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National Autonomous University of Mexico

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico
Official seal of the University, designed by Rector José Vasconcelos[1]
Latin: Universitas Nationalis Autonoma Mexici
Motto Por mi raza hablará el espíritu
Motto in English
"Through my race speaks my spirit" or "The spirit shall speak on behalf of my race"
Established 22 September 1910[2][3][4][5][6][7]
Type Public university
Endowment US$2.4 billion (2012)[8]
Academic staff
36,750 (As of 2012)[9]
Students 324,413 (2011–2012 academic year)[9]
Undergraduates 187,195 (As of 2012)[9]
Postgraduates 26,169 (As of 2012)[9]
Location Mexico City, Mexico
Campus Urban, 7.3 km2 (2.8 sq mi), main campus only
Colors Blue and gold         
Athletics 41 varsity teams[10]
Mascot Puma
Website /en/

The National Autonomous University of Mexico Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México is a public research university in Mexico City, Mexico and is the largest university in Latin America.[9] UNAM was founded, in its modern form, on 22 September 1910 by Justo Sierra[2][3][4][5] as a liberal alternative to its preceding institution the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico (founded on 21 September 1551 by a royal decree of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and brought to a definitive closure in 1867 by the liberals). To this date, the National Autonomous University of Mexico owns and uses for academic activities the old buildings located in downtown Mexico City that once belonged to the old Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico[11] UNAM's autonomy, granted in 1929, has given it the freedom to define its own curriculum and manage its own budget without interference from the government. This has had a profound effect on academic life at the university, which some claim boosts academic freedom and independence.[12]

The UNAM generates a number of different publications in diverse areas, such as mathematics, physics and history. It is also the only university in Mexico with Nobel Prize laureates among its alumni: Alfonso García Robles (Peace), Octavio Paz (Literature), and Mario Molina (Chemistry).

Besides being the most recognized university in Latin America, its campus is one of the largest and most artistically detailed. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that was designed by some of Mexico's best-known architects of the 20th century. Murals in the main campus were painted by some of the most recognized artists in Mexican history such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. The UNAM is widely regarded by many university world rankings as the leading university of the Spanish-speaking world.


  • History 1
  • Campuses 2
    • University City 2.1
    • Satellite campuses 2.2
    • Museums and buildings of interest 2.3
      • Palacio de Minería 2.3.1
      • Casa del Lago 2.3.2
      • Museum of San Ildefonso 2.3.3
      • Chopo University Museum 2.3.4
      • National Astronomical Observatory 2.3.5
  • Organization 3
    • Faculties and national schools 3.1
    • List of faculties, national schools, and institutes 3.2
  • Academics 4
  • Research 5
  • Students and faculty 6
    • Sports, clubs, and traditions 6.1
      • Professional football club 6.1.1
      • Cultural traditions 6.1.2
    • Political activism 6.2
    • Student associations 6.3
  • Noted alumni 7
    • Heads of state 7.1
    • Politicians 7.2
    • Diplomats 7.3
    • Artists, writers, and humanists 7.4
    • Physicians and surgeons 7.5
    • Scientists 7.6
    • Businesspeople 7.7
    • Athletes 7.8
  • Noted faculty 8
  • Nobel laureates 9
  • Bibliography 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


Justo Sierra, founder

The university was founded on 22 September 1910 by positivism and encompass the ideas of the dominant Mexican liberalism.[3]

The project initially unified the Fine Arts, Business, Political Science, Jurisprudence, Engineering, Medicine, Normal, and the National Preparatory schools;[15] its first rector was Joaquin Eguía y Lis.[16]

The new university's challenges were mostly political, due to the ongoing Mexican Revolution and the fact that the federal government had direct control over the university's policies and curriculum; some resisted its establishment on philosophical grounds. This opposition led to disruptions in the function of the university when political instability forced resignations in the government, including that of President Díaz. Internally, the first student strike occurred in 1912 to protest examination methods introduced by the director of the School of Jurisprudence, Luis Cabrera. By July of that year, a majority of the law students decided to abandon the university and join the newly created Free School of Law.[16]

In 1914 initial efforts to gain autonomy for the university failed.[16] In 1920, José Vasconcelos became rector. In 1921, he created the school's coat-of-arms: the image of an eagle and a condor surrounding a map of Latin America, from Mexico's northern border to Tierra del Fuego, and the motto, "The Spirit shall speak for my race". Efforts to gain autonomy for the university continued in the early 1920s. In the mid-1920s, a second wave of student strikes opposed a new grading system. The strikes included major classroom walkouts in the law school and confrontation with police at the medical school. The striking students were supported by many professors and subsequent negotiations eventually led to autonomy for the university. The institution was no longer a dependency of the Secretariat of Public Education; the university rector became the final authority, eliminating much of the confusing overlap in authority.[17]

Palacio de la Autonomía, located off Moneda Street east of the Zocalo

During the early 1930s, the rector of UNAM was Manuel Gómez Morín. The government attempted to implement socialist education at Mexican universities, which Gómez Morín, many professors, and Catholics opposed as an infringement on academic freedom. Gómez Morín with the support of the Jesuit-founded student group, the Unión Nacional de Estudiantes Católicos, successfully fought against socialist education. UNAM supported the recognition of the academic certificates by Catholic preparatory schools, which validated their educational function. In an interesting turn of events, UNAM played an important role in the founding of the Jesuit institution in 1943, the Universidad Iberoamericana in 1943.[18] However, UNAM opposed initiatives at the Universidad Iberoamericana in later years, opposing the establishment of majors in industrial relations and communications.[19]

In 1943 initial decisions were made to move the university from the various buildings it occupied in the city center to a new and consolidated university campus; the new

  • Official website
  • UNAM León Campus

External links

  1. ^ Enrique Krauze, Redeemers: Ideas and Power in Latin America. New York: Harper Collins 2011, 62.
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c d
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ a b c
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  9. ^ a b c d e f
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ Elizalde,Guadalupe, Piedras en el Camino de la UNAM, EDAMEX, 1999 p.49.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c
  17. ^
  18. ^ David Espinosa, Jesuit Student Groups, the Universidad Iberoamericana, and Political Resistance in Mexico, 1913-1979. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 1914, p. 11.
  19. ^ Espinosa, Jesuit Student Groups, p. 96-97.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Preston, Julia (1999)University Officials Yield to Student Strike in Mexico June 8. Retrieved on February 14, 2006. New York Times.
  26. ^ Preston, Julia (2000) Big Majority Votes to End Strike at Mexican University January 21, 2000. Retrieved on February 14, 2006 New York Times.
  27. ^ Mexican Police Storm University February 7, 2000. Retrieved on February 14, 2006, from BBC.
  28. ^
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  35. ^ a b
  36. ^
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  42. ^ [1]
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  44. ^ [2]
  45. ^


  • XHUNAM-TV ("Teveunam", UNAM's educational and cultural television channel)
  • DGSCA (Dirección General de Servicios de Cómputo Académico, Hub of Computer Sciences/Engineering in UNAM)
  • Mexican Law Review

See also

  • Jiménez Rueda, Julio. Historia Jurídica de la Universidad de México. Mexico City: Imprenta Universitaria 1955.
  • Mabry, Donald J. The Mexican University and the State. College Station: Texas A&M Press 1982.
  • Mayo, Sebastián, La educación socialista en México: El Asalto a la Universidad Nacional. Mexico: El Caballito 1985.
  • Wences Reza, Rosalío, La Universidad en la historia de México. Mexico: Editorial Línea 1984.


  1. Alfonso García Robles (alumnus) - Nobel Peace Prize, 1982
  2. Octavio Paz (alumnus) - Nobel Prize in Literature, 1990
  3. Mario Molina (alumnus) - Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1995

Nobel laureates

See also Category:National Autonomous University of Mexico faculty

Noted faculty




Physicians and surgeons

Artists, writers, and humanists



Heads of state

Many of the most prominent figures in the economical, political, scientific, and artistic life in Mexico were members of the UNAM alumni or faculty:

See also Category:National Autonomous University of Mexico alumni
View of the university

Noted alumni

The UNAM contains several associations of current students and alumni that provide extra-curricular activities to the whole community, enriching the University's activities with cultural, social, and scientific events.

Student associations

UNAM students and professors are regarded throughout Mexico as politically aware and politically active. While most of its students usually adhere to left-wing political ideologies and movements, the University has also borne a number of prominent right-wing and neoliberal politicians, such Carlos Slim, as Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Manuel Gómez Morín.

Political activism

The University has as an annual tradition to make a large display of Day of the Dead offerings (Spanish: ofrenda) all over the main square of Ciudad Universitaria. Each school builds an offering, and in the center, there is usually a large offering made according to a theme corresponding to the festivities of the University for that year.[41]

Cultural traditions

UNAM's football club, Club Universidad Nacional, participates in Liga MX, the top division of Mexican football. The club recently became two-time consecutive champions of the Apertura, and the Clausura in 2004. Their home ground is the Estadio Olímpico Universitario.

A view of university's University Olympic Stadium

Professional football club

Sports, clubs, and traditions

Students and faculty

As for basic sciences, UNAM currently has two Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholars and an endowment from the NIH extramural research program.

UNAM's scientific output continues to grow; despite numerous attempts by the Mexican government to curtail its budget, the University currently produces 60% of all scientific publications in Mexico.

All research centers are open to students from around the world. The UNAM holds a number of programs for students within the country, using scientific internships to encourage research in the country.

Research centers tend to focus on multidisciplinary problems particularly relevant to Mexico and the developing world, most notably, the Center of Applied Sciences and Technological Development, which focuses on connecting the sciences to real-world problems (e.g., optics, nanosciences), and Center of Energy Research, which conducts world-class research in alternative energies.

Scientific research at UNAM is divided between faculties, institutes, centers and schools, and covers a range of disciplines in Latin America. Some notable UNAM institutes include: the Institute of Astronomy, the Institute of Biotechnology, the Institute of Nuclear Sciences, the Institute of Ecology, the Institute of Physics, Institute of Renewable Energies, the Institute of Cell Physiology, the Institute of Geophysics, the Institute of Engineering, the Institute of Materials Research, the Institute of Chemistry, the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, and the Applied Mathematics and Systems Research Institute.

UNAM has excelled in many areas of research. The university houses many of Mexico's premiere research institutions. In recent years, it has attracted students and hired professional scientists from all over the world, most notably from Russia, India, and the United States, creating a unique and diverse scientific community.



List of faculties, national schools, and institutes

UNAM recognizes two different types of university schools: faculties and national schools. Only faculties have postgraduate studies. Currently, most of the schools, either inside or outside the University City, have this title. A national school is an institution that cannot offer all postgraduate studies (Master's degrees and Doctorates). This is the case of the National School of Nursery and Obstetrics, and the National School of Social Work.[40]

Faculties and national schools

UNAM is organized in faculties, rather than departments. Both undergraduate and graduate studies are available. UNAM is also responsible for the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (ENP) (National Preparatory School), and the Colegio de Ciencias y Humanidades (CCH) (Science and Humanities College), which consist of several high schools, in Mexico City. Counting ENEP, CCH, FES (Facultad de Estudios Profesionales), higher-secondary, undergraduate and graduate students, UNAM has over 324,413 students, making it one of the world's largest universities.[9]

Faculty of Sciences
Faculty of Engineering Gardens
Central Library of the UNAM
Rectorate tower of the UNAM


The National Astronomical Observatory is located in the Sierra San Pedro Mártir mountain range in Baja California, about 130 km south of United States-Mexican border. It has been in operation since 1970, and it currently has three large reflecting telescopes.

National Astronomical Observatory

The Chopo University Museum possesses an artistic architecture, large crystal panels and two iron towers designed by Gustave Eiffel. It opened with part of the collection of the now-defunct Public Museum of Natural History, Archeology and History, which eventually became the National Museum of Cultures.[39] It served the National Museum of Natural History for almost 50 years, and is now devoted to the temporary exhibitions of visual arts.

Chopo University Museum

This museum and cultural center is considered to be the birthplace of the Mexican muralism movement.[35][36] San Ildefonso began as a prestigious Jesuit boarding school, and after the Reform War, it gained educational prestige again as National Preparatory School, which was closely linked to the founding of UNAM. This school, and the building, closed completely in 1978, then reopened as a museum and cultural center in 1994, administered jointly by UNAM, the National Council for Culture and Arts and the government of the Federal District of Mexico City. The museum has permanent and temporary art and archaeological exhibitions, in addition to the many murals painted on its walls by José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and others.[37][38] The complex is located between San Ildefonso Street and Justo Sierra Street in the historic center of Mexico City .[35]

Museum of San Ildefonso

The House of the Lake, in Chapultepec Park, is a place devoted to cultural activities, including dancing, theatre, and ballet. It also serves as meeting place for university-related organizations and committees.

Casa del Lago

Under the care of UNAM's Engineering Faculty, the Colonial Palace of Mining is located in the historical center of Mexico City. Formerly the School of Engineering, it has three floors, and hosts the International Book Expo ("Feria Internacional del Libro" or "FIL") and the International Day of Computing Security Congress ("DISC"). It also has a permanent exhibition of historical books, mostly topographical and naturalist works of 19th century Mexican scientists, in the former library of the School of Engineers. It also contains several exhibitions related to mining, the prime engineering occupation during the Spanish colonization. It is considered to be one of the most significant examples of Mexican architecture of its period, conceived by Manuel Tolsa during de Spanish colonial rule in a neoclassical style (18th century).

Part of the "megaofrenda" at UNAM for Day of the Dead
Colegio de Minería (College of Mining) building on Tacuba street in the historic center of Mexico City

Palacio de Minería

Museums and buildings of interest

It operates Centers for Mexican Studies and/or Centers of Teaching for Foreigners in: Beijing, China (jointly with the Beijing University of Foreign Studies); Madrid, Spain (jointly with the Cervantes Institute); San Jose, Costa Rica (jointly with the University of Costa Rica); and due to open soon in: Paris, France (jointly with Paris-Sorbonne University) and in Northridge, California, United States (jointly with the California State University Northridge).

The University has extension schools in the United States, and Canada, focusing on the Spanish language, English language, Mexican culture, and, in the case of UNAM Canada, French language: UNAM San Antonio, Texas; UNAM Los Angeles, California; UNAM Chicago, Illinois; Gatineau, Quebec; and Seattle, Washington.[34]

Apart from Ciudad Universitaria, UNAM has several campuses in the Metropolitan Area of Mexico City (Acatlán, Aragón, Cuautitlán, Iztacala, and Zaragoza), as well as many others in several locations across Mexico (in Santiago de Querétaro, Morelia, Mérida, Sisal, Ensenada, Cuernavaca, Temixco and Leon), mainly aimed at research and graduate studies. Its Center of Teaching for Foreigners has a campus in Taxco, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, focusing in Spanish language and Mexican culture for foreigners, as well as locations in the upscale neighborhood of [Polanco] in central Mexico City.[31][32][33]

Satellite campuses

Central Library of the UNAM, at the University City

In June 2007, its main campus, Ciudad Universitaria, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[30]

"Ciudad Universitaria" (University City) is UNAM's main campus, located within the Coyoacán borough in the southern part of Mexico City. It was designed by architects Mario Pani, Enrique del Moral, Domingo García Ramos, Armando Franco Rovira, Ernesto Gómez Gallardo and others, and it encloses the Estadio Olímpico Universitario, about 40 faculties and institutes, the Cultural Center, an ecological reserve, the Central Library, and a few museums. It was built during the 1950s on an ancient solidified lava bed to replace the scattered buildings in downtown Mexico City, where classes were given. It was completed in 1954, and is almost a separate region within Mexico City, with its own regulations, councils, and police (to some extent), in a more fundamental way than most universities around the world.

Mural The people to the university, the university to the people. For a national neohumanist culture of universal depthEl pueblo a la universidad, la universidad al pueblo. Por una cultura nacional neohumanista de profundidad universal () (1952 - 1956), by David Alfaro Siqueiros, along Rectorate tower of the UNAM

University City



In 2009 the university was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities[28] and began the celebration of its centennial anniversary with several activities that will last until 2011.[29]

The last major student strike at the university occurred in 1999–2000 when students shut down the campus for almost a year to protest a proposal to charge students the equivalent of US$150 per semester for those who could afford it. Referendums were held by both the university and the strikers, but neither side accepted the others' results. Acting on a judge's order, the police stormed the buildings held by strikers on 7 February 2000, putting an end to the strike.[25][26][27]

The 1970s and 1980s saw the opening of satellite campuses in other parts of Mexico and nearby areas, to decentralize the system. There were some minor student strikes, mostly concerning grading and tuition.[23][24]

Students at UNAM, along with other Mexico City universities, mobilized in what has come to be called Tlatelolco massacre, the police action produced with many dead, wounded and detained. Protests continued after that. Only ten days later, the 1968 Olympic Games opened at the University Stadium. The University was shut down for the duration. Finally, some progress was made toward restoring order.[22]

Another major student strike, again over examination regulations, occurred in 1966. Students invaded the rectorate and forced the rector to resign. The Board of Regents did not accept this resignation, so the professors went on strike, paralyzing the university and forcing the Board's acceptance. In the summer, violent outbreaks occurred on a number of the campuses of the University-affiliated preparatory schools; police took over a number of high school campuses, with injuries.


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