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Area Studies Seminar: Latin America (IDS 253)

Spring 1999, Gettysburg College
Wiedensall Hall 401, TR 2:35-3:50
Office: 413 Wiedensall Hall
Marc Becker
Office Hours: MWF 11:00-12:00
Phone: 337-6296


This seminar presents an interdisciplinary study of contemporary issues in Latin American societies, including the environment, native peoples, race and identity, cultural movements, changes in gender roles, and challenges to democracy. A goal of this course is to gain an appreciation for the diversity of human experiences in Latin America and an understanding of the complexity of problems it faces.


This is not a lecture class. The very nature of a seminar places upon you, the students, the burden of carefully reading the assignments, completing the writing assignments, and actively discussing this material in class. As such, classroom attendance and participation is a critical part of the class. This seminar also requires attendance at visiting lectures, films, and other events which are part of the Latin American Area Studies Symposium (Social Movements in Latin America). Unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade.

If you have suggestions for improving the class, please bring these to my attention. In order to improve the quality and value of the class, through consensus the class can modify the syllabus and assignments. I will post class schedule updates and other information related to the class on the web site. If you have a disability or any conflicts which may affect your class performance, please bring this to my attention immediately so that we can make arrangements for this to be a positive learning experience for you.


There are three required and one recommended book for this class. The recommended readings parallel the film series. Read the assignments before class so that you are prepared to carry on an intelligent discussion of the material in class.

  • Black, Jan Knippers, ed. Latin America, Its Problems and Its Promise: A Multidisciplinary Introduction. 3th ed. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 1998.
  • Goodwin, Paul B. Latin America. 8th ed. Guilford, Conn: Dushkin Pub. Group, 1998.
  • Green, John Duncan. Faces of Latin America. 2d ed. London: Latin America Bureau, 1997.


  • Winn, Peter. Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.


This course makes use of a web site and a web-based discussion board ( to extend the scope of the class beyond that of the immediate classroom setting. Most of your written assignments will be posted to the discussion board. Please let me know if you need assistance in using these resources.

Assignments and grades

Course grades will be based on the following assignments. I encourage creativity and risk-taking in your responses, and will reward these in assigning grades. There is rarely only one correct response or answer to a question, and I want you to present your own ideas and interpretations. Due to the nature of these assignments, no late work can be accepted. Be sure to complete all of these writing assignments; failure to do so will negatively affect your grade. Be sure to attach the honor code to each of these assignments.

  • Essays on readings (20%). Write a short essay (about 250 words, or the equivalent of one double-spaced, typed page) briefly describing and analyzing one significant point of one of the readings for each week. Explain why you think that point is important, and whether you agree or disagree with the author's analysis. Post this critique to the discussion board on the web page before the day for which the reading is assigned.
  • Newspaper reports (20%). Each week write a critique (about 250 words) of one newspaper article from that week which relates to some aspect of Latin America. Each student will select one of the following newspapers and report on the coverage in that paper: Miami Herald, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News. These newspapers are available online through links from the class web page. If you want to use another newspaper (particularly one from Latin America or an alternative news source), please check with me first. If possible, find an article which relates to the material we are discussing in class during that week. Include one paragraph describing the content of the article and a second analyzing its historical and social significance. These are due by Sunday night each week, and the article must be from that previous week. Post your critique to the discussion board on the web page, and be sure to include the following the following information:
    • the name of the newspaper,
    • the title and author (if given) of the article,
    • the date it was published,
    • the URL (web address) of the article, and
    • the Honor Code.
  • Symposium reflection papers (20%). Write and post to the discussion board on the web page a short essay (again, about 250 words) analyzing each lecture, film and event in the Area Studies Symposium. These essays should include a paragraph describing the content of the event, and a paragraph reflecting critically on its importance. These are due by noon before the next class period following the event.
  • Research paper (20%). Write a research paper on some aspect of Latin American. The paper must be 8 to 10 pages long, use a minimum of six scholarly sources (books and journal articles), be typed, double spaced, and include citations and a bibliography. You must read and follow the style guidelines contained in the guide "The Writing of a Historical Essay or Research Paper" which is on the class web page. This project will be developed in a series of stages. You MUST meet every one of these deadlines. Failure to do so will result in no credit for the entire research paper assignment (20% of course grade).
    • February 11: Library exercise due.
    • February 25: Project proposal, including a paragraph describing your project, the questions you seek to address with the project, a hypothesis of what you expect to find (the thesis statement of your research paper), and a preliminary bibliography of sources that you plan to use.
    • March 25: First (rough) draft of the project, which must include citations and bibliography. I expect this draft to have the form and elements of a formal research paper. The more complete of a draft you give me, the better feedback I can give you and the more likely it will be that you will receive a good grade on the final draft.
    • April 27 and 29: Oral presentations and discussions in class of research project. In your presentation, tell us what questions you addressed in your research project, what you expected to find (your thesis), a summary of your actual findings, and your conclusions. Please feel free to include visuals and other materials in your presentation.
    • May 4: Final research paper due. When handing in your final draft, please include the copy of the first draft which I corrected.
  • Class participation (15%). This seminar requires your active participation. Simply attending class is not enough to earn this part of your grade. A central aspect of each of these assignments is to comment (in a civilized manner) on the thoughts and ideas of your fellow students. You can earn this participation grade either through intelligent class discussions or by responding to other students' postings on the discussion board on the web page.
  • Map quiz (5%). February 2, more information will follow.

Class Schedule

January 21 Introduction

January 26 A Study of Latin America

  • Read: Black, Introduction; Winn, ch. 1 (A View from the South); Goodwin, pp. 2-7 (Myth and Reality)

January 28 Geography

  • Read: Black, Land and People (Gonzalez and Schwerin); Green, Introduction and ch. 1 (Curse of Wealth)

February 2 History

  • Read: Black, Historical Setting (Bakewell and Burns); Green, ch. 2 (Promised Land)
  • Film: Miracles Are Not Enough (4 & 8 pm)
  • Assignment: Map quiz

February 4 Liberation Theology

  • Read: Green, ch. 12 (Thy Kingdom Come); Winn, ch. 10 (The Power and the Glory)

Monday, February 8

  • Performance: Brazilian Folkloric Dance (CUB, 8 pm)

February 9 Introduction to Library Resources (Meet in LIR 20 in library basement)

  • Read: Black, Cultural Expressions (Sturm, Holzapfel, Grizzard); Green, ch. 6 (Writing on the Wall); Winn, ch. 11 (The Magical and the Real)
  • Film: Builders of Images (4 & 8 pm)

February 11 Guest: Rodolfo Stavenhagen

  • Assignment: Library exercise
  • Lecture: Rodolfo Stavenhagen, "Zapatista Rebellion" (7:30 pm, Lyceum)

February 16 Political Processes and Trends

  • Read: Black, Political Processes and Trends (Black & Nef)
  • Film: Get Up, Stand Up (4 & 8 pm)

February 18 Sovereignty

  • Read: Green, ch. 7 (No Fit State); Winn, ch. 12 (Endangered States)

February 23 Revolution

  • Read: Green, ch. 9 (The Left); Winn, ch. 13 (Making Revolution)
  • Film: Fire in the Mind (4 & 8 pm)

February 25 Guest: Margaret Kek

  • Lecture: Margaret Kek, "Environmental Movements" (7:30 pm, Lyceum)
  • Read: Green, ch. 3 (A Land in Flames); Goodwin, pp. 150-54, 205-207
  • Assignment: Project proposal due

March 2 Immigration

  • Read: Green, ch. 4 (Mean Streets); Black, Caribbean (Maingot); Goodwin, pp. 120-21, 124-25, 210-217 (Dominican Republic, Haiti); Winn, ch. 10 (North of the Border)
  • Film: Latin American and Caribbean Presence in the U.S. (4 & 8 pm)

March 4 Cuba

  • Read: Black, Cuba (Valdés); Goodwin, pp. 114-17, 208-209 (Cuba)
  • Performance: Cuban Music Group (CUB, 8 pm)

March 9 Economic and Social Structures

  • Read: Green, ch. 5 (Growing Pains); Black, Economic and Social Structures (Glade, Veltmeyer/Petras, & Kenworthy); Goodwin, pp. 140-49, 185-96
  • Film: I, The Worst of All (4 & 8 pm)

March 11 Mexico

  • Read: Black, Mexico (Harris & Needler); Goodwin, pp. 8-17, 155-67 (Mexico)

March 16 & 18 Spring Break (no class)

March 23 Argentina

  • Read: Black, Argentina (Calvert); Goodwin, pp. 49-60 (Argentina)

March 25 Guest: Margarite Guzmán Bouvard

  • Read: Green, ch. 10 (Women's Work)
  • Lecture: Margarite Guzmán Bouvard, "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo" (7:30 pm, Lyceum)
  • Assignment: First (rough) draft of research paper due

March 30 Militarization

  • Read: Green, ch. 8 (Men at Arms)

April 1 Central America

  • Read: Black, Central America (Millett, Walker, Ropp); Goodwin, pp. 18-48, 167-85 (Central America)

April 6 Andes

  • Read: Black, Andes (Martz, García); Goodwin, pp. 61-63, 75-82, 87-90, 196-98, 95-99 (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela)

April 8 Uruguay and Paraguay

  • Read: Black, Uruguay and Paraguay (Brun); Goodwin, pp. 85-86, 93-94 (Uruguay and Paraguay)

April 13 Chile

  • Read: Black, Chile (Valenzuela); Goodwin, pp. 71-74 (Chile)

April 15 Brazil

  • Read: Black, Brazil (Conniff, Tyson); Goodwin, pp. 64-70, 199-205 (Brazil)

April 20 International Relations

  • Read: Black, External Relations (Ray, Smith, Wilson)

April 22 IR (cont.)

April 27 Class presentations

April 29 Class presentations

May 4 Class wrap-up

  • Assignment: Research paper due

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