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Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas

Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities 1990

The José Simeón Cañas Central American University, founded in 1965 as a non-denominational university, is a charitable corporation, inspired by Christian ideals, which, run by the Company of Jesus, has tried to apply and develop the principles of Vatican II in the reality of Latin-America over its thirty years of existence.

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On the 15th September 1965, the University was officially inaugurated; the classes began in February 1966. Run by the Jesuits and a notable group of Christians, along the lines of liberation theology and the Puebla and Medellín meetings (Ignacio Ellacuría, Jon Sobrino, Martín Baró, Segundo Montes, Román Mayorga, Guillermo Manuel Ungo, Rubén Zamora, Héctor Oquelí, Héctor Dada, Luis de Sebastián and many others), the UCA, as it is popularly known, has become one of the leading centres of education in the Central-American region.

Characterised since its early years by its enormous contribution to the defence of human rights, freedom of expression and commitment with a genuine process of pacification in the Central-American area, the UCA has three faculties: Sciences of Mankind and Nature, Economic and Social Sciences and Engineering, which offer more than twenty-five degree courses. Furthermore, the University´s dependant Institute of research coordinates numerous studies in subjects such as rural electrification, housing and construction materials, earthquakes, etc.

In recent years, under the leadership of the rector, Ellacuría, the UCA established a major number of Masters degrees, with the cooperation in this of prestigious foreign universities and teachers, basically North American, Mexican and from the countries of the European Economic Community.

Ignacio Ellacuría (Portugalete, Vizcaya, 1930 – San Salvador, El Salvador, 1989), the rector whose work shaped the recent years of the UCA. After entering the Company of Jesus in 1947, he arrived in El Salvador as a novice two years later. After studying Humanities and Philosophy in Quito, he worked as a Philosophy teacher in El Salvador from 1955 to 1958, then moving to Innsbruck (Austria) to get his degree in Theology. Having finished his degree, he completed his religious studies in Dublin over a period of two years (1962-63) and later gained doctorates in Philosophy and Theology from the Complutense University of Madrid.

He returned to El Salvador in 1967, at that time joining the Central-American University for good. There he was to be the head of the department of Philosophy and director of the journal "Estudios Centroamericanos", until he was elected as rector in 1979.

Ignacio Ellacuría was a doctor honoris causa of the universities of Santa Clara and Chicago, USA. On the 18th November 1989, members of the El Salvadorian army assassinated Ellacuría, together with the academic vice-rector Ignacio Martín Baró, the director of the Institute of Human Rights, Segundo Montes, the academics Amando López, Juan Ramón Moreno and Joaquín López López, and their associates Elba Ramos and Celina Ramos. Before this, on fifteen other occasions, the university area had suffered bomb attacks.

Despite this hard trial, the UCA continues forward, on the same lines of commitment on which it was created.

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