Syllabus Fall 2019: Modern Latin America


HIST 242

Modern Latin America


Professor Patrick Iber

Fall 2019 / MWF 9:55AM-10:45PM / 1641 Mosse Humanities

Office Hours: [day and time], Mosse Humanities 5123, and by appointment


This course will give a broad overview of Latin American history in the modern period, especially on the period from 1898 to the present. 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.


[course credit info]




Alexander Dawson, Latin America Since Independence: A History with Primary Sources, New York: Routledge, 2010, $67 [cheaper used and rental options are available].

[or Teresa Meade, more affordable?]


Valeria Luiselli, Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions


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.


Map quiz:

Map quiz >85%: 2 points

Map quiz >70%: 1 point


Section attendance

>90%: 3 points

>70%: 2 points


Top Hat

>90%: 5 points

>80%: 4 points

>70%: 3 points



>90%: 3 points

>80%: 2 points

>70%: 1 point



>90%: 5 points

>80%: 4 points

>70%: 3 points


Weekly reading journal: 2 points, one for each half of the semester


Final project:

Full research option: 5 points

Basic research option: 3 points


There are 25 available points. Nothing is required. You decide what you want to do.


Letter grades will be assigned as follows:

24-25   A

22-23   AB

20-21   B

18-19   BC

16-17   C










Week 1: Introduction


Wednesday, September 4: Introduction to the course


No reading


Friday, September 6: The Colonial Past


Luis Reygadas, The Construction of Latin American Inequality, in Paul Gootenberg, Indelible Inequalities



Week 2: The nineteenth century


Monday, September 9: Independence

Dawson, Chapter 1


Wednesday, September 11:

Dawson, Chapter 2


Friday, September 13:

Dawson, Chapter 3





Week 3: Mexico and its Revolution


Monday, September 16: Mexican Revolution I: Porfiriato

Dawson Chapter 4


Wednesday, September 18: Mexican Revolution II

Dawson Chapter 5


Friday, September 20: Mexican Revolution III

Watch: “The Storm that Swept Mexico,”



Week 4: Imperialism and Neocolonialism

Monday, September 23: The Spanish-American War

Louis Pérez, War of 1898, [selections]

Wednesday, September 25: The Banana Republics


Watch: The Gringo in Mañanaland


Friday, September 27: The Occupations of Nicaragua


Michel Gobat, Confronting the American Dream[one chapter]







Week 5: Great Depression and World War II


Monday, September 30: The Great Depression in Latin America


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: Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico


Alan Knight, “Cardenismo: Juggernaut or Jalopy?”Journal of Latin American Studies26, no. 1 (February 1994): 73-107.


Friday, October 4: World War II


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).




Week 6: Populism and the Latin American Spring


Monday, October 7: What is Populism?


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.


Wednesday, October 9: What is Populism?


Dawson, Chapter 7


Friday, October 11: Arbenz in Guatemala


Rabe, Killing Zone, “Guatemala—The Mother of Interventions,” 36-58


Week 7: The Cuban Revolution


Monday, October 14: The Origins of the Cuban Revolution


Dawson, Chapter 8


Wednesday, October 16: The Course of the Cuban Revolution


Lillian Guerra, “Counterrevolution and the Origins of Political Culture in the Cuban Revolution, 1959-2009”


Friday, October 18: Midterm


First half reading journals due.



Week 8: Socialism(s)


Monday, October 21: Guerrilla Struggle


Dawson, Chapter 9


Wednesday, October 23: Che Guevara


Paulo Drinot, on Che in Peru in Che’s Travels


Alma Guillermoprieto, “The Harsh Angel,” from Looking for History, 73-86


Jon Lee Anderson on Che,



Friday, October 25: Allende’s Chile


Peter Winn and Cristobal Kay, “Agrarian Reform and Rural Revolution in Allende’s Chile,” Journal of Latin American Studies6, no. 1 (May 1974): 135-159.











Week 9: Dictatorship and Democracy


Monday, October 28: Pinochet’s Chile


Watch: “The Chicago Boys,”


Wednesday, October 30: Transitions to Democracy


Dawson, Chapter 10


Friday, November 1: Continuities with Dictatorship


Watch: Patricio Guzmán, “Chile: Obstinate Memory,”



Week 10: The Second Cold War: Central America


Monday, November 4: El Salvador


Rabe, Killing Zone, “Cold War Horrors—Central America,” pp. 144-174


Wednesday, November 6: Nicaragua


[Reading needed…on liberation theology in Nicaragua and Sandinismo – maybe Roger Lancaster or Berrigan]


Friday, November 8: Guatemala


Rigoberta Menchú, 1992 Nobel prize lecture,







Week 11: From Neoliberalism to the Pink Tide


Monday, November 11: The Pink Tide


Dawson, Chapter 11


Wednesday, November 13: Social democrats


[Reading needed on Lula etc.]


Friday, November 15: Twenty-first century socialism


Watch: The Hugo Chávez Show,





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),


Wednesday, November 20: Mexico


Froylan Enciso?


Ioan Grillo, “The Narco Killer’s Tale,”,8599,2097594-1,00.html


Friday, November 22: The United States


Sam Quiñones, Dreamland, [selections]








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: “


Wednesday, December 4: Venezuela in Crisis


Watch: “The Breadmaker,”


More readings TBA


Friday, December 6: The Return of the Right


Watch: “Marielle and Monica,”


Paulo Pachá,


More readings TBA






Week 15: Conclusions


Monday, December 9: Review session

Wednesday, December 11: Last day of class


Final research projects due.



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