Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Workers and Peasants in Latin America


Dr. Aldo Lauria-Santiago
Contact Info

Purpose and Scope
Determination of Grade and Requirements
Books for this course
Course Organization

This course will examine the history of Latin America as seen from the perspective of workers and peasants, drawing mostly from the experiences of people in Mexico and Central America. While the history of the nation-state continues to have a central place in the study of this region, during the last two decades historians and other social scientists have begun to pay special attention to the formation and experience of the "popular"sectors. This course will introduce students to many of the principal themes in the study of workers and peasants. These themes are as varied as reality itself and range from economic issues that affect the social structure of a country to the participation of peasants in revolts and revolutions.

We will examine aspects of the region's economic history, paying special attention to the organization of land and labor and how these themes relate to the structural creation of social classes. We will also explore more open-ended aspects of the varied forms of peasant and worker political mobilizations and participation and how they have affected the formation of the Nation-State in these countries. The course will further consider how peasants and workers have had different experiences based on ethnic, gender, regional, or national differences. We will also examine some case-studies of popular culture. All of these discussions will be carefully framed in the context of the popular-elite relations, and the history of the nation-state and supra-national forces.

Half your grade will be determined by your class participation, weekly written work and attendance. Students will prepare weekly 2-3 page discussions papers on the readings and participate in presentations of the assigned materials. Sometimes these short assignments will be a summary or discussion of the readings. Other times I will ask you to answer specific questions. The other half will be determined by a take home exam based on our class readings. This essay will be described on a separate sheet later in the semester. There will be no outside reading or research required for this course, only careful, consistent engagement with the assigned materials. Weekly assignments are due on the Thursday of the week the materials are to be discussed and/or presented.

The following books have been ordered by the bookstore. Other readings will be available in a reading packet which will be made available to you for individual copying..


Week 1: [Jan 19,21] Introduction: Theory, Class and the Historiography of Working People in Latin America

Week 2: [Jan 26,28] Peasants--19th Century: Production and Politics Week 3 [Feb 2,4] Peasants--19th Century: Politics and Revolt Week 4 [Feb 9,11] Peasants and Rural Workers--20th Century Week 5 [Feb 16,18] Peasants and Workers in Revolution I Week 6 [Feb 23,25] Peasants and Authoritarian States I Week 7 [Mar 2,4] Peasants and Authoritarian States II Week 8 [Mar 16,18] Workers and Industrialization Week 9 [Mar 23,25] Urban Workers and Politics Week 10 [Mar 30] Peasants and Workers in Revolution II Week 11 [April 6,8] Peasants and Workers in Revolution III Week 12 [April 13,15] Workers, Nationalism and Populism I Week 13 [April 20,22] Workers, Nationalism and Populism II
  • Week 14 [April 27,29] Race and Ethnicity/Peasants and Workers
  • Gould in Chomsky and Lauria-Santiago
  • Farnsworth-Alvear in French
  • Chomsky, Aviva, “Afro-Jamaican Traditions and Labor Organizing on United Fruit Company Plantations in Costa Rica, 1910." Journal of Social History, 28,4 (Summer 1995): 837-855