Fi Sigma Alfa traces its origins to a number of organizations including Phi Lamba Alpha. Phi Lambda Alpha fraternity was founded at the University of California, Berkeley in 1919. The fraternity was a merger of three societies; the Unión Hispano Americana at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York founded in 1898, the first Latin-American student society in the USA; Pi Delta Phi Fraternity at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)]] founded in 1916; and Phi Lambda Alpha Fraternity founded in 1919 at the University of California, Berkeley. A group of Latin American students organized the Union Hispano Americana (UHΑ) as a cultural and intellectual secret society based on the ideology of Pan-Americanism.
After ΦΛA was organized, other societies joined it: the "Club Latino-Americano" founded in 1919 at Colorado School of Mines; the "Federación Latino-Americana" founded in 1926 at Columbia University which joined in 1928; the "Club Hispania" founded in 1929 of Cornell University which joined in 1931; the "Club Hispano-Americano" founded in 1921 of Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana which joined in 1929 and the Alfa Tenoxtitlan Militant chapter founded in 1929 made up of members of the old ΦΛA in Mexico City, Mexico.
Sigma Iota Fraternity was founded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on March 2, 1912 previously known as the Sociedad Hispano Americana, which was founded in the University of Louisiana in 1904. Between 1912 and 1925, Sigma Iota expanded rapidly in the United States, South America, and Europe. As a result of this, Sigma Iota became the first international Latin American-based fraternity. Sigma Iota and Phi Lambda Alpha joined and became Phi Iota Alpha in 1931. In 1932, Phi Iota Alpha reorganized and formed the Union Latino Americana as its overall governing body, dividing their member fraternities in Latin America into zones in accordance to the country which they represented.
Sigma Delta Alpha fraternity was established by 12 students and a professor on October 22, 1928 at the University of Puerto Rico at 4:00pm at the Glorieta Fabián. The founding members included Santos P. Amadeo (professor of Law), Juan Figueroa, Fernando Jiménez, Hugo D. Storer, Joaquin Velilla, Victor M. Sánchez, Adalberto Carrasquillo, Diego Guerrero Noble, Samuel L. Rodríguez, José Laracuente, Charles H. Juliá, Gilberto del Valle and Gilberto Alemar.
Originally the name Kappa Delta Alpha was considered but it was quickly changed to Sigma Delta Alpha. By December 5, 1928 they established their Chapter House where they began celebrating their meetings.
Sigma Delta Alpha enjoyed for many years certain supremacy over the other student organizations at the University. Their membership included four of the most important student leadership positions at the university: the Yearbook editor, the senior class president, the Athletic Society President, and the ROTC Battalion Commander. Every activity sponsored by the administration was consulted with the chapter president of Río Piedras. In 1929 the Beta Chapter at the Colegio de Mayagüez (University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez) was established; thus the original chapter became known as Alpha.
Fi Sigma Alfa had its first reorganization with the merger between the Alpha Boriquen Militant Chapter of Phi Iota Alpha and Sigma Delta Alpha of the University of Puerto Rico in 1934. The Puerto Rican zone came to be when the Alpha Boriquen Militant Chapter was founded in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 4, 1934 by former members of Phi Iota Alpha.
Under these conditions expressed above, a movement came about to unite Sigma Delta Alpha with the Alpha Boriquen Militant Chapter of Phi Iota Alpha. It was not an easy task, since many of the members of Sigma Delta Alpha did not want that change or to alter their history. But the decision was made and thus the Fi Sigma Alfa Zone of the Union Latino Americana came to be. A "Zone Directive" was created and a constitution was drafted, since there was no central body to control the fraternity. By 1937, the ULA had several well-established and functional zones including:ΦIA - Phi Iota Alpha in the United States
ΦKA - Phi Kappa Alpha in Cuba
ΦΣA - Fi Sigma Alfa in Puerto Rico
ΦTA - Phi Tau Alpha in Mexico
On January 7 and 8 of 1938 the last ULA Convention was held. Delegates of the United States, Cuba and the Puerto Rico zones were present. Sadly an agreement could not be reached over the ideals of the fraternity. After the convention, each zone considered the matter independently. The USA zone decided that the ideals of the ULA to be Pan-Americanism (the unification of Latin America by a system of confederacy) and demanded that the members of the fraternity be pro-independence when it came to Puerto Rico, the Cuban zone was undecided and therefore they followed the USA zone.
Puerto Rico refused this decision because it considered the introduction of political affairs to be unnecessary and also detrimental to the fraternity. Thus on September 25, 1938, the Phi Sigma Alpha Zone withdrew from the Union Latino Americana. The ULA dissolved shortly after.
Like the members of the Sigma, a majority of the members of the Chapter of Phi Iota Alpha of the University of Louisiana disillusioned with character given to their brotherhood decided to separate, founding in April 1939 Sigma Iota Alpha fraternity composed of Latin students of this university. As it was to be expected this new grouping was received with distrust by the other Latin fraternal organizations at the university. Being that Phi Sigma Alpha was organized in Puerto Rico with ideals similar to those of the Sigma Iota Alpha in Louisiana, and being both organizations the product of almost identical preceding brotherhoods, negotiations arose immediately to fuse both brotherhoods into a single one. This was decided in a convention celebrated on September 10, 1939 in the University Puerto Rico, organizing themselves Fraternidad Sigma or (Sigma Fraternity) with its ramifications; Phi Sigma Alpha Zone in Puerto Rico and Sigma Iota Alpha Zone in Louisiana (Later the USA Zone's name was changed to Phi Sigma Beta Zone and came to include other universities of the north).
The Phi Sigma Alpha Zone was organized by a board of directors of the zone, the Militant chapter Alpha Boriquén of San Juan, and two university chapters, one at U.P.R. Río Piedras and another one in the C.A.A.M. of Mayagüez. Years later the militant chapters of Ponce and Mayagüez were organized.
The Sigma Iota Alpha Zone (Phi Sigma Beta) was composed by Alpha chapter in the University of Louisiana. In 1941, the Beta chapter in the city of Baltimore, Maryland was organized; composed of students of the nearby universities (Georgetown, University of Maryland, University of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins, George Washington, etc.).
The years demonstrated the increasing difficulty to maintain a zone in the United States and to pretend that it worked as well as the one of Puerto Rico. A reformist movement arose abroad that culminated in 1964 with the establishment of the Phi Sigma Alpha Fraternity ("Fi Sigma Alfa" in Spanish) composed of active and militant chapters that can be found in Puerto Rico, in the United States or abroad. Therefore the zones were eliminated.
The baby boom era of the post war years and the economic development of the island was at its peak, thus it was reflected in its universities. The Puerto Rican youth registered in great numbers, thus the Fraternity, which acted as the suppliers of the union between its young people and an escape from arduous studies, also offered student housing. The Sigma enjoyed during next the two decades extensive enrollment in the original chapters and the new ones that were beginning to develop. Approaching the 1980s, the "baby boom" began to decline drastically only to resurge at the end of same decade and continuing until the beginnings of the 1990s.
The 1990s brought an arduous persecution towards fraternities, partly motivated by the death of two young cadets of the quasi-fraternal group the "Panthers" of the ROTC in the CAAM, and also a damages lawsuit perpetrated against another island fraternity. This brought forth a law, which can be found in Article 125 of the New Puerto Rico Penal Code, to control the initiation processes or "hazing" and to protect candidates. The Sigma Brotherhood that since 1959 had prohibited in its processes the use of the "Pledge Paddle" is proud to have been the first again in prohibiting acts against the physical and mental dignity of the neophyte, even before the Article 125 was enacted.
The Sigma has continued its emphasis throughout the years on the areas of community and social work by its active and militant chapters which always take part in blood drives and fund raising activities for different organizations. The Sigma Scholarship Program or ("Beca Sigma" in Spanish) program has been re-established and promises to offer young Puerto Ricans of scarce resources the opportunity to receive University studies.
The fraternity's highest administrative body is the "Junta de Directores", or Board of Directors. This body is composed of two groups, the first being the "Comité Ejecutivo Central", or Central Executive Committee, which includes the fraternity president, vice president and others. The second group is composed by the regional presidents, and by the presidents and secretaries of all the fraternity chapters, alumni and active. All members have an equal vote. The Board of Directors meets several times a year when it is convened by the fraternity president. As of 2010 there are six regions, with the ones in Puerto Rico named after their main city: San Juan Region, Guayama Region, Ponce Region, Arecibo Region, Mayagüez Region, and the USA Region, based in Florida.
Fi Sigma Alfa's main headquarters are located in Mexico Street, Chile corner in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. The offices are located in the Alpha Boriquen Chapter's clubhouse, called the Casa Club Sigma. Its restaurant has operated since 1968. Its activity halls can be rented for meetings and events and are used by many organizations. The clubhouse has two main activity halls and two smaller ones, which can all be opened up to create one big room, or used individually.
There is also a bar and restaurant area reserved for fraternity members and their guests, Vales Place. A combination on a digital door lock is needed to enter that area. In the back of the Casa Club Sigma is a basketball court. There used to be a swimming pool there, but it has been paved over. The main offices of the fraternity are on the second floor of the building. On the back is the Pub Sigma, which is used by the Alfa Omega Activo chapter for their meetings and social events.
The Sigma Foundation or "Fundación Sigma" is a non profit organization, established to offer to the Puerto Rican youth of limited resources or those who have academically excellent records, the opportunity to cover part of their university studies expense and others costs. Through different fraternity activities, planned in order to raise funds, the organization looks to always maintain a healthful economical level, thus to be able to fulfill their philanthropic intentions.
The fraternity collaborates and contributes to different organizations, mainly to the "Fondita de Jesus", the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society and "Centro Espibi" in Mayagüez. Different golf tournaments have been held to raise fund for charity. The Beta Boriquen chapter coordinates one such tournament with the Mayagüez Rotary Club.
The fraternity has both university and alumni chapters. The university chapters are named by a Greek letter (depending on their order of founding), followed by the word "activo", which means "active" in Spanish. The alumni chapters follow the same concept except instead of the word "activo" they are called "boriquén". Brothers in active chapters are called "activos" and alumni Brothers are called "militantes", or "militants". Yet all Brothers call each other "Sigmas".
The group has had among its members many respected Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans.