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 century.

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 charge.

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 a time.

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 positivist orientations.

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 education.

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.

“Benemérita” University

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 Benemérita, “Meritorious”.

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 the country.

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.

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Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla
4 sur 104 Centro Histórico C.P. 72000
Teléfono +52(222) 2295500
Dirección General de Desarrollo Internacional
4 sur 104 Centro Histórico, Edificio Carolino, Tercer Patio, Planta Alta C.P. 72000
Teléfono: +52 (222) 2 29 55 00 ext. 3080