Whereas the 1973 University of California, Riverside, meeting addressed training of Chicanos and Latinos in psychology, the 1976 meeting consisted of scientific presentations on Chicano psychology. By this time, there was a cadre of young psychologists eager to present their burgeoning research on a wide variety of topics ranging from social to clinical psychology and from issues of psychological assessment to bilingualism. Martinez proved to be an extremely capable editor of the symposium papers, and in 1977 Martinez published them in an edited volume entitled Chicano Psychology.
A second symposium on Chicano psychology was held in 1982 at the University of California, Riverside. Joe Martinez and Richard Mendoza (1984) edited a second volume of Chicano Psychology based on papers from this symposium along with a few papers from the original volume. Following in the tradition of these two symposia on Chicano psychology, a meeting with the theme of “Innovations in Chicana/o Psychology: Looking Toward the 21st Century” was held in the spring of 1998 at Michigan State University. Approximately 400 participants attended the meeting, and the fact that this was the first such conference held outside of the western United States is significant. Some of the papers presented at the conference appear in The Handbook of Chicana/o Psychology and Mental Health (Velasquez, Arellano, & McNeill, 2004).
The 1978 Dulles Conference
Through the efforts of a few dedicated individuals, a joint conference of the leadership of psychologists from the different ethnic groups met with the leadership of the APA at the Washington Dulles International Airport in 1978. Jones (1998) has summarized many of the key events at this historic meeting, which came to be known as the Dulles Conference.
Before discussing some of the outcomes of this conference, it is first important to mention that several barriers had to be overcome for the Dulles Conference to achieve its objectives. Esteban Olmedo, who was in attendance at the meeting, recalls the initial lack of trust among the ethnic groups participating in the conference and with the senior APA staff who were also in attendance. However, after 2 days of intensive dialogue and negotiations, significant accomplishments were achieved for ethnic psychologists, including Latinos.
The recommendations that emerged from the Dulles Conference called for the establishment of an Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs (OEMA), an APA Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs, a division, and a journal. All of these recommendations have come to fruition, but the course of these developments was gradual and often difficult (Jones, 1998). The first recommendation to be implemented was the opening of the OEMA. Moreover, at the insistence of the Hispanic Caucus at the conference, the final recommendation provided for representation on the Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs of the full spectrum of major Latino communities in the United States: Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans, and Puerto Ricans.
Esteban Olmedo assumed the directorship of OEMA in the latter part of 1978. At the time, he was the associate director of the UCLA Spanish Speaking Mental Health Research Center. Olmedo was born in the United States of Argentinean parents but raised in Argentina. He returned to the states for his education and received his doctorate in experimental psychology at Baylor University. After Baylor, he took a teaching position at California State University, San Bernardino. Olmedo proved to be a solid administrator and guided OEMA and ethnic minority concerns through the treacherous APA politics at a time when the membership was not widely receptive to diversity in the association.
Another significant area of tension at the Dulles Conference between some APA staff and minority psychologist
Another significant area of tension at the Dulles Conference between some APA staff and minority psychologists in attendance was the issue of perceived bias in psychological testing and assessment against ethnic minorities at all levels, from IQ testing of schoolchildren to employment testing and clinical assessment. From a Latino perspective, Sanchez (1932a, 1932b) was the first to call attention to bias in testing. So it was not surprising that this issue would surface again at the Dulles Conference through Latino and African American psychologists. One consequence of the Dulles Conference was that the Committee to Revise the Standards included appropriate representation of ethnic minorities, including linguistic minorities. As a result, the Standards issued in 1999 by the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council of Measurement in Education provide for substantially greater fairness in testing and assessment of ethnic and linguistic minorities.
After 6 years with APA, Olmedo resigned and joined the California School of Professional Psychology. He was succeeded by Lillian Comas-Díaz, a Puerto Rican psychologist, who received her training in clinical psychology at the University of Massachusetts and Yale University. Under the stewardship of Olmedo and Comas-Díaz, the Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs and Division 45, the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, were created. Also, Comas-Díaz served as the founding editor of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, originally published with Wiley, and that later became the journal for APA Division 45.
In sum, the consequences of the Dulles Conference can be seen even today, more than 30 years later, in terms of increased participation of ethnic minorities in the governance of the APA, the policies promulgated by the association, and a number of guidelines issued regarding the ethical conduct of research with ethnic minority populations and the provision of culturally appropriate mental health services.
National Latino Research Centers
Spanish Speaking Mental Health Research Center (SSMHRC)
The SSMHRC was established at UCLA in 1974 with funding from the NIMH Center for Minority Group Mental Health Programs. The UCLA center was the first minority research center funded by the NIMH and served as the prototype and testing ground for what became a network of NIMH minority research centers. Amado M. Padilla, professor of psychology at UCLA, became the principal investigator and director of the SSMHRC in 1975 (see Figure 3). The activities of the SSMHRC continued with Padilla as director until 1989 when the center was closed.
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Olmedo and Amado Padilla Photo of the authors, Esteban Olmedo (left) and Amado Padilla (right) taken at the Spanish Speaking Mental Health Research, UCLA in 1978.
Some of the Latino psychologists who began their professional career at the SSMHRC include Gerardo Marin, Manuel Casas, Esteban Olmedo, Nelly Salgado de Snyder, Richard Cervantes, Steven Lopez, Hortensia Amaro, and Felipe Castro.
Although the SSMHRC was funded as a research project, it also served as a clearinghouse for information on Latino mental health and a training center for students in psychology, social work, and public health. The center supported the work of no less than 50 graduate students over 15 years. Of these, many received their doctoral degrees and 10 completed their dissertations with direct center support. In addition, the SSMHRC also sponsored 23 postdoctoral fellows and scholars from the United States, Spain, Mexico, Peru, and Brazil.
The SSMHRC’s research agenda focused on acculturative stress and coping, mental health services, substance abuse among Latino youth, and children’s school achievement. Critical in much of the research were concerns of poverty, language barriers, prejudice, and discrimination and issues of gender roles in mental health. Scholarly knowledge of the mental health needs of Latinos and the delivery of services was facilitated by the research and publications produced by the SSMHRC. The early research identified system barriers related to the low use of mental health services by Latinos. These barriers to effective treatment included availability and accessibility of services, language differences, scarcity of Latino mental health providers, and social class differences between clients and therapists (Padilla, Ruiz, & Alvarez, 1975).
The importance of acculturation as it affects the treatment process was also an area of research that aided service providers in developing a greater sensitivity to individual client differences (Olmedo 1979). During this period, Richard Cervantes took the lead in developing a culturally specific measure of psychosocial stress and coping for both Latino adults and children (Cervantes, Padilla, & Salgado de Snyder, 1991; Padilla 1980b).
The research agenda of the SSMHRC between 1980 and 1988 was at times challenged by the Reagan administration’s deliberate effort to cut federal research funds for social problem–oriented research. Because so much of Latino mental health research is social problem oriented, it was often a challenge to justify SSMHRC’s research agenda to NIMH officials. Despite this obstacle, SSMHRC made tremendous gains in Latino mental health scholarship.
There is no easy way to judge the overall impact of any research enterprise; however, we can point to five books and approximately 120 journal articles and chapters authored by SSMHRC staff and students. In addition to this, the SSMHRC clearinghouse published 24 research reports, four special project reports, and 10 monographs, all of which were widely disseminated. The clearinghouse also developed a bibliographic database in excess of 6,000 entries pertaining to Latino mental health (Cota-Robles Newton, Olmedo, & Padilla, 1982). The database could be searched electronically and was widely used between 1977 and 1989. Although the bibliographic database and the search capability may seem incredibly old fashioned today, the reader must remember that the Internet did not exist and electronic databases of any type were in their infancy. The bibliographic service was a mainstay of the SSMHRC, and staff were called on daily by students and professionals alike to assist in locating relevant materials for literature reviews, grant proposals, and class readings. The SSMHRC documents were also in frequent use for in-service workshops in community mental health settings, graduate programs, and university extension classes.
Another area in which the SSMHRC had a national impact was in providing leadership regarding Latino priorities for President Carter’s Commission on Mental Health. Esteban Olmedo and Pedro Lecca (a New York Puerto Rican mental health professional) were cochairs of the Hispanic Subpanel of the Special Populations Panel of the commission (President’s Commission on Mental Health, 1978). Their report emphasized the at-risk status of the Hispanic population in the United States as a result of low income, unemployment or underemployment, and lower socioeconomic status. Barriers to mental health services and the relative lack of culturally sensitive programs and service providers compounded this. The commission’s work ensured that Latino issues would be a part of the national debate on the mental health needs of the U.S. population.
Another contributing factor to Latino psychology was the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences (HJBS) that started with the SSMHRC clearinghouse. The HJBS first appeared in 1979 as a quarterly peer-reviewed journal and is still published through Sage Publications (see Padilla, 2003). Even though the HJBS has always published articles in the behavioral and social sciences, not just psychology, over the years many of the leading research articles on Latino psychology and mental health have appeared in the pages of the HJBS.
The Spanish Family Guidance Center
Another center of major importance with a longstanding record of accomplishments in the area of Latino clinical research was the Spanish Family Guidance Center. The Spanish Family Guidance Center was established in 1972 as part of the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Miami. The center’s original purpose was to investigate family-oriented prevention and treatment programs for Latino drug-abusing adolescents in the Miami area. In 1974, Jose Szapocznik, after completing his doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Miami, was appointed director of research at the center. Today the center is known as the Center for Family Studies and is the largest family-oriented clinical intervention center for Latinos and other minority groups in the country.
With Szapocznik as the director, the center has established a long track record of producing innovative clinical programs for Cuban Americans and other Latino families. The early work focused on acculturation and adjustment in Cuban families (e.g., Szapocznik & Herrera, 1978). As the work evolved, important contributions have been made in family therapy (Szapocznik, Santisteban, Kurtines, Perez-Vidal, & Hervis, 1984; Szapocznik, Santisteban, Rios, Perez-Vidal, Kurtines, & Hervis, 1986). The early work, known as bicultural effectiveness training, incorporated elements of structural family therapy but added an important element that included differences in the acculturation level of various family members (mother, father, children, and adolescents) and showed how cultural conflicts resulting from these differences in cultural adaptation could result in maladaptive patterns in family interaction. By using culture in family therapy, family members were trained in bicultural skills to more effectively handle cultural conflicts, causing difficulties between family members who varied in acculturation.
The work of Latino psychologists at the Center for Family Studies has been widely praised over the years by many professional groups including the APA, the American Family Therapy Academy, and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. Moreover, the publications and training programs offered by Latino psychologists have inspired an entire generation of clinical psychologists who work with Latino families.
Hispanic Research Center
A third research center of note during this period was the Hispanic Research Center (HRC) at Fordham University under the directorship of Lloyd Rogler, a sociologist who did pioneering work in the study of mental health among Puerto Ricans on the island (Rogler & Hollingshead, 1961) and on the mainland (Rogler, 1972). Like the SSMHRC at UCLA, Rogler’s center at Fordham was funded as a research grant by the NIMH. As an experienced field researcher, Rogler carved out an ambitious research agenda that served as the organizing force for the research carried out by the Fordham group (see Rogler, Malgady, & Rodriguez, 1989).
The HRC opened in December 1977 and remained a viable force for the next 15 years. Although the HRC had a decidedly more sociological focus than the other two research sites, its center of gravity could still be described as involving (a) epidemiological clinical services studies, (b) factors leading to the emergence of mental health problems among Latinos, (c) the study of the structural and social processes affecting when and how Latinos use mental health services, and (d) psychological assessment and the development of culturally appropriate diagnostic procedures. The HRC was also heavily involved in disseminating policy-relevant mental health materials on Latinos and in the apprenticeship training of undergraduate and graduate students in mental health research.
In addition, because of its location, the HRC was of particular relevance to the large Puerto Rican population in New York City. This population had been largely neglected by the research community until the HRC was established. Lloyd Rogler and his colleagues were very effective in advocating for both the inclusion of Puerto Ricans in NIMH-sponsored research and culturally appropriate mental health services for Puerto Ricans. In addition, Puerto Rican psychologists have been active in other ways as evidenced by the participation of Pedro Lecca in the Subpanel on Special Populations of the President’s Commission on Mental Health and Lillian Comas-Díaz as the second director of OEMA at APA, as noted earlier.
Lake Arrowhead, California, Conference
As mentioned earlier, the first attempt to organize psychologists was carried out by Edward Casavantes; however, this effort never gained much traction. The second effort, which has had a longer lasting effect, was begun at the National Conference of Hispanic Psychologists, held in late 1979 at the University of California Residential Conference Center and known as the Lake Arrowhead Conference ( Proceedings of the National Conference of Hispanic Psychologists, 1980; see Figure 4). This conference was funded by a NIMH grant from the Division of Manpower and Training and the Center for Minority Group Mental Health Programs to the SSMHRC to support a national meeting of Latino psychologists for the express purpose of sharing information on needed training, services, and research. A second goal was to determine whether there was universal agreement on the need to establish a national Latino psychological association. Sixty-five psychologists representing diverse Latino groups and interests attended the Lake Arrowhead Conference. Martha Bernal, Carlos Albizu Miranda, and Rene Ruiz, whose careers as pioneer Latino psychologists were described in the first section of this article, were in attendance at this historic meeting and provided wisdom and much practical guidance to their younger colleagues. Other participants at the Lake Arrowhead Conference included Hortensia Amaro, Glorisa Canino, Lillian Comas-Díaz, Israel Cuéllar, Oliva Espin, Angela Ginorio, Aida Hurtado, Richard Lopez, Steven Lopez, Gerardo Marin, Ricardo Muñoz, Esteban Olmedo, Amado M. Padilla, Manuel Ramirez, Nelly Salgado, David Santisteban, Jose Szapocznik, and Melba Vasquez.
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Conference Photo of a Group of Participants at the Lake Arrowhead Conference in California in the Fall of 1979.
The Lake Arrowhead Conference was a landmark event in the history of Latino psychology because it was the first time that a sizable number of Latinos representing different national origins, geographic regions, and disciplinary interests came together to forge an alliance. At this meeting, too, the foundation for the establishment of a National Hispanic Psychological Association was laid. Ricardo Muñoz, from the University of California, San Francisco, served as the recorder for the conference, and the proceedings of the conference summarize the decisions made by the attendees regarding membership, governance, fiscal structure, and proportional representation of different Latino groups in leadership of the association. The detailed work of bringing to fruition a National Hispanic Psychological Association was left to a steering committee consisting of Floyd Martinez and Martha Bernal (Mexican American), Ana Alvarez and Luis Nieves (Puerto Rican), Dorita Marina and Angel Martinez (Cuban), and Jeannette Maluf and Gerardo Marin (Central and South American). The steering committee was charged with meeting and developing bylaws for the new organization. With Martha Bernal serving as the chair of the steering committee, the bylaws for the association were drafted in 1980, and the association was launched. At the 2002 APA annual convention in Chicago, the members of the association changed its name to the National Latino/a Psychological Association. The National Latino/a Psychological Association now boasts approximately 500 members and continues the work that was envisioned by the participants at the 1979 Lake Arrowhead Conference.
One of the more significant follow-up initiatives of the National Hispanic Psychological Association came during the 1990s. Under the auspices of Richard M. Suinn (former chair of the Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs and later member of the APA Board of Directors and president of the APA), a tradition was initiated whereby representatives of the various national ethnic minority psychological associations would participate in a breakfast meeting with the APA president during the APA Annual Convention. Thus, in addition to the National Hispanic Psychological Association, leaders of the Association of Black Psychologists, Asian American Psychological Association, and Society of Indian Psychologists now have the opportunity to periodically exchange ideas with the APA leadership and raise issues of concern to minority communities at large and psychologists of color in particular. Although Division 45 addresses many issues of significance for Latino psychologists and other minority communities, the independence provided by the ethnic minority associations is viewed by many as an important asset. The breakfast meetings offer the opportunity to complement and augment the work done inside and outside of APA and ensure that those involved do not find themselves working at cross-purposes.
In this history of Latino psychology, our goal first was to lay the intellectual foundation of Latino psychology by discussing the life and work of six Latino psychologists who for 7 decades through their research, writings, and advocacy sought to increase the visibility of Latinos in the profession. With little support from non-Latino colleagues and in the absence of other Latino psychologists, these pioneers sought through various means to encourage the leadership of the APA and the NIMH to support efforts to increase training opportunities for Latino and Latina students in psychology. This history includes a panoramic view of how the first Latino psychologists in coordination with a second generation of Latino psychologists organized conferences, associations, and research centers that shaped the contours of Latino psychology as we understand it today. In combination, these people, events, and organizations all served to draw increased attention to the need to recruit and train undergraduate and graduate students in the discipline of psychology and to bring people together with a common interest to advocate for broadening the base of American psychology through the recognition of a legitimate place for Latino psychology in research, training, and services.
This history is not intended to be comprehensive because it is the story of people and events that represent our reflections and interpretations. The history of Latino psychology we offer here consists of our firsthand knowledge of the individuals and events mentioned; we hope our historical account will stimulate others who read this work to expand on the history of Latino psychology and to do so using different lenses and interpretations of the circumstances and developments surrounding Latino psychology.