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Latin America Revolutions (HIST 391)

"In this part of the world the possibility is almost totally gone
for there to be a peaceful transition to socialism."
-Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1963)

Spring 2005, Truman State University
MC209, TR 3:00-4:20
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 Haiti, 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.

This course also meets the Intercultural Perspectives requirement of the Liberal Studies Program. As such, it will provide you with a greater knowledge and appreciation of cultural diversity through the study of encounters of Indigenous, European, and African worlds in the Andean World. Hopefully this course will make you more aware of how culture has been used for political and social ends, including confronting racial discrimination, economic exploitation, and social injustice.


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. I do not treat students as empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge; we need to be constituents rather than simply recipients of our education. Our goal is to challenge existing assumptions, engage alternative viewpoints, and encourage critical thinking. Through the study of history, we seek to empower ourselves to be better citizens and to provide ourselves with the skills necessary to play a positive and educated role in society.


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. Do not wait until the last minute to buy these books since about half-way through the semester the bookstore will return unsold copies to the publisher.

Allende Gossens, Salvador. Salvador Allende Reader: Chile's Voice of Democracy. Melbourne, Vic., Australia, New York: Ocean Press, 2000. ISBN: 1-876175-24-9

Guevara, Ernesto. Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War, 1956-58. New York: Pathfinder, 1996. ISBN: 0-873488-24-5

James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins; Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, 2d rev ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1963. ISBN: 0-679-72467-2

Keen, Benjamin and Keith Haynes. A History of Latin America, vol. 2, 7th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. ISBN: 0-618-31853-4

Womack, John, Jr. Zapata and the Mexican Revolution. New York: Vintage Books, 1968. ISBN: 0-394-70853-9

Zimmermann, Matilde. Sandinista: Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan Revolution. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. ISBN: 0-8223-2595-0

Assignments and grades

Course grades will be based on the following assignments. You can check your grade progress in CourseInfo (there is a total of 1000 possible points in the class). I do not accept "drop and run" papers. Grades on late assignments will be penalized 10 percent for each day that they are late. Successful completion of all assignments is required to receive credit for this class.

Reaction paper to each book (5 x 100 pts ea)
Group presentation on each revolution
Research paper proposal (Feb 8)
Source analysis (March 1)
Research paper (Dec 9)

500 pts

Reaction papers: Critique the argument in each of the books (except Keen/Haynes) that we are reading in this class. The essays should be typed, double spaced, follow good essay form (have an intro, thesis, conclusion, etc.) and include citations, a bibliography, and page numbers.

Group presentations: We will break the class into five groups, with each one responsible for introducing us to the historical context and events of each of the five revolutions. The members of each group will be primarily responsible for drawing parallels to "their" revolution in the discussions of the other revolutions.

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) and at least one primary source. It must be typed, double spaced, and include citations, a bibliography, and page numbers. 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 the final . 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.

Feb 8: 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 (50 pts).

March 1: 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, and about 3 pages long, and include citations, a bibliography, and page numbers (50 pts).

Beginning March 22: Oral presentations. We will begin with presentations from the first half of the class and then proceed with those chronologically related to class discussions. 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. Naturally those who present earlier will have more tentative conclusions than those who present at the end of the semester. 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.

April 26: Peer review of research papers. Bring a draft of your research paper to exchange with another student. Read and comment on the other student's paper and return by the next class period.

May 5: 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.

Class Schedule

Wk 1-2 (Jan 18-27) Theories of Revolution

Wks 3-4 (Feb 1-10) Haitian Slave Revolt (1789-1804)
Read: James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins
Assignment: Research paper proposal (Tuesday, Feb 8)

Wks 5-6 (Feb 15-24) Mexican revolution (1910-1920)
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 12 ("The Mexican Revolution")
Womack, John, Jr. Zapata and the Mexican Revolution
1917 Constitution (Internet)

Wk 7 (March 1-3) Guatemalan Revolution (1944-1954)
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 18 ("Revolution and Counterrevolution in Central America"), section on Guatemala.
Kenneth Lehman, "Revolutions and Attributions: Making Sense of Eisenhower Administration Policies in Bolivia and Guatemala" Diplomatic History 21, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 185-213. (Per E183.7 .D48;
Assignment: Source analysis (Tuesday, March 1)

Wk 8 (March 8-10) Bolivian Revolution (1952)
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 16 ("Storm over the Andes")

Wks 9-10 (March 22-31) Cuban Revolution (1959)
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 17 ("The Cuban Revolution")
Guevara, Ernesto. Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War
Assignment: Begin oral presentations

Wks 11-12 (April 5-14) The Chilean Road to Socialism (1970-1973)
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 14 ("The Chilean Way")
Allende, Salvador Allende Reader

Wks 13-14 (April 19-28) Sandinista Revolution (1979)
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 18 ("Revolution and Counterrevolution in Central America"), section on Nicaragua.
Zimmermann, Sandinista
Assignment: Peer review of research papers (Tuesday, April 26)

Week 15 (May 3-5) Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the next revolution? (1998- )
Read: Keen/Haynes, ch. 19 ("Lands of Bolívar")
Assignment: Research paper due (Thursday, May 5)

Final Exam: Thursday, May 12, 11:30-1:20

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