Brief historical background
The Autonomous University of Puebla, whose origins trace back to the XVI
century, constitutes a pillar for higher education and scientific
research in the region and occupies a prominent place among public
universities in the country, due to the concerted effort of all members
of the university community.
What we find today in the Autonomous University of Puebla is the product
of a long history dating back to May 9, 1578, when a Jesuit congregation
established residence in Puebla, and at the express request of the city
council, founded the Seminar of Saint Hieronymus of the Society of Jesus.
Nine years later they built a school dedicated to the education of the
upcoming generations of young people in the New Spain.
The College of the Holy Spirit
This institution had as principal patron the spanish merchant Don
Melchor de Covarrubias and was founded by a deed dated on April 15, 1587
with the name of College of the Holy Spirit. With the funds donated by
Covarrubias, in 1670 construction began of the building now known as
Carolino, which was concluded towards the end of the XVIII century, even
though additional features were added in the XIX century and the
southern and eastern façades were modified at the beginning of the XX
From its foundation, the College of the Holy Spirit became the focus for
humanism and science in the central eastern region of what was then the
New Spain. Through its classrooms passed distinguished figures in
letters and the humanities such as Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora,
An¬tonio del Rincón, Francisco Javier Solchaga, Diego José Abad,
Francisco Javier Alegre and Francisco Javier Clavijero.
With the ascent of the House of Bourbon to the Spanish throne, the
ensuing political conflicts and confrontations with the Society of
Jesus, had severe repercussions on the College of the Holy Spirit. On
June 25, 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from all Spanish dominions by
King Charles III. Sixty one Jesuits left the College and were exiled,
together with others from the colleges of Saint Ildephonse, Saint
Xavier, Saint Ignatius y Saint Hieronymus, all of which were located in
the city of Puebla.
Royal Imperial College
Following the expulsion of the Jesuits, all the schools were fused into
one which was named the Royal Carolinian College, in honor of King
Charles III. It was at this point that the building which housed the
College of the Holy Spirit became known as the “Carolino”.
In 1820, just one year prior to the declaration of Mexican independence,
the Jesuits returned to Puebla and to their school, which they renamed
Royal College of the Holy Spirit, of Saint Hieronymus and of Saint
Ignatius of the Society of Jesus which opened its doors on October 2 of
that year. The existence of this school was shortlived however, since
the Jesuits were again expelled from the country on December 22.
Once Independence was achieved, the Regency of the Empire authorized
that the college be re-established under the name of the Imperial
College of Saint Ignatius, Saint Hieronymus and the Holy Spirit.
College of the State
The fall of the Empire and the establishment of the Republic brought
about important changes in the college. In 1825 the local Congress
transformed it into the College of the State, and redefined it as a
non-denominational, public institution which provided education free of
During the French Intervention and the Second Empire, the city was
attracted to the apparent security offered by the conservative
government. Fortunately, the brevity of this stage together with the
financial difficulties which assailed the institution prevented deep
structural changes to be implanted during this period, however it did
not prevent authorities from using the building for functions other than
academic. During a time it served as a prison, and it was here, for
example, that the republican General Porfirio Diaz was incarcerated for
At the fall of the Empire, the College was radically trans-formed and
liberal ideals replaced the dictates of the Santana government. After
the consolidation of the Republic, the destinies of this house of study
were traced by three outstanding liberal leaders: Ignacio Manuel
Altamirano, Ignacio Ramírez and Guillermo Prieto, who espoused
During the early days of the Revolution the students of the College were
not indifferent to the political and democratic ideals championed by
Francisco I. Madero, who was warmly received at the doors to the
Carolino building on May 14, 1910, while he was campaigning for the
Presidency. In his memory, the open square in front of the Carolino
today carries the name “Democracy Plaza”.
University of Puebla
While espousing the social and political causes of the times, the
students demanded that the College be trans-formed into a University
with full autonomy and there were various movements in favour of this
cause in 1917, 1923 and then again in 1932.
Both the transformation of the College and autonomy were demands that
were also taken up by conservative groups. It is in this historical
context that the governor of the state of Puebla, General Maximino Ávila
Camacho, announced on February 1, 1937 that the College would be
transformed into a University. On April 14 of that year The State
Congress issued a decree creating the University and granting full
powers to the Executive to establish the pertinent laws. On April 23,
1937, the Organic Law of the University of Puebla was promulgated and
the first Rector, Manuel L. Márquez was named to head it.
Autonomous University of Puebla
During the following two decades, the University remained under the
direction of the government, however, in 1951, when the then governor
Rafael Ávila Camacho attempted to militarize it, the demands for
autonomy made themselves heard once again and developed into a
full-blown student movement which gained force in 1956.
At that time, within the University existed antagonism and
confrontations between two main political tendencies inspired by
radically opposing ideologies: the conservatives were united by a
fiercely anti-communist ideology while the liberals, with whom a growing
number of the faculty identified themselves, espoused an academic
posture and the development of scientific research.
Both groups presented divergent proposals for autonomy. One group
demanded that there be total independence from the State, which would
grant the University funds that would enable it to secede completely
from government tutelage. The second group, while also demanding
autonomy, claimed that it was the obligation of the State to support it
financially in order to guarantee its public character and tuition-free
A unified stance taken by the administration, academics and students was
decisive in forcing the state government to present a legal initiative
before the local Congress to grant autonomy to the University. The
legislature discussed the project on November 21 and 22, 1956 and on
November 23, the Law of the Autonomous University of Puebla was
published in the Diario Oficial del Estado de Puebla, the official
gazette of the State.
However, by this time the aspirations of the university community went
beyond the establishment of formal autonomy, since the organization and
structure of the University were decided by an Honor Council, whose
members were designated by the state governor. This point led to a
renewed confrontation between liberals and anticommunists which came to
a climax in 1961.
The movement for University Reform
On April 16, 1961, a demonstration in support of Cuba was the trigger
for what became known as the movement for University Reform, which
concluded with a reaffirmation of the non-denominational character of
public higher education and the promulgation of a new Organic Law for
the University in 1963.
The sixties heralded a turbulent and difficult decade for the University
due to the existing conflicts between groups with opposing ideologies
and political agendas. In spite of these conflicts however, in January
of 1968 the state government granted the campus known as Ciudad
Universitaria, built by the Mary Street Jenkins Foundation, in lands
which had belonged to the San Baltazar Campeche public lands, to the
south of the city.
In the following decade, starting from 1973, the preponderant model was
that of a Critical, Democratic and Popular University which strove to
develop and strengthen scientific research and to establish and maintain
links with the neediest sectors of the population. It was during this
time that the first research institute, the Institute of Sciences
(ICUAP) was founded and the School of Physics and Mathematics was
consolidated, also during this period the first graduate programs were
established with the creation of a Master’s and Doctorate in Physics. At
the same time a strong University extension program was developed in
order to meet the academic and cultural needs of the community.
Because of its academic trajectory and the recognition of its work
towards the development of science and culture in Puebla, on April 2,
1987, the State Congress awarded the University the honorary title of
The model of a Critical, Democratic and Popular University had reached
its limits and came to a crisis between 1988 and 1990. However, the
maturity of the university community and the responsible leadership of
the University Council managed to push the institution forward on a road
towards achieving academic, scientific and cultural development which
has resulted in its currently being placed among the top universities in
Two important steps along this path had to do with the actualization of
University Legislation which included the passing by the state congress
of a new University Law on April 23, 1991 and the drawing up and
approval of a new Organic Statute for the University by the Constituent
University Council on September 28 of that same year.
From that time on, the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla has
focused on reaffirming the profound commitment which as a public
institution it has with society and its primary purpose of providing
academic programs of quality for the education and training of future
professionals, the development of top level scientific research and of
extension programs directed to all sectors of society offering science,
culture and sports initiatives. The responsible concerted work of
teachers, students and university staff have contributed to making this
institution, whose lifetime has spanned four centuries, a leader in the
generation and dissemination of science and culture.