Modern Latin America
Professor Patrick Iber
This course will give a broad overview of Latin American history in the modern period, since independence but with a primary focus on the twentieth century. 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. Among the topics to be explored in detail will be the Mexican and Cuban revolutions, populism and dictatorship, socialism and neoliberalism, and drugs and migration.
Virginia Garrard, Peter Henderson and Bryan McCann, Latin America in the Modern World, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), ISBN 0199340226, $39.99. (Ebook available at $19.99.)
Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions, (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2017), ISBN 1566894956, $12.95
This 4-credit course meets as a group for 4 hours per week (according to UW-Madison’s credit hour policy, each 50-minute class counts as one hour). The course also carries the expectation that you will spend an average of at least 2 hours outside of class for every hour in the classroom. In other words, in addition to class time, plan to allot an average of at least 8 hours per week for reading, writing, preparing for discussions, and/or studying for quizzes and exams for this course.
The primary goals of this course are that students will be able to
- Describe the contours of Latin American history in the period since independence,
- Apply and use key concepts relevant to Latin American history, such as imperialism, inequality, populism, socialism, neoliberalism,
- Read for a dedicated purpose across different genres and forms of writing,
- Apply historical reasoning to understand the origins of present-day issues,
- Communicate effectively through presentations, discussion, and written work.
The course is going to use an experimental grading system that is designed to give you a lot of control over the grade you want to earn. It is my belief that college years should be full of intellectual experimentation and I fear that grades now interfere, rather than support, that process. Rather than percentages, you will earn points for your work meeting established standards. The points are earned as follows:
Midterms (there are two), at approximately 1/3 and 2/3rds points of the semester. The first midterm will include a map quiz. There is no in-class final. Each is worth:
>90%: 3 points
>80%: 2 points
>70%: 1 point
Weekly reading journal: 2 points, one for each half of the semester. Each week, you will pick a reading and respond with at least 250 words. The journal entry can be relatively informal, but should be serious: raising questions, describing what you are learning, and exploring what the readings are making you think about.
Mid-point essay: I will give you a take-home essay to write, based on class readings. 4-5 pages. 2 points. I will probably ask you to improve something about your essay to get the points.
Section attendance or alternative:
>85%: 3 points
>70%: 2 points
Top Hat (based on class attendance and reading completion):
>90%: 3 points
>80%: 2 points
>70%: 1 point
Final project. At the end of the course, you will pick an issue in contemporary Latin America and do an independent research project to learn more about it and the historical conditions that have brought it about. The final project can be presented either as a paper or a web page. Full research option: 4 points. 12 pages or equivalent, involving book sources as well as media and documents that you track down. For 2 points, you can do a shorter project, of approximately 6 pages, without the book research.
There are 25 available points. Nothing is required. You decide what you want to do. Letter grades will be assigned as follows:
Week 1: Introduction
Wednesday, September 4: Introduction to the course
Friday, September 6: The Colonial Heritage
Prologue to Latin America in the Modern World, xxxv-lv
Week 2: The nineteenth century
Monday, September 9: Independence
Latin America in the Modern World, Chapter 1, “Latin America in the Age of Atlantic Revolution, 1789-1820s,” 2-53.
Wednesday, September 11: Economics and Society of the Nineteenth Century
Latin America in the Modern World, Chapter 2, “Latin America: Regionalism and Localism,” 54-97.
Friday, September 13: Nineteenth-Century Politics
Latin America in the Modern World, Chapter 3, “First Attempts at State Formation: The Liberal-Conservative Debate, 1830-1875,” 98-141.
Week 3: Imperialism, Neocolonialism, and Revolution I
Monday, September 16: Mexican Revolution I: Porfiriato
Latin America in the Modern World, Chapter 5, “Progress and Modernization: The Elite’s Strategy, 1870-1929,” 188-237.
Wednesday, September 18: The Spanish-American War
Latin America in the Modern World, Chapter 6, “Worlds Connecting: Latin America in an Imperial Age,” 238-284.
Friday, September 20: The Mexican Revolution
Latin America in the Modern World, Chapter 7, “Progress and its Discontents, 1880-1920,” 286-333.
Week 4: Imperialism, Neocolonialism, and Revolution II
Monday, September 23: Mexican Revolution II
Watch: “The Storm that Swept Mexico,” hour 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVWcgOcvgV0&t=5609s
Wednesday, September 25: Mexican Revolution III
Watch: “The Storm that Swept Mexico,” hour 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVWcgOcvgV0&t=5609s
Friday, September 27: The Banana Republics
Watch: The Gringo in Mañanaland
Catherine LeGrand, “Living in Macondo: Economy and Culture in a United Fruit Banana Enclave in Colombia,” from Close Encounters of Empire, pp. 333-368.
Week 5: Great Depression and World War II
Monday, September 30: The Great Depression in Latin America
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 8, “The Great Depression and Authoritarian Populists, 1930-1950,” 338-362.
Angela Vergara, “Chilean Workers and the Great Depression, 1930-1938,” pp. 51-80 in Paulo Drinot and Alan Knight (eds.), The Great Depression in Latin America.
Wednesday, October 2: The End of the Revolution in Mexico?
Latin America in the Modern World, Chapter 9, “The Challenges of Modernity, 1930-1950,” 384-430.
Friday, October 4: Midterm #1
Week 6: Populism and the Latin American Spring
Monday, October 7: World War II
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 8, “The Great Depression and Authoritarian Populists, 1930-1950,” 378-383.
Leslie Bethell, “Brazil,” pp. 33-65 in Bethell and Roxborough (eds.) Latin American between the Second World War and the Cold War(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Wednesday, October 9: Transitions to the Cold War
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 10, “Revolution and Reform in Latin America,”, 432-447.
Kyle Longley, “Peaceful Costa Rica, the First Battleground: The United States and the Costa Rican Revolution of 1948,” The Americas50, no. 2 (October 1993): 149-175.
Friday, October 11: What is Populism?
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 8, part of “The Great Depression and Authoritarian Populists, 1930-1950,” 362-378.
Alma Guillermoprieto, “Little Eva,” in Looking for History, pp. 3-17.
Week 7: Revolution
Monday, October 14: Arbenz in Guatemala
Stephen Kinzer, chapter on Guatemala from Overthrow, pp. 129-147.
Wednesday, October 16: The Origins of the Cuban Revolution
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 10, part of “Revolution and Reform in Latin America,” 447-456.
Watch: Fidel Castro, first hour, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GPReixtd64
Friday, October 18: The Course of the Cuban Revolution
Lillian Guerra, “Counterrevolution and the Origins of Political Culture in the Cuban Revolution, 1959-2009” in A Century of Revolution, Greg Grandin and Gilbert Joseph (eds.), 199-235.
Listen: audio documentary, Elizabeth Dore, “Cuban Voices,” https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p06xfy81
First half reading journals due.
Week 8: Socialism(s)
Monday, October 21: Guerrilla Struggle
Latin America in the Modern World, parts of Chapters 10 and 11, part of “Revolution and Reform in Latin America,” 461-500.
Wednesday, October 23: Che Guevara
Jon Lee Anderson on Che, https://www.thenation.com/article/che-guevara-lessons-from-a-revolutionary-life/
Paulo Drinot, on Che in Peru in Che’s Travels, pp. 88-126
Alma Guillermoprieto, “The Harsh Angel,” from Looking for History, 73-86
Friday, October 25: Allende’s Chile
Peter Winn, “The Furies of the Andes,” from A Century of Revolution, pp. 239-275.
Mid-point essay due.
Week 9: Dictatorship and Democracy
Monday, October 28: Pinochet’s Chile
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 11, “Counterrevolution in Latin America, 1960-1980,” 501-526.
Watch: “The Chicago Boys,” first half: http://www.gamba.cl/2018/05/chicago-boys-vean-aca-el-documental-que-tvn-emitio-a-la-hora-de-la-corneta/
Wednesday, October 30: Transitions to Democracy
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 13, “Neoliberalism and its Discontents, 1980-2015,” 578-596.
Watch: “The Chicago Boys,” second half: http://www.gamba.cl/2018/05/chicago-boys-vean-aca-el-documental-que-tvn-emitio-a-la-hora-de-la-corneta/
Friday, November 1: Mexico’s Transition
Read: Guillermoprieto, “Letter from Mexico City,”New Yorker, September 17, 1990
Week 10: The Second Cold War: Central America
Monday, November 4: El Salvador
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 12, “The Late Cold War in Latin America, 1970s-1990,” 532-577.
Wednesday, November 6: Nicaragua
Roger Lancaster, Life is Hard, pp. 111-187.
Friday, November 8: Guatemala
Rigoberta Menchú, 1992 Nobel prize lecture, https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1992/tum/lecture/
Week 11: From Neoliberalism to the Pink Tide
Monday, November 11: Neoliberalism to the Pink Tide
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 13, “Neoliberalism and its Discontents, 1980-2015,” 597-626.
Primary document: Mario Vargas Llosa, “Towards a Totalitarian Peru,” 1987, https://www.crisismagazine.com/1987/documentation-toward-a-totalitarian-peru
Wednesday, November 13: Twenty-first century socialism
Latin America in the Modern World, part of Chapter 14 “New Identities, New Politics, 1980-2016,” 628-675.
Watch: The Hugo Chávez Show, https://www.pbs.org/video/frontline-the-hugo-chavez-show/
Friday, November 15: Midterm #2
Week 12: Drugs and Social Violence
Monday, November 18: Colombia
Guillermoprieto, Looking for History, “Our New War in Colombia,” 19-39
Lina Britto, “A Trafficker’s Paradise: The ‘War on Drugs’ and the New Cold War in Colombia,” Contemporánea1, no. 1 (2010), http://www.geipar.udelar.edu.uy/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/10_Dossier08.pdf
Wednesday, November 20: Mexico
Ev Meade, introduction to The Taken: True Stories of the Sinaloa Drug War, pp. 1-52
Friday, November 22: The United States
Sam Quiñones, Dreamland, pp. 256-300
Week 13: The Recent Past
Monday, November 25: Work on final research projects
Wednesday, November 27: Work on final research projects
This week, I would like you to watch a film about relatively contemporary Latin American reality, made by a filmmaker from Latin America. My recommendations are Amores Perros(Mexico), Roma (Mexico), City of God(Brazil), Fresa y Chocolate (Cuba), Machuca(Chile), The Official Story (Argentina), The Secret in Their Eyes(Argentina), but if there’s another you’re interested in, feel free. If you want the point for second half journaling, write your weekly response to the film.
Week 14: Current issues
Monday, December 2: Immigration
Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How it Ends
Recommended: Nelson Rauda, “Her Family Survived the El Mozote Massacre. Now She’s Fleeing El Salvador’s Gangs,” https://www.thedailybeast.com/her-family-survived-the-el-mozote-massacre-now-shes-fleeing-el-salvadors-gangs?ref=scroll
Wednesday, December 4: Venezuela in Crisis
Jon Lee Anderson, “Venezuela’s Two Presidents Collide,” June 3, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/06/10/venezuelas-two-presidents-collide
Friday, December 6: The Return of the Right
Watch: Petra Costa, “The Edge of Democracy” on Netflix
Second-half reading journals due.
Week 15: Conclusions
Monday, December 9: Working on research
Wednesday, December 11: Last day of class
Final research projects due December 14.