Beta Chapter of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Inc

The oldest existing Latino fraternity

Fraternal history

A need fulfilled

There was a need in the United States for a cultural environment for students from Latin America and Spain. The Union Hispano Americana (UHA), the first association of Latin American students in the United States, fulfilled this need. UHA was founded at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Troy, NY, in 1898 as a cultural and intellectual secret society based on the ideology of Pan Americanism.

In the northeastern part of the United States, another group of Latin American students decided to organize a cultural and intellectual fraternity. Consequently, Pi delta Phi was founded at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1916. Pi Delta Phi began a search to expand to other universities when they realized the existence of similar organizations.

The merger

Pi Delta Phi established communications with Phi Lambda Alpha, a fraternity founded in 1919 at the University of Southern California, Berkley. When they realized the existence of the strong non-Greek-letter secret society Union Hispano Americana, they began intensive correspondence and various interviews. The three organizations merged. In their merger agreement, they kept the name of Phi Lambda Alpha Fraternity, the emblem of Pi Delta Phi, and the constitution, goals, and motto of the UHA. This union was formalized in New York City in 1921.

Meanwhile, in the southern part of the United States, a similar organization was under development. Sigma Iota, a social/cultural organization, was founded in 1904 at Louisiana State University. Even though it grew at a rapid rate, Sigma Iota sought to stabilize itself by joining with a more stationary organization after losing many chapters.

In December of 1931, the most significant event in the history of Latino fraternities took place in Troy, NY

In December of 1931, the most significant event in the history of Latino fraternities took place in Troy, NY. Phi Lambda Alpha wanted to spread the ideal of Pan Americanism, and Sigma Iota wanted to secure expansion opportunities. On December 26, 1931, Phi Iota Alpha was born as a result of a merger that united both organizations under one name, one banner, and one ideal.

Expansion

Since the unification, Phi Iota Alpha expanded nationally and internationally, with chapters in Cuba (Phi Kappa Alpha), Puerto Rico (Phi Sigma Alpha), and Mexico (Phi Tau Alpha).

Ensuing hardships

In September of 1939, Phi Sigma Alpha separated itself from Phi Iota Alpha to join another fraternity and form Phi Sigma Alpha of Puerto Rico. Because of World War II, the Vietnam War, and the “Me” generation, membership dwindled. Further, fewer Latin American students continued attending American universities, which hindered potential members.

After many years of struggling, the last active undergraduate chapter at RPI closed its doors in 1968. By 1973, the last undergraduate member graduated from RPI, taking the fraternity’s official documents and archives. From 1973 to 1983 the fraternity witnessed a period of inactivity at the undergraduate level.

Rebirth

The brothers who had graduated continued to communicate with one another and to accomplish the fraternity’s mission. Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity was always active, only without undergraduate representation.

Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity was always active, only without undergraduate representation

In 1984, a group of young men at RPI learned about the Latino empowerment and culture that existed on their campus, and took the challenge of reviving the spirit of Phi Iota Alpha. These courageous young men became the new generation of Phiotas after the last Secretary General instituted those members as the Alpha Chapter. By 1991, Phi Iota Alpha had chartered six chapters that represented all areas of New York State.

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