CLAG Handbook – Introduction (pdf)
The Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers (CLAG) is a non-profit organization which is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the general membership. There are thirteen members of the Board, each serving three years. A rotation policy brings new members to the Board each year and retires members who have completed their terms. Officers of the Board are a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman who may be assisted in their duties by appointed staff. Committees of the Board are appointed by the Chair to undertake organization business; they include an Executive Committee as well as Honors, Membership, Finance, Publications, Teaching, and Research committees. The Executive Committee is responsible for the integration and facilitation of the activities and plans of the organization. Full meetings of the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers are scheduled at one to two year intervals. These meetings, which have been held in Latin America and Canada as well as the United States, ordinarily consist of volunteered papers on a general conference theme with a keynote address by a noted Latin Americanist. Special meetings have been organized to investigate specific themes. The CLAG annual business meeting, open to all members, is held in April of each year. One meeting at the beginning of each decade is devoted to an inventory of geographical research in Latin America in the preceding ten years and a discussion of prospects for the future.
Printed and electronic publications as well as audio-visual media produced by the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers included, up to 2002, the annual Yearbooks, (now replaced by the Journal of Latin American Geography), Special Publications, Occasional Publications, Instructional Media, and the CLAG Newsletter. The quarterly newsletter is normally published in March, June, September, and December, containing news of interest to all Latin Americanists. The Yearbook is an annual refereed journal and is sent automatically to all current members. One of the main objectives of the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers is to act as liaison between members with expertise in Latin American research, teaching, and service and appropriate agencies and organizations that sponsor or support such activities. To accomplish this goal we maintain contact with such organizations as the Latin American Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers, the Latin American Studies Association, the Pan American Institute of Geography and History, and as well as other private and governmental agencies with Latin American interests.
Overview of CLAG
Latin Americanist geographers have long been active in interdisciplinary organizations devoted to Latin Americanist scholarship, such as the International Congress of Americanists (the first of it type) and the Latin American Studies Association. In Latin America, many nations developed local geographic societies devoted to research in their particular country. Until the 1960s, however, there had been little effort to develop Latin Americanist organizations which focused on geography as a discipline yet transcended the concerns of individual countries. CLAG arose as the organization for Latin Americanist geographers in the United States; over time, it has grown to increasingly play a role as an international organization committed to the support of geography throughout the culturally Latin territories of the Americas. In 1963, the Association of American Geographers inaugurated the Committee on Latin American Geography to encourage interaction among these regional specialists. To further this effort, a group of geographers attending the IX General Assembly of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History met on June 5, 1969, at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. at the invitation of Preston E. James. This group, consisting of John P. Augelli, Arthur L. Burt, Allen Bushong, Robert L. Carmin, Wolfram Drewes, Howard L. Gauthier, Don R. Hoy, Preston E. James, Barry Lentnek, Clarence W. Minkel, Robert E. Nunley, Ross N. Pearson, David E. Snyder, and Robert N. Thomas, concluded that the time was ripe for a national conference to share information and stimulate geographical research, teaching, and planning activities. The group sought and received the support of three influential Latin Americanist geographers, Preston E. James (a member of the US National Academy of Sciences Committee on Geography), Arch C. Gerlach (president of the United States National Section of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History), and John P. Augelli (president of the new Latin American Studies Association) in their plans to organize a new professional association. The group established working committees on public relations/publications, local arrangements, program, and finances, for a first meeting. Barry Lentnek was named chairman of the group and Robert N. Thomas secretary.
Financial support for a first meeting was one of the principal concerns of the planning committee. Three of the founders, Robert L. Carmin of Ball State University, Don R. Hoy of the University of Georgia, and Barry Lentnek of Ohio State University, wrote a proposal requesting assistance from the Social Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation (US), primarily to defray travel expenses for twenty-five selected Latin Americanist geographers to attend a conference that would act as a clearinghouse for ideas on the direction of geographical research in Latin America. According to a draft of the proposal, “the basic purpose of the conference will be to intensify communication among active Latin American researchers by holding a national conference representing all points of view. The conference will attempt to establish clearly articulated and focused problems facing the geographic student of Latin America” [A Proposal for a National Conference on the Future of Geographic Research in Latin America,” Undated manuscript, CLAG Archive]
The first planning meeting of the group, now called the “Executive Committee of the National Conference of Latin American Geographers,” was held October 4, 1969, at Michigan State University. Chairman Barry Lentnek’s agenda included the formulation of a program for the conference, appointment of session chairpersons, and a choice of a method for publishing the proceedings of the conference. The second planning meeting was held January 10, 1970, at Ohio State University. The agenda again concerned the program for the conference, but there was discussion of other long-range goals, including the means of continuing the initial effort to stimulate research, teaching, and organizational activities that it was hoped the conference would generate.
The planning meetings generated a great deal of interest among Latin Americanist geographers. It became apparent that many more than the original twenty-five geographers were committed to the idea of a new association, and that they were ready and eager to participate in the conference. The National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council – American Council of Learned Societies, funded the first conference meeting in Muncie, Indiana on April 30 – May 3,1970. Tom L. Martinson and Robert L. Carmin, co-chairmen of the local arrangements committee, ultimately accommodated nearly sixty participants in ten paper sessions and a total attendance of about twice that number.
This first meeting in Muncie laid the groundwork for a continuing organization, just as the founders hoped. The spirited exchange among the participants at the first meeting, both in the sessions and after hours, has become a hallmark of all CLAG meetings. The commitment to written communication among Latin Americanist geographers has been evident since the first conference proceedings, Geographic Research on Latin America: Benchmark 1970, which attracted considerable favorable comment (Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 1973; Geographical Journal, 1974). The continuing record of CLAG publications is very evident. During the next decade, at meetings across the United States, in Canada, and in Colombia, CLAG developed its organizational structure, financial resources, contacts with other organizations, and its reputation for the support of geographical research in Latin America. Provision for a permanent Board of Directors, an annual meeting, and an annual publication was among the priorities of the new organization. At the conclusion of the first Muncie meeting, the organization was still called the National Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers (NCLAG) or, alternatively, the Committee of Latin Americanist Geographers, and the Board of Directors was still an executive committee composed of Muncie paper session chairmen and featured speakers. However, the new group decided to hold another executive committee meeting later in 1970, at the Association of American Geographers meeting in San Francisco, and another general meeting in Boston in 1971, in order to perfect an organizational structure.
At the executive committee meeting in San Francisco, the results of a poll of Latin Americanist geographers was presented that indicated that they wanted a permanent organization with an annual meeting, and that they were willing to pay an annual fee to belong to this organization. Plans for the Boston meeting were well under way, and many new members were attracted for a membership fee of three dollars. The first Newsletter, printed on March 20, 1971, was edited by Clarence W. Minkel and Robert N. Thomas at Michigan State University. On the masthead of this newsletter first appeared the name that ultimately was adopted as the official one for the organization: the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers.
An organizational structure involving working groups was beginning to develop, and the executive committee decided to hold the next general meeting on April 17, 1971, in Boston, Massachusetts, in conjunction with the convention of the Association of American Geographers. The theme would be “Population Dynamics of Latin America.” The Boston meeting, organized by Robert N. Thomas, was a full-day session with six papers and a business meeting. Over 100 persons attended this meeting, which was a lively exchange among all present. Plans to hold another general meeting in 1971, this time at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, were quickly approved, and plans for a third meeting scheduled for 1973 in Calgary, Canada, were announced.
The conference business meeting concerned these general meeting proposals as well as committee reports on publications, organizational structure, and activities of working groups. Appreciation was expressed to the Association of American Geographers, which provided space and facilities for the Boston session, helped circulate information about CLAG, and expressed an interest in continued close working relationships.
A format involving small group discussions of important research issues was an innovation at the Syracuse meeting, held December 2-4, 1971. This meeting emphasized the theme “Geographic Research on Problems of Latin American Development and Modernization.” Financial support for the meeting was provided by the Dellplain Endowment Fund of Syracuse University and the university itself. At this point a rotation system developed that allowed six new members to join the eighteen-member executive committee annually, as six other members retired. After this third meeting, the general features of the organization were clear, and the membership was active and growing.
Similar formats have been followed in subsequent annual meetings, in Calgary, Boca Raton, Chapel Hill, El Paso, Paipa, Rohnert Park, and Muncie again, to complete the cycle of the decade of the 1970s. Twohighlights of CLAG’s first decade of conventions were the 1973 and 1977 international meetings in Calgary, Canada and Paipa, Colombia. The Calgary meeting, hosted by Richard P. Momsen, Jr. and with the financial assistance of the Canada Council, the Province of Alberta, and the University of Calgary, attracted a large number of geographers from overseas, particularly Europe and Latin America. These contacts were renewed and strengthened at the Paipa meeting, the first CLAG meeting to be held in Latin America. Hector F. Rucinque at the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia in Tunja was program chairman of this meeting, which attracted over 300 geographers from around the world. The Colombian Association of Geographers (ACOGE) and the Instituto Geográfico “Agustín Codazzi” offered financial and organizational support for the meeting and the extensive tour of Colombia that preceded the meeting. The tenth anniversary meeting, held in CLAG’s birthplace of Muncie, Indiana, in 1980, brought together most of the founders and another new generation of Latin Americanist geographers that had emerged since the organization’s founding. Accentuated at this meeting were the consequences of the profound social, economic, and environmental changes taking place in Latin America. The 1981 meeting in Buffalo, New York, received the support of the Ontario (Canada) Cooperative Program for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
During the 1980s CLAG made great progress in becoming a truly international organization. The October 1982 meeting in the Dominican Republic was co-sponsored by the Dominican National Section of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History and hosted by José Joaquín Hungría Morell, former Director of the Geographic Institute of the Dominican Republic. The 1984 meeting took place in Ottawa, Canada. The 1987 annual meeting in Mérida, Mexico, chaired by William V. Davidson of Louisiana State University, was another successful example of international cooperation. In January, 1988, the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers held its meeting in San José, Costa Rica, with the cooperation of the Department of Geography. In 1989 CLAG met in Querétaro, Mexico, while in 1992 it met in the Dominican Republic. A pattern had been set of meeting throughout the Americas in cooperation with local geographers and geographic organizations. Indeed, only two of CLAG’s eight meetings since 1981 have been located in the United States.
At the 1977 Paipa Meeting the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers first award for outstanding teaching, research, and service was presented to Preston E. James. He would be followed in later years by many others.
Membership and Officers
Principal offices of CLAG were first located in East Lansing, Michigan (Michigan State University). Subsequently they moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina (University of North Carolina). From 1976 to 1987 they were in Muncie, Indiana (Ball State University). From 1988 to 1992 they were in Auburn, Alabama (Auburn University). From 1992 to 2005 the offices were located at Austin, Texas (University of Texas at Austin), and from 2004 to 2007 at Hunter College, New York. They are currently located in Syracuse, New York. The growth in membership and resources that occurred after the organization moved to Muncie led to legal incorporation as a non-profit organization and application for tax-exempt status from the United States government. The Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers was incorporated in the state of Indiana on April 10, 1978, and was declared federal tax exempt on August 11, 1978. It was reincorporated in Texas on August 21, 1998. In order to develop its relationship with the Association of American Geographers (AAG), members of CLAG formed a special interest group in that association, the Latin American Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers (LASG-AAG). LASG-AAG and CLAG have always cooperated closely in organizing sessions at AAG meetings and in the distribution of news to Latin Americanist geographers. CLAG meetings at AAG meetings normally follow immediately on the LASG-AAG meeting.
A special bequest of her late husband’s books and field research materials by Mary MacPhail led to the establishment of the Donald D. MacPhail Memorial Information Center. Subsequent donations led to the expansion of this collection. This collection is permanently located at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama. The second decade of CLAG’s existence was marked by efforts to continue and extend the successes of earlier years. A permanent office, directed by Tom L. Martinson as Executive Secretary, was established at Ball State University in Indiana to centralize the administrative functions of the organization, particularly those regarding membership, publications, finances, and communications with other professional organizations. Later in the decade, the central office was moved to Auburn University in Alabama and enjoyed the financial support of that institution.
One event illustrating CLAG’s outreach was a special meeting on teaching Latin American geography, co-sponsored by the Latin American Studies Association’s Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), the Lucia Harrison Endowment Fund of Western Michigan University, and the Latin American Studies program at the University of Texas in Austin. This meeting, held in 1981, brought together educators in several social science areas for discussions on the relevance of geography to understanding contemporary Latin America. The volume of proceedings issued after this meeting features presentations by prominent social science educators on the interrelationships between geography and other fields as well as offerings by selected CLAG members on successful Latin American geography classroom
methods and techniques.
The annual publication was changed during the 1980s from a Proceedings of the annual meeting to a new, refereed Yearbook open to contributions from all Latin Americanists. This publication took shape under the direction of A. Richard Longwell, Chairman of the Board’s Publications Committee and subsequently Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Directors. After considerable discussions at the 2000 and 2001 meetings it was decided to halt publication of the Yearbook and instead move to a new format of publication–a peer-reviewed journal. The new Journal of Latin American Geography appeared for the first time in 2002, and from 2005 a twice-yearly true Journal. The contributions of planners, environmental analysts, cartographers, systems analysts, and location specialists were recognized in the 1985 annual meeting, held in Washington, DC and chaired by Robert E. Durland and Marvin Gordon.
The twentieth anniversary meeting of the Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers was held in October, 1990, at Auburn University. This meeting, developed by Tom Martinson, who served as Local Arrangements and Program Chair, was the traditional inventory and prospect meeting as organized in 1970 and 1980. Over 150 participants convened in eight inventory and prospect sessions and eight volunteered paper sessions, each chaired by a noted Latin Americanist geographer. An especially noteworthy occurrence was the high level of participation by students and younger scholars. During the 1990s the Organization continued to develop. The 1992 meeting was held, appropriately enough, in the Dominican Republic, as CLAG discussed the five hundredth anniversary of the European contact with the Americas. At the same time, the main office of the organization moved to the University of Texas at Austin, Texas, as Gregory Knapp took over the position of Executive Secretary (now re-named Executive Director). William E. Doolittle took over as Executive Director on September 1, 1997, Inés Miyares of Hunter College, in July 2004, David J. Robinson of Syracuse University in July of 2008, Andrew Sluyter of Louisiana State University in January 2015, and Michael Steinberg of the University of Alabama in January of 2018. Please see the current board of directors for more information.
The Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers faces its share of challenges in the 2000s and beyond. Rooted in the achievements of many outstanding geographers, the future looks bright indeed.