Skip to main content

University Libraries

Past and Present: Latinx Student Life

By Camila Sánchez-González

Editor's note: This blog contains information from The Exponent, a student publication from 1903 to 1969; its digitization was made possible through donor gifts on One Day, One Dayton in 2021. Thank you!

As I was passing through the Archives hallway, I couldn’t help but stumble upon a display for Latinx Heritage Month, highlighting the Latinx student experience at the University of Dayton from as early as the early 1900s. 

When reading the different labels, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride and also amusement knowing that individuals from my culture — who look like me and come from similar backgrounds — shared similar experiences to mine when going through the college experience. I didn’t expect the history of Puerto Ricans at UD to go so far back. 

From the showcase some individuals that stood out to me were 1910 St. Mary’s High School graduate George Gonzalez and UD graduates Peter Babb ’26; Robert Babb ’27; Eugene Santaella ’38; and Hernan Maldonado ’60.

Eugene Santaella

Santaella was one of only a handful of Latinx students on campus, and one of even fewer Puerto Rican students, during the 1930s. He was described as being heavily involved in campus groups/organizations — something that I relate to. He started a bowling league, played saxophone in the band, and was a  ROTC cadet. He studied business during his time at UD. In an article in the University of Dayton News, he discusses an event in Puerto Rico called the Carnival  — a 10-day event ending on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. This was a community celebration where everyone participated, from children to adults. The thing that surprised me most about reading this article was learning about an event that I had no prior knowledge of. It was as if I was learning something about my culture firsthand within the Archives hallway. This showed me that there is always something to learn from your culture or history.

Hernan Maldonado

In the gallery of images below, you can see Hernan Maldonado ’60 of Lima, Peru, experiencing his first snow. I can relate to this experience of Latinx students experiencing their first snow while studying out of their home country. Before coming to UD, I had never seen snow. I experienced that same joyful yet unfamiliar feeling of having snowflakes falling down your face during your first winter snowfall. You can see a picture of me during my first year of college experiencing my first snow.

George Gonzalez

Like Santaella, Gonzalez was heavily involved on campus. He played the violin in the orchestra, played basketball and was the first Latinx student to have work published in a university publication. The Exponent published a wide range of articles, poems, and student journalism. Gonzalez wrote a poem titled “To My Father” (May 1909, Page 251), where he deals with the loss of a father.

Brothers Peter and Robert Babb

Peter Babb (1926) and Robert Babb (1927), two brothers majoring in engineering, also had works published in The Exponent. Peter Babb wrote a poem titled “Our Father” (October 1926, Page 11), which is about God. 

It really surprised me the level of depth both Gonzalez and Peter Babb were able to write at the time.

Come explore the archives

I encourage you all to learn more about these individuals and the history of UD. You can learn more about these issues and topics within eCommons or by contacting the University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections

Browse student-produced media in eCommons

Camila Sánchez-González is the 2022-23 OhioLINK Luminaries intern in the University Libraries.


Previous Post

Open Opportunities

University Libraries supports the open access publishing movement by providing opportunities and education for UD faculty and researchers.

Read More
Next Post

New Times, New Terms

This Native American Heritage Month, read how library catalogers implemented less harmful terminology surrounding Indigenous communities.
Read More