Illini Everywhere: Guatemalan Illini, Since 1943

Since at least 1943, Guatemalan students have been attending the University of Illinois. Early Guatemalan Illini have included architects and student leaders too.

Read on to learn more about early Guatemalan Illini!

Illinois – Guatemala Connections

Before the first Guatemalan Illini came to campus, early Illinois – Guatemala connections began. As early as 1919 and 1920, former Ophthalmology Professor Albert B. Hale (Record Series 52/28/20) worked for an engineering firm in Guatemala. At the University Archives, researchers can read his diaries which include an account of his voyage to Guatemala and his conversation with Guatemalan president Estrada Cabrera about railroad financing.

Illinois – Guatemala connections would deepen beginning at least as early as the 1940s. In 1941, Class of 1935 Journalism graduate Mr. John L. Strohm (Record Series 26/20/75) visited Guatemala, and his journal notes and prints document his visit to Guatemala City. In 1947, Ministry of Agriculture representative Mr. Hector M. Sierra visited the campus to learn about Illinois developments in hybrid corn, wheat, dairy cattle, and farm machinery. During the early 1950s, former Botany (1902-13) and Plant Pathology (1913-38) Professor Charles F. Hottes (Record Series 15/4/21) traveled Guatemala and neighboring countries during multiple research trips, documented in his lecture slides and travel notebooks. Of course, the CIC-AID Rural Development Research Project File (Record Series 8/4/40) documents U.S. and Guatemalan development research projects during the 1960s too.


Some of the first Guatemalan students arrived during the 1940s. Multiple early Guatemalan Illini studied Architecture and they had distinguished careers too. At this time, Mr. Manuel Higinio Ortiz (M.S. Orthodonia, 1945) might have been the first graduate student too.

The first Guatemalan student might have been Mr. Plubio Aguilar (1943-44). Mr. Aguilar left few records behind. From Daily Illini records, we know that Mr. Aguilar was initiated into the multicultural student organization Cosmopolitan Club in 1943, and he was elected club sergeant-at-arms for academic year 1944-45. By 1944, Mr. Aguilar had the nickname “The Guatemalan Flash“.

While he was a student, Mr. Llarena (B.S. Architecture, 1949) was active in multiple organizations including Alpha Rho Chi and Gargoyle too. As a member of Alpha Rho Chi, Mr. Llarena’s social life would sometimes be documented in Daily Illini social life columns, including when he gave his fraternity pin to one woman during April 1947. That summer, as a supportive fraternity brother, Mr. Llarena hosted graduate student Mr. Willis E. Snow (M.S. Entomology, 1944; PhD Entomology, 1949) during at least one of Mr. Snow’s research trips to Guatemala. Later that year, for academic year 1947-1948, Mr. Llarena and one other student were even awarded medals for their outstanding performance in national architectural competitions.

After graduation, Mr. Llarena continued his education at the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala. [1] Mr. Llarena was a Visiting Professor at the California Polytechnic State University and he completed consulting work in housing too. In Guatemala, Professor Llarena was a founder of the Faculty of Architecture at the Universidad de San Carlos and the Universidad Rafael Landívar too. Later, Professor Llarena also served as a director for the Institute of Development (Instituto de Fomento) and for the Institute of Mortgage Insurance (Instituto de Fomento de Hipotecas Aseguradas).

Although documentation of Guatemalan Illini after the 1960s is limited, student enrollment figures document that Guatemalan Illini enrollment has continued since the 1970s and hopefully for longer too.

Are you a Guatemalan Illini? Do you know someone who is? We’d like to hear from you! Please send us a message or leave a comment below. We want to include you and your story, as we celebrate the first 150 years of the University of Illinois.

Happy First 150 everyone!


[] As always, a special thank you to all students whose tireless work for student life and publications (many of which are available at the University Archives) help preserve the memories of Illini everywhere.

[1] “Pelayo Llarena Murúa“. newmediaUFM (Universidad Francisco Marroquín). Accessed September 10, 2017. Also see: “Historia” PUCOM. (Spanish).

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