Latin American Studies

Coordinator:    MILTON MACHUCA (Latin American Studies)
Anna Everetts (Administrative Assistant)

Committee: Diego Armus (History)
Braulio Muñoz (Sociology and Anthropology) 2
Kenneth Sharpe (Political Science) 3
Elena Valdez (Modern Languages and Literatures, Spanish)

2 Absent on leave, spring 2014.
3 Absent on leave, 2013–2014.

Swarthmore’s Latin American Studies Program explores the rich diversity—as well as the similarities—among and within Latin American countries and cultures. The program also investigates the broad dynamics shaping Latino experiences in the United States. Participants in the program engage with a variety of disciplines to consider what defines “Latin America.” Spoken language; literature; pre-colonial, colonial, and modern history; native, immigrant, and diasporic experiences; politics; socioeconomic conditions; religion; social structures; architecture; and political borders are all considered in this far-ranging and inclusive course of study. Students in any major may add a minor in Latin American studies. Courses from art history, history, modern languages and literatures, political science, religion, sociology and anthropology contribute to this exciting interdisciplinary program.

Most of our students spend one semester in Latin America. Studying beyond the traditional classroom walls provides students with invaluable opportunities for enriching intellectual experiences and personal growth.

The Academic Program

Students interested in the Latin American Studies Program (LAS) are invited to consult with the program coordinator and members of the LAS Committee before developing a proposal. The proposal should establish how Latin American studies relates to the overall program of undergraduate study and to the departmental major. The minor is open to students of all divisions.

Course Minor

Latin American Studies minors must complete the following requirements:

LAS requires the successful completion of SPAN 004 Intensive Advanced Spanish or its equivalent.
This requirement is waived for native speakers of Spanish and for students who demonstrate sufficient competence in this language, as determined by the LAS Committee. Note: LAS credit is not offered for language courses.

Students must complete a minimum of 5 Latin American studies approved courses and seminars.

  • These 5 courses must span the two divisions (Humanities and Social Sciences).
  • To give courses a basic introduction to Latin America, students are expected to take either HIST 004: Introduction to Latin American History or SPAN 010: En busca de Latinoamérica.
  • Only 1 of the total 5 courses required by the Latin American Studies minor may overlap with a student’s major or other minor.
  • To graduate with a minor in Latin American studies, a student must maintain a minimum grade of “B” in the program, and a “C” average in any other course work.

Study Abroad

Students are required to spend a minimum of one semester abroad in a program approved by the Latin American Studies Program. This requirement may be waived for students who have lived and studied in Latin America for more than a year, but they must apply for this waiver at the time of being considered for the minor.

  • Students may apply two courses from work taken abroad to their Latin American studies academic program.
  • Courses taken abroad must have a clear Latin American focus and must be preapproved by the appropriate department in order to count for the LAS minor.
  • Study abroad must be pursued in Spanish. Students must complete Spanish 004, or its equivalent, before going abroad.
  • Language courses are not eligible for study abroad credit.
  • Students are encouraged to complete the introductory requirement (Spanish 010 or History 004) before going abroad.
  • Only in exceptional cases, with the support of a faculty member and the approval of the LAS Committee, will a semester’s internship or a community service project in Latin America fulfill this requirement.

Honors Minor

To complete an honors minor in Latin American studies, students must have completed all requirements for the interdisciplinary minor. From within these offerings, they may select for outside examination a seminar taken to fulfill the interdisciplinary minor’s requirements. However, the seminar chosen may not be an offering within their major department.

Special Major

With the permission of the departments concerned, it is possible for a student to plan an individualized special major that includes closely related work in one or more departments. Students have the possibility of designing a special major, such as Spanish and Latin American Studies; Latin American Studies and Political Science, Latin American Studies and History; and Latin American Studies with a focus on Sociology and Anthropology, etc.
Special majors consist of at least 10 courses and no more than 12 courses.

Students with special majors must complete the major comprehensive requirement of the departmental major which may consist of a thesis or other written research project designed to integrate the work across departmental boundaries, or a comprehensive examination. In all cases, this final exercise will integrate the work done in Latin American studies and the department involved.

Life After Swarthmore

Swarthmore graduates who have taken part in the Latin American Studies Program find that their rich understanding of the cultures and people of Latin America and Latinos in the U.S. is attractive to employers. Graduates most frequently pursue careers in public service, law, government, education, humanities, social sciences, and the media.


The following courses may be counted toward Latin American studies:

Latin American Studies

LASC 005. Intro: Latino/a Studies

Introduction to Latino/a studies is intended to provide an introduction to the major concepts, issues, and debates in the field of Latin@ Studies. It is informed by an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Latin@ communities in the United States, namely those of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Caribbean, Central American and South American origin. The course presents a basic intellectual map for understanding both the similarities and the differences between contemporary Latin@ communities. Some of the main organizing themes include: (1) the politics of labeling subsequent questions of identity; (2) immigration, migration, and community formation histories; (3) conceptions of gender; (4) race and racial constructions; and (5) labor markets, educational experiences, cultural perceptions through media outlets, and activism. Other topics to be explored include demographic trends, citizenship, political participation, mass movements, relations to histories and events in Latin American sending/origin communities, and media representations. The course will position the experience of the diverse Latin@ populations in the United States in social, political, historical, and interdisciplinary perspectives.
1 credit.
Fall 2013. Machuca.

LASC 010. First-Year Seminar: (B)orders and (Dis)orders: (Im)migration, and Imagined Communities

This course will focus on social, economic, and political forces pushing/pulling people from Latin American to the United States. We will examine how “Spanish,” “Hispanics,” and “Latinos” adjust, integrate, assimilate, resist, and adapt to the many forces affecting their lives and how they are creating new ethnic, racial, and local identities. Major theme patterns that will be included are: second-class citizenship, identity formation, assimilation, ethnic culture, community maturation, labor struggles, economic contributions, social mobility, and immigration policy. 
1 credit.
Fall 2014. Machuca-Galvez.

LASC 025. In Quest of God: The Latin American Religious Arena

This course explores distinct historical, socio-cultural contexts, political and economic processes in which historical varieties of Catholicism have emerged in Latin America.  Understanding religion as generative, this course will examine: the foundations, theological themes, and processes of pre-Hispanic indigenous practices, and Spanish colonial Catholicism; the public role of the Catholic Church in struggles for justice and human rights in the 1960-1990 period expressed by Liberation Theology; the recent growth of Protestantism with a focus on Pentecostalism; the "end of revolutionary utopias;" the contemporary praxis of Catholicism; the public emergence of native spiritualities; and the diaspora religions of the Caribbean, Brazil and Latinos in the United States.  
1 credit.
Spring 2014. Machuca-Gálvez.

LASC 040. Social Movements in Latin America: Gender and Queer Perspective

(cross-listed as ANTH 040J) Since the 1980s, the contemporary forces of neo-liberalism, re-democratization and globalization have profoundly reshaped the societies of Latin America. Against this backdrop of change, people who have long been politically marginalized –indigenous groups, women, peasants, gays, Blacks– have struggled to assert their rights and make their voices heard. In this course we will focus on gender and queer identities in Latin America through a social movements lens.
1 credit.
Spring 2014. Machuca-Galvez.

LASC 080. Mexican Pennsylvania:  The Making of a Transnational Community

Mexican workers came to Pennsylvania in the 1920s, actively recruited by the steel industry, and thousands of farm workers and their families settled in Berks and Chester counties in the 1980. A large flow of urban service workers have arrived in Philadelphia in the last 20 years. In spite of the economic downturn and agressive law enforcement, an unprecedented number of Mexican immigrants are still at work in the United States.  Why are they here?  How are they perceived by the public? What are the legislative proposals to end or rationalize their migration?  What obstacles do they face as they look at the future of their children?  How are their ties to Mexico maintained? This interdisciplinary course looks for answers to these and other questions through films, readings, discussions, field trips, and a community service component.  The course will be taught in English, but students must be able to speak Spanish as they work in the community.  Enrollment limited to 15.
1 credit.
Spring 2014. Machuca-Galvez.


ECON 028. Economics of Latin America


EDUC 153. Latinos and Education


HIST 001E. Past and Present in Latin America
HIST 004. Latin American History
HIST 049. Race and Foreign Affairs
HIST 051. Race and Poverty in the United States
HIST 063. Voices of the Past: Oral History and Memory
HIST 064. Migrants and Migrations: Europeans in Latin America and Latinos in the U.S.
HIST 065. Cities of (Im)migrants: Buenos Aires, Lima, Miami, New York
HIST 066. Disease, Culture, and Society in the Modern World: Comparative Perspectives
HIST 067. Peripheral Modernities: Latin American Cities in the 20th Century
HIST 068. The Self-Image of Latin America
HIST 084. Modern Addiction: Cigarette Smoking in the 20th Century
HIST 148. Issues and Debates in Modern Latin America
HIST 149. Reform and Revolution in Modern Latin America


LITR 015S. First-Year Seminar: Children in Latin American Literature
LITR 060S. Mexican and Central American Literature in Translation
LITR 070S. The Persistent Power of Central American Literature
LITR 071S. Latin American Society Through Its Novel
LITR 075S. Borges: Aesthetics and Theory
LITR 076S. Latino and Latin American Sexualities


MUSI 031. Musics of Central and South America and the Caribbean
MUSI 033. Music of Cuba and Brazil

Political Science

POLS 057. Latin American Politics
POLS 081. Politics of Schooling in Latin America and the Middle East
POLS 109. Comparative Politics: Latin America


RELG 109. Afro-Atlantic Religions

Sociology and Anthropology

ANTH 041B. Visions of Latin America
ANTH 041C. Visual Cultures of Mexico and Atlán
ANTH 051B. Drugs and Governance in the Americas
SOCI 024B. Latin American Society and Culture
SOCI 024C. Latin American Society Through Its Novel


SPAN 010. En busca de Latinoamérica
SPAN 023. Introducción a la literatura latinoamericana
SPAN 052. Imaginarios culturales caribeños
SPAN 055. La comida, los deportes y la música en el Caribe hispánico
SPAN 057. El Caribe hispánico a través de la literatura, la musica y el cine
SPAN 070. Género y sexualidad en Latinoamérica
SPAN 072. Seducciones literarias—traiciones fílmicas
SPAN 073. El cuento latinoamericano
SPAN 076. La novela latinoamericana
SPAN 080. Los hijos de la malinahe
SPAN 081. Movimientos sociales y literatura en México
SPAN 082. Un siglo de canto: poesía latinoamericana contemporánea
SPAN 083. El tirano latinoamericano en la literatura
SPAN 084. Mexico, 1968: la violencia de ayer y hoy
SPAN 085. Pasados desgarradores: trauma y afecto en la literature centroamericana de posguerra
SPAN 087. Cruzando fronteras: migración y transnacionalismo en el cine mexicano
SPAN 106. Visiones narrativas de Carlos Fuentes
SPAN 108. Jorge Luis Borges
SPAN 109. Elena Poniatowska la hija de México
SPAN 110. Política y póetica: los mundos de Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz y Ernesto Cardenal