Modern Latin America syllabus, Fall 2013

Fall 2013 syllabus for U.C. Berkeley’s History 8B: Modern Latin America (with emails removed, etc.). I want my students to read good prose, especially in introductory courses like this one; after finishing, I realized that the nineteenth-century title for this class would be “Modern Latin America, or, writing about Latin America that originally appeared in the New Yorker.”

Modern Latin America
Professor Patrick Iber
Fall 2013 / MWF 1-2 / 150 GSPP
This course will give a broad overview of Latin American history from the independence to the present day.  Particular emphasis will be placed on the socioeconomic, cultural, and political structures and processes that shaped and continue to influence life in Latin America.  Key issues such as colonialism, nationalism, democracy, and revolution will be examined critically in light of broad comparative themes in Latin American and world history.  Course materials include secondary sources in history, economics, political science, and sociology as well as primary documents, fiction, and film in order to provide insight into the complex and diverse history of the region.  Among the topics to be explored in detail will be labor and slavery, the Mexican and Cuban revolutions, and the transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Course texts:
Alexander Dawson, Latin America Since Independence: A History with Primary Sources, New York: Routledge, 2010, $49.
Alma Guillermoprieto. Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America.  New York: Vintage, 2002, $17.
Sandra Lauderdale Graham, Caetana says No: Women’s Stories from a Brazilian Slave Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, $28.
Mariano Azuela, The Underdogs, New York: Penguin Classics, 2008, $10.
Daniel Wilkinson, Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala, Durham: Duke University Press, 2004, $24.
Lawrence Weschler, A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998, $20.
Course requirements
Your grade will be based on the following:
25% section. Active participation in class is essential; our learning will be richest as more of you become involved in the conversation and debate.  Therefore, all readings must be completed before you meet in section, and you should attend every week. You can miss one day without arranging an absence with us; additional absences should be cleared with your GSI in advance. Each week, you should post a half-page response to the readings on the class’s bspace page. Your post should go up by midnight of the day before your section, so that your GSI can read the responses before class. Your reading responses will not be graded assignments, but they will, in combination with your participation, be used to determine your section grade. Unless your GSI gives you specific instructions otherwise, your response might take one of two forms. One option would be to write a brief examination of what you think the most important arguments of that week’s texts are, and to defend your position. A second option would be to explore the parts of the readings that you found most puzzling: what questions they raise for you, how you tried to resolve them, and what more you would like to know in order to be able to complete that process.
5% map quiz. There will be a map quiz in week 3 of the course. A list of what you should know will be available on bspace.
40% papers. Twice during the semester, a short essay prompt will be distributed. You will have one week to respond, drawing from course readings and lectures.
30% final exam. The final exam is scheduled for December 18th, from 7-10 P.M. The exam will cover materials from section, lectures, and especially the readings.
Other than the main texts, course readings will be available through the bspace website.
To get good advice on what I will be looking for from your reading and writing, I recommend the following resources:

Week 1: Introduction and Colonial Inheritances
Friday, Aug. 30: Introduction to the course
Monday, Sep. 2: No classes
Wednesday, Sep. 4: Making the colonial order
Friday, Sep 6: Challenging the colonial order: from rebellions to the Napoleonic Wars
Dawson, Latin American Since Independence, Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2, pp. 1-57
Questions to consider this week:
1) What defines Latin America? Does it even exist?
2) Why did Latin America become independent from Spain?  How did caudillos solve the problem of trying to rule the newly independent countries?
Week 2: Race, Labor, and Society in the Nineteenth Century
M, Sep 9: Categories of Labor in the Nineteenth Century
W, Sep 11: Categories of Race
F, Sep 13: Legacies of Race: Film: Brazil in Black and White
Dawson, Latin America Since Independence, Chapter 3, pp. 59-80
Sandra Lauderdale Graham, Caetana Says No, xix-xxii, and then choose either of the two stories to read in depth
“Brazil’s Racial Identity Challenge,” New York Times, 29 March 2012,
Questions to consider this week:
1) How are ideas about race different in Mexico and Brazil?
2) How are ideas about race different in Brazil and the United States? Can the same methods be used in both places to address a history of discrimination on the basis of race?
Week 3: Politics and Development in the Nineteenth Century
M, Sep 16: The Great Divergence: Growth and its Absence
W, Sep 18: Ideologies of Development: Liberalism, Conservatism, and Positivism
F, Sep 20: Immigration and Nineteenth-Century Globalization
Dawson, Latin America Since Independence, Chapter 4, pp. 82-107
John Coatsworth, “Obstacles to Economic Growth in Nineteenth-Century Mexico,” American Historical Review 83, no. 1 (February 1978): 80-100.
Kenneth L. Sokoloff and Stanley L. Engerman, “History Lessons: Institutions, Factor Endowments, and Paths of Development in the New World,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 14, no. 3 (Summer 2000): 217-232.
Map quiz in class on Friday this week.
Questions to consider this week:
1) What are some of the traditional reasons given to explain Latin American underdevelopment?
2) What kind of evidence contradicts and supports those theories?
Week 4: Mexico and its Revolution
M, Sep 23: Film: The Storm that Swept Mexico [selections]
W, Sep 25: The Popular Revolution: Madero, Villa, and Zapata
F, Sep 27: The Victorious & Institutional Revolution: Carranza, Calles & Cárdenas
Dawson, Latin America Since Independence, Chapter 5, pp. 109-135
Azuela, The Underdogs
Prompts for the first, short essay (~3 pages, 700-800 words) will be distributed this week.
Questions to consider this week:
1) What contending groups and visions contributed to the Mexican Revolution?  How does this diversity affect how we think about the “legacy” on the Revolution?
2) Why did ordinary people join the Revolution?
Week 5: Arts and Culture in Post-Revolutionary Mexico
M, Sep 30: New Nationalism, New Art
W, Oct 2: The Rupture
F, Oct 4: First paper due in class; we will then take a walk to the Stern Hall Rivera mural
There is no reading this week so that you can work on the first paper.
Week 6: Latin America and the World to Midcentury
M, Oct 7: The Monroe Doctrine and Beyond
W, Oct 9: The Good Neighbor Policy
F, Oct 11: World War II and the Cold War
Dawson, Latin America Since Independence, Chapter 6, pp. 136-161
Wilkinson, Silence on the Mountain, 1-189
Questions to consider for this week:
1) What role has the U.S. played in shaping the politics of Latin America in the 20thcentury?  If the U.S. had not played that role, how would the region be different?
2) Is there an underlying consistency to U.S. policy towards Latin America, or have the decisions of individual administrations made a difference?
Week 7: Nationalism and Populism
M, Oct 14: Getúlio Vargas in Brazil
W, Oct 16: Juan Domingo Perón in Argentina
F, Oct 18: Jacobo Arbnez in Guatemala
Dawson, Latin America Since Independence, Chapter 7, pp. 162-187
Selections from The Argentina Reader
            Daniel James, “Perón and the People,” 269-295
            Tomás Eloy Martínez, “Saint Evita,” 296-303
            Victoria Ocampo, “Victorian Fathers,” 313-318
            Julio Cortázar, “House Taken Over,” 328-332
Guillermoprieto, Looking for History, “Little Eva,” 3-17
Questions to consider this week:
1) What is populism?  How does it differ from other strategies for governing?
2) How was gender (including ideas of both masculinity and femininity) used as part of Perón’s populist strategy?
Week 8: Cuba and its Revolution
M, Oct 21: Film: Fidel Castro
W, Oct 23: The Achievements of the Revolution
F, Oct 25: The Costs of the Revolution
Dawson, Latin America Since Independence, Chapter 8, pp. 188-218
Selections from The Cuba Reader
            How the Poor Got More, 344-353
            Fish à la Grande Jardinière, Humberto Arenal, 354-362
            The Literacy Campaign, Oscar Lewis et al., 389-394
Guillermoprieto, Looking for History, “The Harsh Angel,” 73-86, “Fidel in the Evening,” 126-152
José Manuel Prieto, “The Cuban Revolution Explained to Taxi Drivers,”
Questions to consider this week:
1) What were the principal causes of the Cuban Revolution?
2) Were the sacrifices imposed on ordinary people necessary to achieve the gains of the Revolution?
Week 9: Democracy to Dictatorship
M, Oct 28: Film: La Batalla de Chile
W, Oct 30: Democratic Breakdowns: Brazil, Chile, and Argentina
F, Nov 1: Dictatorships in Power: Brazil, Chile, and Argentina
Lawrence Weschler, A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers, pp. 1-172
Questions to consider this week:
1) How did Latin American dictatorships justify their actions? Who did they consider to be their enemies?
2) Why do ordinary people support dictatorships?
Week 10: The Second Cold War: Central America
M, Nov 4: Genocide in Guatemala
W, Nov 6: Uprising in El Salvador
F, Nov 8: Revolution in Nicaragua
Daniel Wilkinson, Silence on the Mountain, pp. 190-359
An essay prompt will be distributed on Friday. It will be 5-6 pages, based on lectures and readings through week 10.
Questions to consider this week:
1) What factors separated successful revolutions from unsuccessful ones?
2) Why did people become guerrillas? Why did they join the armies that fought them?
Week 11: Dictatorship to Democracy, Week I
M, Nov 11: NO CLASS
W, Nov 13: Film in class: No
F, Nov 15: Film in class: No
Essay due in class on Friday, November 15th.
 Week 12: Dictatorship to Democracy, Week II
M, Nov 18: Resisting Dictatorship
W, Nov 20: Legacies of Dictatorship, including selections from Nostalgia for the Light
F, Nov 22: The “Perfect Dictatorship”: Mexico
Dawson, Latin America Since Independence, Chapters 9 & 10, pp. 221-276
Weschler, A Miracle, A Universe, pp. 173-246
Guillermoprieto, Looking for History
            The Bitter Education of Vargas Llosa, 155-177
            The Only Way to Win, 224-238
            The Peso, 275-285
            Elections 2000, 286-303
Questions to consider this week:
1) Why do people who had supported dictatorships turn against them?
2) How did the process of achieving democracy differ in Brazil, Peru, and Mexico?
Week 13: Thanksgiving Week
M, Nov 25: Film: Frontline: The Hugo Chávez Show
W, Nov 27: Film: The Hugo Chávez Show
F, Nov 29: NO CLASS
If you are unable to make it to class this week, on either or both days, you should watch the documentary on your own time at
Week 14: Neoliberalism and its Discontents: Latin America Today
M, Dec 2: Social Democracy or Democratic Socialism?
W, Dec 4: Limits and Fissures in the “Pink” Decade
F, Dec 6: Summing Up
Dawson, Latin America Since Independence, Chapter 11, pp. 277-311
Jorge G. Castañeda, “Latin America’s Left Turn,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2006,
Jon Lee Anderson, “Slumlord,” New Yorker, 28 January 2013, pp. 40-51.
Greg Grandin, “On the Legacy of Hugo Chávez,The Nation, 5 March 2013,
Questions to consider this week:
1) How do we explain the strength of the left in the first decade of the twenty-first century?  How is this left different from that of the twentieth century?
2) What conditions have allowed recent governments to deliver growth with equity?
Week 15: Reading Week
Dec 9-13, No Classes
Information about review sessions will be distributed.
Week 16: Finals week

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