Marc Becker's Home Page

Future Courses
Student Projects


Latin America Revolutions (HIST 328.03)

"Those who make peaceful change impossible
will make violent revolution inevitable."

-John F. Kennedy

Fall 2003, Truman State University
BH 163, TR 1:30-2:50
Office: KB 225A

Marc Becker
Office Hours: W 1:30-3:30
Phone: x6036


This course will present a critical comparative analysis of twentieth-century revolutionary theories and movements in Latin America, focusing on the countries of Mexico, Bolivia, Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, and Nicaragua. What were the socio-political conditions in each of these countries that led to a revolutionary situation? What were the differing responses to those conditions? What did these revolutions seek to accomplish? What were the outcomes of these revolutionary changes? In addressing these issues, we will emphasize the themes of nationalism, state formation, imperialism, agrarian reform, leadership strategies, and citizenship. The goal of this class is to acquire a more complex understanding of the nature of exploitation and oppression in Latin America and the continuing struggles for social justice.


You are expected and required to attend every class session, and you are responsible for the material covered in the lectures, readings and films, and for any announcements made in class. Unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade. Please drop me an email note if you are sick or otherwise unable to attend class. 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. Please let me know if you have suggestions for improving the class.

My primary means of communication with you outside of class will be via the CourseInfo ( web page. To logon, enter your email id as the user name, and your social security number as your password (unless you have already changed this password for another class). Once you are logged on, click on "student tools" and then "change your information" to change your password. If you forget your password, email the administrator ( to reset it for you. Be sure the email address under "student tools" is set to an account that you regularly read. Please let me know if you need assistance in using these resources.


The following are the required books for this class. Read the assignments before class so that you are prepared to carry on an intelligent discussion of the material in class. Lectures will complement the readings and assume the base level of knowledge which they present, so it is critically important that you keep up with the readings.

Allende Gossens, Salvador. Salvador Allende Reader: Chile's Voice of Democracy. Melbourne, Vic., Australia, New York: Ocean Press, 2000.

Cullather, Nick. Secret History: The C.I.A.'s Classified Account of Its Operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1999.

García Luis, Julio, ed. Cuban Revolution Reader: A Documentary History of 40 Key Moments of the Cuban Revolution. Melbourne, New York: Ocean, 2001.

Grindle, Merilee and Pilar Domingo, ed. Proclaiming Revolution, Bolivia in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Marcos, Subcomandante Insurgente. Our Word Is Our Weapon: Selected Writings. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition. New York: Verso, 1998.

Zimmermann, Matilde. Sandinista: Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan Revolution. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.

Assignments and grades

Course grades will be based on the following assignments. More detailed information on the written assignments will be posted to the web page. I do not accept "drop and run" papers. Grades on late assignments will be penalized 10% for each day that they are late. There is a total of 1000 possible points in the class, with 900-1000 being an "A," 800-899 being a "B," etc. You can check your grade progress in CourseInfo.

Discussion board postings & responses
Map quiz (Sept 16)
Web page
Bolivia/Guatemala essay (Oct 7)
Source analysis (Oct 14)
Cuba/Chile essay (Nov 4)
Nicaragua/Zapatistas essay (Nov 25)
Research paper (Dec 9)
Final exam (Dec 12)

100 pts.

Discussion board postings: I will post a discussion question for each reading to the discussion board on the CourseInfo web page. I will grade your posting based on your synthesis of the material, ability to analyze its significance, an evaluation of its importance to the broader themes of this class, and the extent to which you engage other students in a virtual discussion. Respond to this question by noon on Wednesday, and by noon on Thursday post a critique of one other person's response to the original question. Do not engage in personal attacks, but critique that person's ideas. What are strong and weak aspects of these ideas? How would you assess these ideas? Each post is worth 10 points, with the lowest ones dropping (total 100 points).

Map quiz: A short map quiz on the countries we are studying is on Cinfo, and is due by class on Sept. 16.

Web page assignment. Design an Internet web site on revolutionary changes in one of the six countries we will discuss in this class. This will be a collaborative project which you will develop with several other students. The web page should include a brief historical introduction to the situation in that country. You may also want to include links to other sites, maps, graphics, and photos (but be careful not to break any copyright laws). This project is a chance for you to let your creative juices flow. Think of this assignment as the extension of a research paper; conduct the proper amount of investigation and include all the appropriate items therein (footnotes, bibliography, etc.). Your audience, however, will be the general public who will access your web page over the Internet. This project is a chance for you to let your creative juices flow. This assignment is due at the time that we discuss that particular country in class. We will review and critique the style and content of each other's web pages in class and make suggestions for improvements.

Essays: Each of these three-page essays should be typed, double spaced, and follow good essay form (have an intro, thesis, conclusion, etc.).

  • Bolivia/Guatemala essay (Oct 7). The Bolivian and Guatemalan revolutions emerged out of similar contexts, yet reactions to the changes they provoked were quite different. Explain this contrast.
  • Cuba/Chile essay (Nov 4). Contrast the Cuban and Chilean paths to revolution.
  • Nicaragua/Zapatistas (Nov 25). Was the neo-Zapatista uprising in Chiapas the last of the Central American revolutions or the beginning of something new?

Research paper: Each student is required to write a research paper on a topic related to twentieth-century revolutionary movements in Latin America. The paper must be 10 to 15 pages long, use a minimum of six scholarly sources (books and journal articles), be typed, double spaced, and include citations and a bibliography. The format should follow either the MLA or Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations. This project will be developed in a series of stages. Keep each of these assignments in a portfolio or folder, and hand in the entire portfolio with each subsequent assignment. You MUST meet every one of these deadlines. Failure to do so will result in no credit for the research paper (20% of the course grade). Please do not even think of testing me on this point.

Sept 18: Library exercise.

Sept 23: Locate and annotate three Internet sites related to the topic of your final project. Post this annotated list of sites in CourseInfo (click on "student tools" and then "edit your home page). More information on this assignment is posted to the web page.

Sept 30: Research paper 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.

Oct 14: As part of your research paper, analyze one of the major sources you will use in the writing of this paper. This paper should be typed, double-spaced, probably about 3-pages long, and include citations and a bibliography.

Oct 21: Hand in an annotated bibliography which explores the strengths and weaknesses of each source that you plan to use in writing your research paper and its value in relation to your research. Expand and include this annotated bibliography as the bibliography for your paper.

Nov 18: Peer review of research papers. Read and comment on another student's paper via TurnItIn ( New users should click on the "Create a user profile" link near the top right corner of the page, and follow the subsequent instructions. As you work your way through those directions, you will need to use this class's ID (1080424) and enrollment password (revolutions). Please finish reviewing the paper by Nov 20.

Dec 2-4: Oral presentations. 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. More information on evaluation criteria for these presentations is on the class web page.

Dec 9: Final research papers due. When handing in your final draft, please be sure to include copies of all of the previous assignments including the peer-reviewed draft.

Final exam: The final exam is cumulative.

Class Schedule

Week 1 (Aug 26-28) Theories of Revolution

Week 2 (Sept 2-4) Papa Carlos
Read: Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto

Weeks 3-4 (Sept 9-18) Mexican revolution (1910-1920)
Read: 1917 Constitution (Internet)
Assignment: Map quiz (due Tues, Sept 16) and library exercise (due Tues, Sept 23)
Tues, Sept 18: Meet in library (Pickler 103)

Week 5 (Sept 23-25) Bolivian Revolution (1952)
Read: Grindle and Domingo, Proclaiming Revolution, Bolivia in Comparative Perspective
Assignment: Annotated websites (Tuesday, Sept 23)
Bolivia/Guatemala essay (due Tuesday, Oct 7)

Week 6 (Sept 30 - Oct 2) Guatemalan Revolution (1944-1954)
Read: Cullather, Secret History: The C.I.A.'s Classified Account of Its Operations in Guatemala
Assignment: Research paper proposal (Tuesday, Sept 30)

Weeks 7-8 (Oct 7-16) Cuban Revolution (1959)
Read: García, Cuban Revolution Reader
Assignment: Source analysis (Tuesday, Oct 14)
Cuba/Chile essay (due Tuesday, Nov 4)

Weeks 9-10 (Oct 21-30) The Chilean Road to Socialism (1970-1973)
Read: Allende, Salvador Allende Reader
Assignment: Annotated bibliography (Tuesday, Oct 21)

Weeks 11-12 (Nov 4-13) Sandinista Revolution (1979)
Read: Zimmermann, Sandinista
Assignment: Nicaragua/Zapatista (due Tuesday, Nov 25)

Week 13 (Nov 18-25) Zapatistas (1994- )
Read: Marcos, Our Word Is Our Weapon
Assignment: Peer review of research papers (Tuesday, Nov 18)

Week 14 (Dec 2-4) Class presentations

Tues., Dec 9 Final Review; Research paper Due

Final Exam: Friday, December 12, 11:30-1:20 a.m.

| Marc Becker's Home Page | |