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Latin American Studies


Latin American Studies is a dynamic, interdisciplinary minor designed to help students develop a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the historical, cultural, political, economic, and social conditions that have shaped contemporary Latin America. In this minor students are encouraged to articulate important connections between local and world societies in the context of the Latin American experience; this entails the study of the complex historical formation of this region and its cultural and ethnic diversity, from the foundation of Amerindian civilizations, the European conquest, and the impact of the African slave trade, to the challenges of the 21st century.

Student learning objectives are organized into the following five interrelated areas, which constitute the central themes that appear throughout the curriculum:

The idea of Latin America

  • Understand different worldviews and epistemologies in the imperial/colonial context of the initial encounter, the subsequent "invention" of America, and the emergence of the idea of "Latin" America in the 19th century.
  • Explore the ways in which Latin America has been conceived of as part of the West and simultaneously as peripheral to it.
  • Identify the present physical geographies, administrative-political structures, and demographics of the Latin American countries, and analyze the ways in which these are defined from internal and external perspectives.

Cultural and ethnic diversity

  • Explore the artistic and cultural production of Latin America throughout history, from ancient Amerindian civilizations and the legacy of the African slave trade to the present, with an emphasis on the diversity of perspectives.
  • Compare and contrast different concepts on and theoretical approaches to the cultural and ethnic diversity of Latin America, such as transculturation, hybridization, mestizaje, neo-baroque, among others.
  • Explore the linguistic diversity of Latin America and develop communicative proficiency in one or more Latin American languages.

Conquest, colonialism and coloniality

  • Analyze the complexities of conquest, colonialism, neocolonialismo, and postcolonialism and their legacies.
  • Understand and analyze the construction of racial categories and racism in Latin America both in the context the conquest of indigenous peoples and the subsequent African slave trade and in more recent manifestations.
  • Explore the relationship between coloniality--the colonial matrix of power that goes beyond the historical period of colonialism--and the rhetoric of modernity in the economic, political, civic, and personal/subjective realms.

Independence, national consolidation, and democracy

  • Identify and analyze the different political and economic structures or systems that have appeared in Latin America since independence and the socio-historical conditions in which they each emerged.
  • Analyze the manifestation of European Enlightenment ideals in Latin America and contrast them with Amerindian and Afro-American epistemologies and world views. Define and analyze the following dichotomies and concepts in this context: civilization and barbarism, progress and primitivism, development and underdevelopment.
  • Analyze the following concepts in specific junctures of Latin American history, from 19th-century nation building, throughout the 20th century, and to the present: revolution and subversion; dictatorship and state violence; war and armed conflict; human rights and memory; justice and reconciliation; (re)democratization.

Global designs and local histories

  • Understand the ways in which the term "Latin" America is a misnomer, both within local histories and global designs, and how other terms are used to describe this region, such as Afro-Latin America, among others.
  • Identify and analyze current challenges faced by Latin American countries in regional, national, hemispherical, and transnational contexts.
  • Explore and analyze Latin American experiences as part of the transnational flows of people, culture, technology, media, and finance within global capitalism.


  • The Latin American Studies minor requires 18 units, combining panoramic and focused courses, 9 units each.
  • Study abroad: Students must either complete 3 units of study--which count toward the total 18 units--in a Latin American country with a USD affiliated program or participate in a USD sponsored service-learning trip to Latin America. (Please see the list of approved programs on-line.) In the event a student is unable to participate in a study abroad program, he or she may fulfill this requirement with an internship or community-based project focused on a Latin American topic and designed in collaboration with the minor coordinator.

Please see the full course descriptions under the appropriate departmental listings. In addition to the curriculum below, an updated list of courses for each current semester--including special topics and other courses offered less frequently--is posted on the Latin American Studies website.

Preparation for the Minor

  • Language requirement: Students must complete SPAN 202 Fourth Semester Spanish or its equivalent. Those students who study another language of Latin America, in addition to Spanish--such as Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Quechua, Nahuatl, Guarani, Mixtec, or another determined in consultation with the coordinator of the minor--may count 3 units of language study toward the total 18 units.
  • Prerequisites: Some of the courses in the curriculum do have prerequisites. Please consult with the individual course descriptions in each discipline.

Panoramic Courses: 9 units must be completed from the list below, one course in each discipline. These are courses that span all major geographical areas of Latin American and provide students with a panoramic perspective of the region.

HIST 360 Colonial Latin America, or
HIST 361 Modern Latin America
POLS 357 Politics in Latin America, or
POLS 374 U.S.-Latin American Relations
SPAN 304 Cultural History of Latin America, or
SPAN 360 Survey of Latin American Literature

Focused Courses: 9 units must be completed from the list below.

ANTH 327 South American Indian Cultures
ANTH 328 Caribbean Cultures
ANTH 334 South American Archaeology
COMM 480 Latin American Media Systems
ECON 335 Economic Development in Latin America
ETHN 343 Chicano/Latino Studies
ETHN 361 Immigration at the U.S.-Mexico Border: Ethnicity, Race and Gender
HIST 362 Topics in Latin American History
HIST 363 History of Brazil
HIST 383 Chicano History
HIST 384 History of Mexico
HIST 387 History of Baja California
POLS 366 Politics in Mexico
POLS 494 Latin American Politics in Film
SPAN 305 Spanish for Business and International Trade
SPAN 410D Latin@ Literatures and Cultures
SPAN 434 The "New" World
SPAN 448 Latin American Short Story
SPAN 449 Latin American Novel
SPAN 451 Latin American Poetry
SPAN 453 Mexican Literature and Culture
SPAN 458 Jewish Latin America
SPAN 494 Afro-Caribbean Lit
SPAN 494 Argentina: Memory and Justice
SPAN 494 Border Narratives
THRS 321 Afro-Latin Religions
THRS 358 Latino/a Catholicism

Latin American Studies Courses (LATS): At the program director's discretion, these courses may be counted either as panoramic or focused courses.

ETHN 240D Introduction to Chicano/Latino Studies (formerly ETHN 140)
LANG 194 Social Justice in Latin America
LATS 494 Special Topics in Latin American Studies
LATS 499 Independent Study
SPAN 194 Narratives of the Mexico/U.S. Border