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History of the first Mexican-American student organization at ASU

With only a few members left alive, 12News had the opportunity to sit down and interview someone who remembers life on campus at the time.

PHOENIX — Arizona State University welcomes a record number of Sun Devil students as the fall semester begins.

The school has come a long way and some of the history of its early pupils has been forgotten. History as Conquerors Student Organization.

With only a few members left alive, 12News had the opportunity to sit down and interview someone who remembers life on campus at the time.

Gabino Montaño, also known as Gabby, still remembers thumbing through the student handbook while attending Arizona State University in the 1950s.

“I thought okay, I’m going to join two clubs.” One of them was Los Conquistadores, the first Mexican-American student organization at the school.

“I’ve been a member of the Conquerors for four years,” Montaño said.

The club was founded in an era before his, back in 1937. Students in the Spanish Club at the time wanted to become more involved in social justice.

Dr. Christina Marin is an archivist and professor emeritus at Arizona State University who studies the history of the club. She said early members had to separate once they knew they had a clear purpose.

“We wanted to go out and do some work in the community,” Dr. Marin recalled of their mindset at the time.

One of the club’s main goals is to raise money for students like them to get an education, as money is often a factor that keeps them away, especially if they come from smaller mining towns.

Montaño remembers his fundraising days. “It was only $200,” he recalled of the scholarship. But we know, even now, that every little bit helps. So they tried their best to raise funds.

“We had cake sales… we even had a dance in Superior, Arizona,” Montano said. They also served drinks at a ballroom in south Phoenix, he said. “Our salaries will go toward scholarships. “

Over the years, other clubs with the same goals emerged, and in the 1990s, former Conquerors started a lunch tradition during homecoming at Arizona State University where they could get together and reminisce.

“We were all friends,” Montaño said, looking through old photos of the party.

The club officially disbanded in 2020 and they donated their final funds to another foundation, but Dr Marin said their goal of “progress through education” will continue.

“We’re still doing what others did for us to help improve our lives, so let’s try to help others.”

Montaño has very fond memories of the group, and although it no longer exists, he said he would be happy with what they could accomplish if the mission continues with other student groups.

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