American Dream Educates
for Decades

Carlos Gil

For lifelong learners aged 50 and over in the Puget Sound region, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW is a treasure. And so is instructor Carlos Gil. 

Most of my students are right there with me — they’re open and they’re eager. Teaching with Osher has been an uplifting experience for me.

 — Carlos Gil

Long before he made it his life’s work as a history professor at the University of Washington and an instructor in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW, Carlos Gil was fascinated by his family’s roots.

“My folks came from Mexico; they crossed the border in the 1910s and ‘20s,” he said. “I’ve always had a natural inclination to probe and deepen my understanding of where they came from and how they settled into the U.S.” 

Carlos’ interest in Latin America spurred him to work for the U.S. Foreign Service in Central America in his 20s. After completing his Ph.D. at the University of California Los Angeles, Carlos moved to Seattle and began teaching at the UW. 

His arrival at the UW during the socio-political tumult of the early ‘70s motivated Carlos to launch the university’s first undergraduate Mexican American and Chicano undergraduate history courses.

After retiring from full-time teaching and publishing a book — We Became Mexican American: How Our Immigrant Family Survived to Pursue the American Dream — in 2014, Carlos wanted to continue telling this vital American story. 

“I was looking for new ways to keep my brain perking,” he said. “Osher welcomed my work because the subject matter is fascinating and because of the current political conversation around immigration and its historical context.” 

As an OLLI-UW instructor, Carlos appreciates the chance to teach his students about Latin American culture and history — especially now, as strident political positions drown out a deeper understanding of the region. 

“One of the things that keeps me going is that my material unveils the superficiality of our political policies toward Latin America,” Carlos said.