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History 3010: Modern Latin America (Syllabus)

Here’s the Syllabus of my Modern Latin America course (History 3010). Enjoy!

Guerrero, the genesis of crime

Here’s a translation of selected excerpts of Julio Guerrero, La Génesis del Crimen (1901), which I am using in History 3010: Modern Latin America. Credit is due to Liz Becker, an M.A. student in History and Spanish in BGSU, for the translation.

The original version, in Spanish, can be retrieved from

“The Political Economy of Hunger in Bourbon Mexico”

I’m happy to announce that I was awarded a National Endowments of the Humanities’ Fellowship. The purpose is to conclude my monograph during the year 2010-11.

I would like to thank my students, undergraduate and graduate. I drafted the proposal while teaching Famine and the Origins of the Modern World, and Modern Mexico. Both classes are closely related to the subject of my project and prompted me to always keep an eye on the big picture and down to earth. Thanks also to my department, FRC and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society (ICS) (including our Latin American and Latino/a Studies Cluster) for supporting my research and providing a vibrant intellectual atmosphere at BGSU.

Preliminary Syllabus for Modern Latin America

I have enclosed in this posting a preliminary organization of classes and readings: 3010 preliminary syllabus.

All the references to chapters are from Tulio Halperín Donghi’s Contemporary History of Latin America (CHLA), available through the bookstore. If interested on why I chose this book (originally written in the 1960s and revised c. 1992), see my previous posting. All the other readings are available through Ohiolink or will be placed in the e-Reserves.

The logic is quite simple. There are three units: the first on independence and neocolonialism (1800-1930), the second on the quest for autonomy and the incorporation of new political actors (1930-present), the third is an research group project on a topic of your choice, based  on your own independent research.

The first two units are organized around CHLA: on Tuesdays we cover a CHLA chapter, on Thursdays we discuss a journal article paired with a primary source. As we approach the end of the term, the reading assignments decline so you have more time to prepare your group project. Assessment of these units is based on three components: participation; weekly, one-page primary source analysis; and a midterm and final exam.

Unit #3 is a group project that runs throughout the class. The goal is to prepare a professional, well-informed product on contemporary Latin America that is up to standards, is useful for your career goals, and incorporates historical thinking. The product is related to your career ambitions and interests. Groups are required to prepare preliminary reports on week 4 and 9, deliver a short presentation in week 14, and turn in a 10-page report or equivalent in week 16. Project options range from reports on foreign relations, investment opportunities, social and environmental conditions, to the preparation of a documentary or an on-line exhibition of visual and textual material. Reports are addressed to a well-defined audience (e.g. a senator in the foreign relations committee, an NGO, an international organization) and presents an in-depth analysis based on research, and gives the audience certain possible courses of action (the senator should support XYZ because of ABC). Documentaries and exhibitions are tailored to the general public, contain a clear message and have similar research requirements. Assessment is based on the final product and the presentation.

In total the reading load is equivalent to four books, which is the standard for 300-level History classes: CHLA, 10 journal articles or book chapters, 10 short primary sources,and the equivalent of one book (or five journal articles) per group member for the final project.

I’m all ears for comments, suggestions or questions.

Modern Latin America (Hist310): your thoughts?

Next Spring I will teach a new edition of History 310 (3100!): Modern Latin America, which covers, umm, Latin America from independence to the present day. Yes, the entire region, 20+ countries, complex histories, in one class. Believe it or not, it works.

As I plan the class, I wanted to sound opinions on two matters: the textbook and reading assignments.

The textbook

My intention is to use Halperín Donghi’s A Contemporary History of Latin America (link and preview here). The author is one of the most important Argentine historians, and besides the big name he’s insightful and amazingly learned. It was originally written in the sixties, when many thought that “Hope was on the way” hand by hand with the Cuban revolution and other popular movements criss-crossing the region. The author revised it for a 1992 edition with a much more sober outlook on where the region was heading. That is, beyond being a well informed book, it is also a product of its times, which works well in a class on —history.

The textbook, however, is tough. Halperín is known for packing complex ideas in one huge sentence with tons of subordinates. It was also thought primarily for a relatively informed Latin American audience who would know some of the basics. The translator and editor, historian John Chasteen, made a terrific work of making the text accessible as a survey textbook without betraying the original insights.

You can tell, I’m very fond of this text. But if you think it’s a bad choice, please don’t hesitate to post your comments and let me know why you advice against (or favor) using it.

Reading Assignments

My preference, given the times and the scope of the class, is to assign readings from academic journals accessible online through your library account. That has the benefit that students do not spend outrageous amounts on books, but on the other hand it makes assignments more confusing and is clinically proven that leads to schyzophrenia. Also, some articles are more accessible than others. Some articles deal with state building, others with women’s rights, other with soccer and society, Samba, etc etc etc.

I’m still pondering whether I will assign the textbook and three books, or the textbook, one book and articles. Your thoughts on this issue would be greatly appreciated.


“The house is in order”

I can’t think of a better homage to Raul Alfonsin than just remembering that Easter day in Argentina. Tanks were passing by a few blocks from my house, but all the attention was in what was going on in la plaza de mayo. 

For a good recount of the holy week of 1987, see

The global slump

It’s 1930 time: Krugman has an interesting post citing a recent paper by Eichengreen and O’Rourke comparing the present-day global slump with 1930. And they find it’s worse.

The faculty group I belong to (click here to know more about us) is organizing on-campus student conference on Latin American & Latino/a Studies. The conference will be held on Thursday April 2 in the Student Union. You can get more information by clicking on this link.

You’re welcome to present your original academic or artistic work. Had an original take on a literary author? Or a good paper based on secondary or primary sources? Feel free to send in a proposal as detailed in the attached call for papers.

If you’re interested and want to openly discuss ideas with me, please let me know or stop by my office (Wed. 12-3p), send me an email or post your comments here.

Undergrads, graduate students, staff and faculty will participate with their original work. I think this is a good opportunity to exchange ideas, celebrate our good work. For students, both graduate and undergraduate, it is also a good opportunity to build the critical skill of presenting. Experience in a conference looks good in your CV too. Feedback and sessions will be friendly — this is no examination, the exchanging of ideas at its best!

Details on deadlines, dates, contact person, etc. in the Call for Papers (I’m repeating the link here!).

Feel free to circulate to anybody you know who might be interested.

Modern Mexico: schedule of classes

This is the preliminary schedule of classes for the Modern Mexico (Hist 411) class. 

It’s not written in stone, don’t hesitate to write or comment.


Modern Mexico Class

These are the updated plans on the Modern Mexico class (Hist 411/511). The purpose of this course is to explore the historical roots of the juncture in which Mexico is today. Despite a competitive and open political system, many (if not most) still find that their voice and their vote do not count. Despite the fact that Mexico is the home of some of the wealthiest people in the world, most Mexicans lack basic opportunities for education and employment. Finally, in spite of the deeply rooted personal, business and government links with the United States, the Northern neighbor is still perceived by Mexicans as much a threat as an advantage. The class will explore how this interplay of democracy, development and (in/ter)dependence with the US has shaped the course of Mexican history and still constraints decision making in the present day.

Modern Mexico is both an upper-level survey and a discussion class. As such, the challenge is to balance content and themes we want to focus on. In the end I decided to not require a textbook, and assign books and novels covering a series of topics concerning political culture, the Mexican revolution, middle class counterculture movements in the 1960s, and the failure of the recent democratic and economic reforms to deliver welfare and inclusiveness to all. The narrative of the historical development of Mexico will be covered in lectures; students will be prepared for lectures by looking for terms they have to identify.

The course will be based on the following reading list:

The class will require two papers (11-12 pages each) based entirely on the assigned readings, which appeal to a wide variety of interests on Mexican and Latin American history.

While the class is primarily offered at an advanced undergraduate level, graduate students are welcome to take it as Hist 511 and receive graduate credit. Graduate students will have an additional meeting every two weeks and will choose additional readings based on their interests. Other requirements will be decided at the beginning of the class in agreement with students’ interests.

Don’t hesitate to leave your comments or contact me with any questions.

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