September October November December

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Perspectives on Latin America

Dr. A. Lauria-Santiago
Contact Info and Office hours

Because of the different faculty involved in this course and its experimental basis, this syllabus is subject to minor changes in readings, not requirements. Assigned readings will range between 30 and 50 pages per class session.

version 10/21/2005

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GOALS AND APPROACH Latin America is a complex region, filled with contrasts, failures and possibilities--and more than anything a heterogeneous population with deep-rooted traditions. Its many countries share common roots in the Portuguese and Spanish Empires created in the sixteenth century and their conquest of and domination over people of Indigenous adn African descent. But these countries have followed at times parallel and at times divergent paths since then. Cultural origins and language unite the region. National histories, nationalism and regionalism and heterogeneous local experiences separate it into parts. This course assumes that a historical studies need to form part of any multi-disciplinary examination of Latin American culture, politics, and society. It will cover about 24 distinct and relatively self-contained themes drawn from many different disciplines, some of which will be presented by other faculty in the Latin American and Latino Studies Program. Readings will be drawn mostly from anthology chapters or articles (not monographs) in order to assure a complete introduction to a specific theme or question.

Students will come out of the course with a strong sense of the many research and policy agendas and should be able to pass to more advanced courses on the region with ease. Besides the timely completion of readings students will have to complete a series of research projects that will allow them to pursue their specific interests within our discussion of given questions.

This course will not be based on lectures but on close, intensive discussion of materials including films, readings, web pages, etc.

REQUIREMENTS Your participation in this class constitutes a contract between us. I expect a reasonable degree of enthusiasm and interest from you. You will have to complete all requirements in order to receive a grade in this course. I expect you to come to all class sessions and be on time. I expect all students to participate in debates and discussions, and to feel free to bring in any additional materials, sources, or questions to class meetings. 

You will have to work very hard to complete the requirements for this course--between 5 and 10 hours a week outside of class time. The assigned readings are very reasonable, no more than 40 pages per class meeting. But you will have to juggle other ongoing projects during the semester. The benefit is that at the end, after the last day of classes, you will be done with all your work for this course (unless you have failed to hand in some work).


BOOKS REQUIRED FOR THIS COURSE The following books are available at the bookstore. Other readings not ordered by the bookstore will be made available on reserve.
We will purchase two issues of this magazine. $4 each. Susan Eva Eckstein & Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley, Eds., Struggles for Social Rights in Latin America. Routledge. 2002. Eduardo Galeano. Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. Monthly Review Press.




4 (Th) What is Latin America-A Quantitative and Geographical look

Alfonso González. "Physical Landscapes and Settlement Patterns." in Jan Knippers Black, Latin America & Karl Schwerin. "The Indian Populations of Latin America." in Jan Knippers Black, Latin America.

Assignment for next Tuesday

Please be prepared to fill out a blank map with the modern-day country boundaries of Latin American countries, with location and names of capitals.

Please make sure you bring your readings and notes to class.

We will be using the following resources during our first session.


Regions of Latin America


Vegetation Map of South America

Modern South America

Modern South America

Modern Mexico, Caribbean and Central America


More maps

Development Statistics

ECLA's Statistical Yearbook

HIV in Latin America-Powerpoint

World Bank Data and Statistics

Images: Slide Shows!

Political Database of the Americas


Latin America Art

Demographics of Indigenous People in LA

LALS Research portals

Research Portal

Advanced Research Web Site

Internet Resources for Latin American Studies

Latin American Network Information Center

9 (Tu) What is Latin America-A Cultural and Historical Look

Reading: Thomas Skidmore and Peter Smith. "Why Latin America?" & Daniel Levine, "Constructing Power and Culture in Latin America."

Reading: Introduction to Latin America.

Eres is having problems...find the reading here also via web server, not eres.

Culture-History Maps--For in-class use, but look over one of them before class.

Native cultures of Mesoamerica

Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) 1524

Map of Mexico City, c1597

Map of New Spain 1682 with enlargement/selection capabilities

Spanish explorers of North America

Colonial-era maps

Colonial Era Maps and Codices--High Quality Scans 

Atlantic Wind and Water Currents

Audiencias of the Viceroyalty of New Spain

Audiencias of the Viceroyalty of Peru

11 ( Th) Colonial Legacies: Indigenous Writing of the Americas (Prof. Cynthia Stone)

Elizabeth Hill Boone, "Introduction," Writing Without Words: Alternative Literacies in Mesoamerica & the Andes (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1994) (19 pages of text)

If an ERES document does not open, just go to the ERES system directly with this link and select my name and course. The readings are listed by title and author.

Film: Tlacuilo (Enrique Escalona, 57 min., 1988. México: Estudios Churubusco-Azteca)

Group showing of this film is scheduled for Wed. at 7PM at the MRC--watch on your own time otherwise--On reserve at the MRC (Stein Hall) under Prof. Stone's name

Description: Película realizada con técnicas de animación que nos lleva al mundo de los Aztecas, enseñándonos la maravilla de la escritura Nahuatl —basada en dibujos y pinturas—, y a través de ella, la vida cotidiana de este pueblo.

Please check out this website before class briefly: Mayan Hieroglyphic Writing

Assignment for Next Tuesday sept. 16:

Using the CIA World Fact Book (or other similar online resource)--Pick a Latin American or Caribbean country and become familiar with its profile. Identify it's greatest problems and seek one additional web-based source (of substance) about one of them. Write some notes or a summary to bring to class.

16 (Tu) Missed Class


18 (Th) Colonial Legacies: Slavery of Africans and the Creation of Indians

Film: The Last Supper (La Ultima Cena) (Cuba 1976) directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 110 mins. Scheduled showing or on resrve at the MRC.

Study Questions

Scheduled showings at the MRC: 9/15 Monday 8PM

Be prepared for Quiz on film and short assignment:

Using the CIA World Fact Book (or other similar online resource)--Pick a Latin American or Caribbean country and become familiar with its profile. Identify it's greatest problems and seek one additional web-based source (of substance) about one of them. Write some notes or a summary to bring to class.

Reading: Select one of the following:

Struggles for Social Rights in Latin America, Chap. 13

Felix Matos. "Quien Trabajara? Domestic Workers, Urban Slaves, and the Abolition of Slavery in Puerto Rico. Las Americas. Chap. 6 .

"Cuban Slave's Testimony" Slavery and Beyond, Chap. 2.

Slavary Maps


23 (Tu) The Formation of the Nation-State

Select one of the following:

Rubin. "Decentering the Regime: Culture and Regional Politics in Mexico"

Guardino. "Barbarism or the Rule of Law: Guerrero's Peasants and National Politics " (Mexico)

Negreto and Aguilera. "Rethinking the legacy of the Liberal State in Latin America: The cases of Argentina and Mexico"

Lauria Santiago. An Agrarian Republic. Chap. 6. (El Salvador)

Thomson. "Order Through Insurrection: The Rise of the District of Tetela during Mexico's Liberal Revolution." In Search of a New Order. (Mexico)

For class time: Write a one page summary of either the main point of the article or what you found particularly interesting about it.

Start Research Project due Oct. 7. The explanation of the projects is here.


25 (Th) Labor and popular struggles

Cindy Forster "Reforging National Revolution: Campesino Labor Struggles in Guatemala," in Lauria-Santiago and Chomsky, eds. Identity and Struggle at the Margins of the Nation State.


30 (Tu) The Military, Repression and Authoritarian States

Select three of the 6 chapters:

Loveman and Davis, eds. The Politics of Anti-Politics. Chaps. 21-26.


2 (Th) Revolutions, Revolts, and other Popular Mobilizations

Film: Scars of Memory: El Salvador, 1932. Scheduled showing or on Reserve at MRC.

Lauria-Santiago and Gould. "'They steal our wage and call us thieves'...

7 (Tu) Truth Commissions, Human Rights and Justice

First student research project due.

From Madness to Hope: the 12-year war in El Salvador: Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador. In Section IV. Read these Subsections: Introduction, A, and any one numbered section of Subsections B, C, and D.

Starting points for Research projects due this day:



El Salvador



Additional documents

9 (Th) The US and Latin America before 1960

Slater and Black--US Policy in Latin America

Blasier: Hovering giant & Schlesinger: Bitter Fruit

Make sure you read for excuses...

Start Research Projects due Mon Oct. 27--Description here

16 (Th) The Expansion, Crisis and Diversification of Export Economies, 1860-1960

Thomas O'brien. The Century of US Capitalism in Latin America. Chap. 2.

Steven Topik & Allan Wells. The Second Conquest of Latin America. One of chapters 2, 3, or 4 (print only the chapter you need by specifying the page numbers given by the adobe PDF viewer (at the bottom of the screen)).

21 (Tu) Neoliberalism, Globalization and Standards of Living

Struggles for Social Rights in Latin America. Chaps. 4 and 5.

23 (Th) Country Case Study: The Argentine Economic Collapse and its effects

Reading: Photocopied packet from press

27 (Monday) Second Project due via blackboard dropbox or email attachment

28 (Tu) Left and neo-populist electoral politics

Select one:

Ellner. "The Radical Potential of Chavismo in Venezuela: The First Year and a Half in Power." Latin American Perspectives. Vol. 28, No. 5, 2001

"Crisis in Venezuela: The Remarkable Fall and Rise of Hugo Chavez." NACLA: Report on the Americas. JUL/AUG 2002

Select One

"From Allende to Lula: Assesing the Legacy" NACLA: Report on the Americas.JUL/AUG 2003

Pre-Victory Interview with Brazil's President, Worker's Party Lula

Select one:

Gilbreth. "Democratization in Mexico: The Zapatista Uprising and Civil Society." Latin American Perspectives. Vol. 28, no. 4 (2001)

Brce Kay. "FujiPopulism and the Liberal State in Peru, 1990-1995." Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs.

30 (Th) Social Movements and Democratization (Prof. Maria Rodrigues)

Katherine Kolchester. "Democratizing Pressures from Below."

Peter Winn. "Capital Sins"


4 (Tu) Indigenous people's Identity and Movements

Struggles for Social Rights in Latin America, Ch. 12.

Select one:

Las Americas, Chap. 21 (Gould)

Las Americas, Chap. 7 (Edelman)

6 (Th) Women and Gender

Struggles for Social Rights in Latin America, Chap. 8

11 (Tu) Violence and Urban Life (Prof. Daniel Goldstein)

Teresa Caldeira. “Fortified enclaves: The new urban segregation.”

Ana María Sanjuán. “Democracy, citizenship, and violence in Venezuela.”

13 (Th) Country Case Study: Cuba and its Revolution I

Any of the articles I sent you or linked in ERES on Cuba

Map of Cuba

Make your research projects on Cuba a bit longer: 6-8 pages

18 (Tu) Country Case Study: Cuba and its Revolution II

Perez-Stable. The Cuban Revolution.

20 (Th) The Cuban Literature since the Revolution (Prof. Isabel Alvarez Borland)

Readings--three short selections by Cuban and Cuban-American authors

Third Project due Nov 24

25 (Tu) Country Case Study: Neo-colonialism in Puerto Rico

Pedro Caban. Constructing a Colonial People. Chap. 3

Film: Mi Puerto Rico


2 (Tu) US Power in Latin America of late

Select one of the following:

Roberto Steiner. "Hooked on Drugs: Colombian-US Relations." The United States and Latin America: The New Agenda.


Eduardo A. Gamarra. "The United States and Bolivia: Fighting the Drug War." The United States and Latin America: The New Agenda.

4 (Th) Country Case Study: El Salvador during the 1990s

Films: Romero or Salvador, Scheduled screening or on reserve at MRC.

Reading: Photocopied materials

9 (Tu) Concluding Discussion

Your monograph review (2-3 pages) is due on Monday December 1

A reflection (2 pages) on how Galeano's Open Veins connects with our course readings and discussions is due Dec 10.