As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, learn the history behind the University of Florida's Plaza of the Americas.
October 11, 2018
Framed by Library West, Peabody Hall, the University Auditorium, and the Chemistry Building, the Plaza of the Americas is one of the main areas of activity at the University of Florida. Each academic year, millions of students, faculty, staff, and visitors traverse the area. The history behind the Plaza is rich with cultural significance and tied to the history of the Center for Latin American Studies.
The Plaza of the Americas has been an integral part of the University of Florida campus since 1905. A redesign of the area began in 1925, when the University enlisted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to improve the quadrangle. Five years later, on June 2, 1930, University of Florida President John J. Tigert announced the creation of the Center for Latin American Studies, originally called the Institute for Inter-American Affairs. In February 1931, as the University celebrated its 25th year in Gainesville, they held what would become the Center’s first conference on the theme of Latin American Affairs.
The Plaza of the Americas was officially dedicated at the closing ceremony with 21 live oaks planted by students on the University quadrangle, one for each of the republics of the Americas at that time.
In March 2011, the Latin American Studies Historical Marker was dedicated at the Plaza of the Americas. The marker commemorates the founding of the Center, and the ceremony was a part of the Center’s 60th Annual Conference which celebrated 80 years of Latin American Studies at the University of Florida.
In 2016, the University of Florida hired The Brentwood Company to modernize the Plaza of the Americas. The newly renovated space boasts of new lighting, new park benches, picnic tables with seating, and new greenery among other design features. The dedication ceremony for the renovated space was held on November 17, 2017. To this day, the Plaza of the Americas remains one of the most popular spaces at the University of Florida; an area which many consider the heart of our campus.