National Autonomous University of Mexico Receives Prince of Asturias Prize

By Dialogo
June 11, 2009

MADRID, June 10, 2009 (AFP) – On Wednesday the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) received the 2009 Prince of Asturias Prize in Communication and Humanities for its vast influence in the Latin American world, and for the cultural framework created in its country. The UNAM, one of the most important centers of higher education in Mexico and Latin America, “has been the academic and instructive model for many generations of students from various countries, and has enriched the Latin American environment with invaluable intellectuals and scientists,” the jury stated in its record. This Mexican university “has encouraged strong humanistic, liberal, and democratic trends of thought in America, and it has extended its decisive influence, creating an extraordinary variety of institutions that enrich the academic world and connect them to the society they serve.” The jury also remembered that the UNAM "generously admitted distinguished personalities from the Spanish exile,” provoked by the Civil War (1936-1939) and General Francisco Franco’s regime (1939-1975). By that time, Mexico had become a land of political asylum for several republican intellectuals, many of which worked at the UNAM, including philosopher José Gaos. The award “is very important for this university and for Mexico as a nation,” according to UNAM’s Rector, José Narro, who stated that this university, the “daughter of University of Salamanca” in Spain, is soon to “begin the celebration of her centennial." The UNAM, the main public university in Mexico and Latin America, with around 300,000 students and more than 34,000 professors and researchers, was nominated for the prize by the Spanish ambassador to Mexico, Carmelo Angulo. The university was founded in 1910 as the heir to the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, which was created in 1551. Its campus – inaugurated in 1954 in the Mexican capital – was declared a Cultural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007 as an example of a historical monument of the twentieth century’s modernity. In charge of managing the National Library and the Newspaper and Periodicals Library, as well as a network of 141 libraries, its main activities comprise the philharmonic and symphonic orchestra, a radio station, a TV channel, the main film library in Mexico, the University Centre of Cinematographic Studies (the oldest cinematographic school in Latin America), and a network of university museums. The Mexican university was the main favorite, along with the American newspaper The New York Times, among the 20 candidates from 12 countries, which included the photographic agency “Magnum” and five international organizations that protect freedom of speech. The “Prince of Asturias Prize” in Communication and Humanities is aimed at awarding the person or institution “whose creative or research work represents a relevant contribution to the universal culture in the fields already mentioned.” Last year, this award was granted to the search engine Google, and the year before to science magazines “Science et Nature” and “National Geographic.” The Prince of Asturias Prizes are granted by the foundation named after Prince Felipe de Borbón, heir to the Spanish Crown. Every year, the foundation recognizes eight individuals or organizations in the fields of the Arts, International Cooperation, Peace, Social Science, Communication and Humanities, Sports, Scientific and Technical Research, and Literature. The awards - € 50,000 ($70,000) – and the copies of a statuette of Joan Miró were presented by Prince Felipe in a ceremony held in the Campoamor Theatre of Oviedo (Northern Spain), where the Foundation is headquartered during autumn in the northern hemisphere.