Syllabus Fall 2018: Latin American Revolutions



Latin American Revolutions


Professor Patrick Iber

Fall 2018


This course will examine the causes, consequences, and legacies of Latin America’s major revolutions of the twentieth century from an analytical perspective. It will focus on the violent social revolutions of Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua, as well as important experiments in social change in Guatemala, Chile, and Venezuela. We will put these revolutions in comparative perspective, and use more personal reflections made through memoirs and film to examine their effects on people who experienced them. We will try to understand what why these revolutions occurred, what they changed in the societies that experienced them, and in what ways they satisfied and disappointed those who fought for change. We will explore both problems and achievements within these revolutions and students who are enthusiastic, indifferent, or hostile to the idea of revolution should all feel welcome.


The credit standard for this course is met by an expectation of a total of 135 hours of student engagement with the course’s learning activities (at least 45 hours per credit or 9 hours per week), which include regularly scheduled meeting times (group seminar meetings of 115 minutes per week), dedicated online time, reading, writing, field trips, individual consultations with the instructor, and other student work as described in the syllabus.


The primary goals of this course are that students will be able to

  • Understand the causes and consequences of major Latin American revolutions of the 20th and 21st centuries;
  • Relate political changes to social and cultural changes, and vice versa;
  • Analyze complex events in history from multiple perspectives;
  • Read for a dedicated purpose across different genres and forms of writing;
  • Develop research skills with historical sources;
  • Demonstrate the relevance of historical perspective to contemporary issues; and
  • Communicate effectively through presentations, discussion, and written work.





By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UW-Madison’s community of scholars in which everyone’s academic work and behavior are held to the highest academic integrity standards. Academic misconduct compromises the integrity of the university. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, and helping others commit these acts are examples of academic misconduct, which can result in disciplinary action. This includes but is not limited to failure on the assignment/course, disciplinary probation, or suspension. Substantial or repeated cases of misconduct will be forwarded to the Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards for additional review. For more information, refer to



The University of Wisconsin-Madison supports the right of all enrolled students to a full and equal educational opportunity. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Wisconsin State Statute (36.12), and UW-Madison policy (Faculty Document 1071) require that students with disabilities be reasonably accommodated in instruction and campus life. Reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities is a shared faculty and student responsibility. Students are expected to inform faculty [me] of their need for instructional accommodations by the end of the third week of the semester, or as soon as possible after a disability has been incurred or recognized. I, will work either directly with you or in coordination with the McBurney Center to identify and provide reasonable instructional accommodations. Disability information, including instructional accommodations as part of a student’s educational record, is confidential and protected under FERPA.



Diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation for UW-Madison. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways their identity, culture, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinion enrich the university community. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and diversity as inextricably linked goals. The University of Wisconsin-Madison fulfills its public mission by creating a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every background – people who as students, faculty, and staff serve Wisconsin and the world.





This is a discussion-based, seminar-style course. It therefore involves a fair amount of reading, and it is essential that you do the reading thoroughly and carefully each week of the class. Graduate seminars in history typically read a full book a week; I’ve kept things closer to 150 pages per week, depending somewhat on the difficulty of the reading. In some weeks there are additional readings for graduate students.


Course texts:


Marc Becker, Twentieth-Century Latin American Revolutions, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), 9781442265875, $30.


David Craven, Art and Revolution in Latin America, 1910-1990, 2nd edition, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 978-0300120462. [Available as a library e-book]


Gil Joseph and Jürgen Buchenau, Mexico’s Once and Future Revolution: Social Upheaval and the Challenge of Rule since the Late Nineteenth Century, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013), 9780822355328, $24.95.


Michelle Chase, Revolution within the Revolution: Women and Gender Politics in Cuba, 1952-1962, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 9781469625003, $24.44.


Peter Winn, Weavers of Revolution: The Yarur Workers and Chile’s Road to Socialism, (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), $28.77. [Available as a library e-book]


Gioconda Belli, The Country Under my Skin: A Memoir of Love and War, (New York: Anchor, 2003), 9781400032167, $12.88. [Also available in Spanish, if you prefer]


Adam Jones, Beyond the Barricades: Nicaragua and the Struggle for the Sandinista Press, 1979-1998, 9780896802230, $29.95.


George Ciccariello-Maher, Building the Commune: Radical Democracy in Venezuela, (London: Verso, 2016): 9781784782238, $12.17.





Course requirements


Your grade will be based on the following:


20% participation. Active participation in class is essential; our learning will be richest as more of you become involved in the conversation and debate. You should complete all readings before we meet, attend very week, and be an active participant in discussion. If you know in advance that you will miss a day, you should clear it with the instructor by email. It is important to note that your participation will be esteemed on the basis of its quality, courtesy, and thoughtfulness, not on its quantity. Graduate students should plan on some extra time after class to discuss the additional readings.


10% culture items: on the weeks marked as “culture weeks,” we will rotate through bringing in an item of culture related to the revolution in questions. This could be a poem, a painting, a video clip, a song, or something similar. The number of times everyone does this will depend on the size of the class. Students will present the item to the class and give a brief background, describing the circumstances of its creation. We will then discuss and analyze how it relates to and comments on the process of social change. Please find examples other than those in Craven’s book. There will be a sign-up sheet for this distributed on the first day of class.


10% weekly responses. Each week you should bring a brief written response, on the order of 250-350 words, to class. Use that space to reflect on the most significant ideas of the reading, or that which you found most surprising or puzzling. You should end your paragraphs by posing a question that you would like to take up during class. These assignments will be collected and given a credit / no credit mark. You can skip one week without penalty. You can also skip the week that you bring in a culture item.


20% midterm, 4-5 pages (7-8 pages for graduate students). Students will respond to a prompt handed out in class in week 7. You will have a week to complete the assignment and there will be no reading that week. For undergrads, no outside reading is required. Grad students should talk to the instructor and carry out a short research project.


40% final paper, 12-15 pages (15-20 pages for graduate students). Students will consult books and articles outside of those used in class with the goal of exploring in depth a topic related to the major themes of the class. A brief paragraph explaining your plans for the final are due in class in week 13.


Grade ranges will be A > 93.5; 88 < AB < 93.5; 82 < B < 88; 78 < BC < 82; 70 < C < 78; 60 < D < 69; F < 60.







Week 2, September 10: Framework and Introduction to the Course


To read and discuss during class:


Alan Knight, “Social Revolution: A Latin American Perspective,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 9, no. 2 (1990): 175-202.


Marc Becker, Chapter 1, Theories of Revolution, 1-34



Week 3, September 17: Mexico, Week I


Gil Jospeh and Jurgen Buchenau, Mexico’s Once and Future Revolution, 1-36


Becker, Chapter 2, Mexican Revolution, 35-56


Craven, The Mexican Revolution, 25-73




Additional for grad students: Womack, “The Mexican Revolution,” from Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. 5, ed. Leslie Bethell, pp. 79-153



Week 4, Sep. 24: Mexico, Week II


Gil Joseph and Jurgen Buchenau, Mexico’s Once and Future Revolution, 37-215


Additional for grad students: Friedrich Katz, “Violence and Terror in the Russian and Mexican Revolutions” from A Century of Revolution, 45-61



Week 5, Oct. 1: Guatemala & Bolivia


Becker, Chapter 3, Guatemalan Spring, 57-80

Primary documents from Cullather vol. 2


Becker, Chapter 4, Bolivia’s Nationalist Revolution, 81-106




Additional for grad students: Piero Gleijeses, “The Agrarian Reform of Jacobo Arbenz,” Journal of Latin American Studies vol 21, no. 3 (Oct. 1989): 453-480.





Week 6, Oct. 8: Cuba Part I


Becker, Cuba, 107-133, and Guerrilla Warfare, 185-207


Craven, 75-116




For grad students: Lillian Guerra, “Beyond Paradox: Counterrevolution and the Origins of Political Culture in the Cuban Revolution, 1959-2009,” from A Century of Revolution, pp. 199-235




Week 7, Oct. 15: Midterm


Michelle Chase, Revolution within the Revolution, 1-18, 77-212



Week 8, Oct. 22: Cuba, Part II


Take-home midterm will be distributed in week 7 and is due in class this week. Grad students please consult with professor about a small research project.


Film in class will be put to a vote; my suggestion is Before Night Falls




Week 9, Oct. 29: Chile, Part I


Becker, Chapter 6, 135-157


Heidi Tinsman, Partners in Conflict, 209-296









Week 10, Nov. 5: Chile, Part II


Peter Winn, Weavers of Revolution, 1-52, 139-256 [available as library e-book]



Week 11, Nov. 12: Nicaragua, Part I


Becker, Chapter 7, 159-183


Craven, 117-175


Belli, The Country Under My Skin, 1-51





Week 12, Nov 19: Nicaragua, Part II


Giaconda Belli, The Country Under My Skin, 213-369


Week 13, Nov. 26: Nicaragua, Part III


Adam Jones, Beyond the Barricades, 1-176





Week 14, Nov. 27: Venezuela


Becker, Chapter 9, 209-238


George Cicchariello-Maher, Building the Commune


Take a look at some critical/opposition blogs, including Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, and Caracas Chronicles







Week 15, Dec. 3: Final papers


Presentation of research in progress.



Week 16, Dec. 10: Final papers


Circulation and peer evaluation of final paper drafts.


Final papers due December 19.



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