After 50 Years, Dr. Luciano Barraza
Attends UW Commencement
The Wisconsin Idea Abroad
Top: Dr. Luciano Barraza (seated second left) with family
members after he crossed the stage to receive his
Above:Luciano Barranza (l-r) and his nephew who helped
arrange Barraza’s UW commencement
“I was the chief of the agricultural economics department in the agriculture
ministry,” Barraza said. “Over there, we started to improve the statistics of
Mexican agriculture. We produced new technologies at that time like photographs
to estimate the crops and things like that. Later it became known as the National
Institute of Geography and Statistics. That was part of a program that I started
there. We created sampling procedures to estimate the crops. In the past, people
sent in their estimates on how much to expect and nobody was able to test it if it
was true or not. So we introduced sampling procedures, at that time
photographing things, which is now done with satellites.”

Barraza then went to the private sector where he became the CEO of the largest
fertilizer company in Mexico.

“At that time, it was the only fertilizer company in Mexico,” Barraza said. “We had
11 industrial manufacturing plants. During the time that I was there, we built two
new ones. We acquired the only fertilizer company in Central America. We did
have to compete with some of the United States companies like Dow. In fact, we
bought Fatica from Exxon because they were losing money with this fertilizer
company in Central America. We bought it and we made money. Later we sold the
company to the Central American countries. At that time, I was a member of the
board of directors of different companies and so on and so forth.”

Barraza then heard the call from the public sector to make probably his biggest
By Jonathan Gramling

Dr. Luciano Barraza has been blessed with many things in his
life. One is a loving family. The other is an education from UW-
Madison. Barraza, a native of Gómez Palacio in the state of
Durango, Mexico, arrived in Madison on the Friday before
Labor Day in 1963 and completed his doctorate in agricultural
economics with emphasis in mathematical economics and
institutional economics. But Barraza wouldn’t walk across the
stage at a UW-Madison commencement ceremony until 50
years later, just this December.

After Barraza fulfilled his requirements for his Ph.D. in
November 1967, he was forced to return to his job at the
central bank of the Bank of Mexico in Mexico City in the
department of economics. He then moved to the Ministry of
Agriculture where his career really took off.
impact on agriculture in Latin America through the Inter-American Development Bank, one of the quasi-public banks like the World Bank that
facilitate international development and commerce.

“I was the chief of the project analysis department of agriculture, forestry, livestock and marketing,” Barraza said. “At that time, being the chief
of the department, I was able to travel and make loans for almost all countries in Latin America. I have been in Guatemala, El Salvador,
Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Peru, all of them, because we have always had at least one project in each
country. It was a very interesting job because I was supposed to supervise the analysis of the projects. But each year, we had a difficult
project in a country. So I would go there to see how we could help and correct things. It was a very interesting job.”

Barraza has since retired and moved to San Antonio, Texas to be close to his family. Barraza became acquainted to the campus of a higher
education campus through his daughter’s graduation.

“Last summer when I was at my daughter’s graduation when my daughter received her Ph.D. at the University of Texas-Austin, I looked at the
commencement ceremony and said, ‘Oh my goodness, this is nice,’” Barraza recalled. “And then my young grandson said, ‘What do you
regret?’ We were talking and he noticed that I had some regret. I told him that I regretted not attending my graduation commencement
ceremony. He started making contacts at UW-Madison. He and Kim Santiago did unbelievable work. My daughter and everyone were saying,
‘Okay, the UW-Madison has 50,000 students. Who is going to think about that guy who finished 50 years ago? Just forget it. You’re not going to
get anything.’ And then I got the letter from the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics. I got a note from the Office of the Chancellor. I
have been interviewed for radio and the newspapers. I feel overwhelmed for the way that Madison is welcoming me. But I think and insist the
same thing when I arrived here 50 years ago. It’s almost like I never left.”

In many ways, Barraza is a shining example of UW-Madison as a world-class educational institution. It has expanded the Wisconsin Idea to the
international stage. And that has also proven good for Wisconsin and the United States.

“The university believes that education is important,” Barranza emphasized. “Not only that, it also believes that the best ambassadors for the U.
S. and Wisconsin are the people who study here. They should be bringing a lot of people here because it is good for the countries when they go
back. But it is also good for the U.S. It’s a cheaper way to be involved in international economics, cheaper in many ways.”

It is a true economic multiplier for all involved.