History of Latin America

The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Spring 2018                                                     Dr. Allyson M. Poska;

Office: Monroe 219 Phone:   654-1478                  Email:

Office Hours: MWF 12-1pm, TR 2-3pm


This course will examine a variety of social, economic, and political issues that have faced Latin America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In order to understand Latin American history from the perspective of those who lived it, we will rely on films, literary works, and first -hand accounts by Latin Americans.


Course Objectives and Goals:

  • Comprehension of historical processes
  • Ability to write with clarity about the past
  • Ability to read critically primary sources and modern authorities

This course counts in the History major and as an IA support course

This course counts as Human Experience and Society. As such, you will learn

  • to explain human and social experiences and activities from multiple perspectives
  • to draw appropriate conclusions based on evidence
  • to transfer knowledge and skills learned to a novel situation.

This course counts as Global Inquiry. As such, you will learn

  • to express an understanding of forces that foster global connections among places, persons, groups, and/or knowledge systems
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast multiple perspectives or theories on global processes and systems
  • Students will be able to reflect upon how global relations impact their own lives and the lives of others


Books available for purchase:

Mark Wasserman, Everyday Life and Politics in Nineteenth Century Mexico (New Mexico, 2000)

Mariano Azuela, The Underdogs (Penguin, 2008)

Margaret Regan, Death of Josseline (Beacon, 2010)

Henry Louis Taylor, Inside el Barrio: A Bottom up View of Neighborhood Life in Castro’s Cuba (Kumarian, 2009)


Course Requirements:

During the second class period, EVERYONE will take a map quiz of Latin America.  Each student MUST retake the quiz until he or she gets 90% correct (thus, you get either a 90 or above or a zero).  Class time will be devoted to this endeavor during the second class period.  After that, each person will have to arrange to take the quiz on his or her own time until the last day of class.  This quiz will be worth 5% of your grade.

There will be a midterm exam and a final exam, each worth 20% of your grade.

Class participation is an important aspect of this class and of your grade (20%).   Class discussion will take place on predetermined days, clearly indicated on the syllabus. Your attendance and participation is expected and there is no way to make up a missed discussion. Your participation must indicate that you have done the readings to receive credit. Please respect the opinions of others.  Remember that there is no single way to understand history and that the same incident has numerous interpretations.


Latin American news blog: The class will create a news blog that will familiarize you with the issues facing Latin America today.  The website is (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. This assignment is worth 10% of your grade.

Each week you will read at least one article about Latin America or Latino culture in the US in a major US news source, either in print or on-line. You may also use other English language news sources, for instance, the BBC or English language newspapers in Latin American cities, but you may NOT use foreign newsgathering agencies such as the Chinese Xinhua News Agency. Always be aware of the source of your news. You will then post a brief summary of that news article and to the best of your ability relate it to the readings and class lectures.  Article summaries alone are not acceptable. The post must be from that week’s news. Be sure to include your name on each post.

Each entry should include a full reference to the article, for example:
Jane Goodyear, “Power and Politics in Latin America,” The Washington Post, 6 July 1997, sec. C, p. 4.
or the link to on-line articles: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Your contribution will be due by class time each TUESDAY. NO LATE CONTRIBUTIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED, even if the system is down!! You should send me a copy via email if you are concerned. Remember that all your work is subject to the Honor code.

Your submissions are graded on a credit (you submitted an appropriate article with a citation and some thoughtful attempt to relate it to the class)/no credit (you did not submit an article, you did not provide a citation, you did not relate it to the class or you did not submit anything) basis.


Papers: You will write two 5 page papers based on primary sources. The assignments are at the end of the syllabus.  Each paper is worth 12.5% of your grade.

UMW Honor Code: All students are expected to conduct themselves consistently with policies of UMW. Anyone engaging in plagiarism, cheating, or any other form of academic dishonesty will be referred to the Honors Council.


LAPTOP and TABLET POLICY: Laptops and tablets may be used in the classroom for notetaking only. I reserve the right to prohibit laptop use at any time for any reason. Cellphones must be shut off and out of sight during class.

Students requiring special accommodations:
If you already receive services through the Office of Disability Services and require accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. Please bring your accommodation letter with you to the appointment. I will hold any information you share with me in the strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise. If you have not contacted the Office of Disability Services and need special accommodations, please contact them at 540-654-1266.

Grade scale
A 95-100 A- 90-94 B+ 87-89 B 84-86 B- 80-83 C+ 77-79 C 74-76 C- 70-73 D+ 67-69 D 63-66

Students with an average of 69 or lower will receive an unsatisfactory on mid-semester reports


Course Schedule

Week 1


The hazards of Independence/MAP QUIZ

READ: Start reading Wasserman Everyday Life, chapters 1-7


Week 2

Nineteenth-Century Political/Economic Structures

Discuss: Wasserman, Everyday Life, Introduction and chapters 1-7

READ: Wasserman, Everyday Life, Introduction and chapters 1-7


Week 3

Nineteenth-Century Brazil/ Race and Slavery at the end of the century

Discuss: Brazil Documents (on Canvas)

READ:  Brazil Documents (on Canvas)


Week 4

Foreign Intervention: The Lessons of William Walker, Maximilian, and Carlotta

The Rise of Caudillos/ discuss: excerpt from Sarmiento “Life in the Argentine Republic in the Days of the Tyrants, 1868”


Week 5

The Cuban War of Independence

Discuss: Cuba Documents (on Canvas)

READ: Cuba documents (on Canvas)


Week 6

The Mexican Revolution

Discuss:  The Underdogs

Read: Wasserman, Everyday Life, chapters 8-10 and The Underdogs

Paper #1 Due Tuesday


Week 7


The long-term effects of the Mexican Revolution/ discuss Mexico  Documents (on Canvas)

Read: Mexico Documents (on Canvas)


Week 8 Spring Break


Week 9

Argentina at mid-century: Peron and his legacy

The Argentine Dirty War


Week 10

Discuss: Argentina Documents (on canvas)

Los Desaparecidos

READ: Argentina Documents (on canvas)


Week 11

Allende and Pinochet

The Battle of Chile


Week 12 Castro and the Cuban Revolution

Discuss: Inside el Barrio

READ: Inside el Barrio


Week 13  

Liberation Theology/ discuss: “On the Development of Peoples”

The wars in Central America

READ: Encyclical of Pope Paul VI “On the Development of Peoples” (on canvas)

Paper #2 Due Tuesday


Week 14

Latino Immigration to the US

Anti immigrant legislation / discuss laws from Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, and California’s Prop 187

READ: The four laws are on canvas

Start reading Death of Josseline


Week 15

Tuesday Discuss: Death of Josseline

“Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary”

READ: Death of Josseline

Paper #3 due Thursday


Paper Assignments

You will write two 5 page papers. You must write Paper #1 and you can choose between either Paper #2 or Paper #3

On Canvas under Files, you will find three sets of primary source documents.

Paper #1 The first set deals with the nineteenth century:

Flora Tristan “The Women of Lima” (1840s)

Mariano Otero, “Considerations Relating to the Political and Social Situation of the Mexican Republic in the Year 1847”

Debating the “Free Womb” Law in Brazil (1871)

“Carlota’s Letter” 1865

Paper #2 The second set deals with the early and middle part of the twentieth century:

Interview with Pedro Martínez and his wife Esperanza about life during the Mexican Revolution

Eva Perón’s Views on Women and Society in Argentina (1951)

Ernesto Che Guevara, “The Cuban Economy: Its Past, and Its Present Importance,” (1964)

Testimonies from Nunca Más, the report from Argentina’s Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas (National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons)

Paper #3 The third set deals with the late twentieth and early twenty-first century:

A chapter from the autobiography of Rigoberta Menchú, Noble Peace Prize Winner 1992

The Historic Program of the FSLN (Nicaragua)

Data on Mexican Immigration from the Migration Policy Institute

“Ruben’s Story” from Voices of the Undocumented

Choose one document from the document set. You must do some additional secondary research (one cited scholarly work is not enough, ten scholarly works are too many.) You must use only scholarly sources and websites. The best sources are books and journal articles available in and through the library. You should never refer to Wikipedia or other web-based encyclopedias or use non-scholarly websites. You should not refer to sources written before 1980. You must write at least 5 full pages of text to receive full credit. You must use the primary source as the basis for your thesis and evidence.  Talk to me in advance about your thesis and argument in order to avoid unnecessary frustration.


You must fill out and attach the Paper checksheet (at Files on Canvas) to each paper and the Putting feedback to use (on canvas) sheet to your second paper.


The first paper will be due Tuesday February 20

The second paper will be due Tuesday April 10

The third paper will be due Thursday April 26

You must attach a signed and filled out copy of the Paper Checksheet to both papers.

You must attach a signed and filled out copy of the Paper feedback sheet to your second paper.


We have created a webpage to help you with your research and writing for this and other history classes:

If you have additional questions about bibliographic format or footnoting, see The Chicago Manual of Style.  Be sure to proofread your papers before turning them in. This will avoid embarrassing errors. Below are examples of correct footnotes:

a first reference
1John Hope Franklin, George Washington Williams: A Biography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 54.

a later reference to the same material:
Franklin, George Washington Williams, 186.

Footnotes/Endnotes are single-spaced within notes and double-spaced between notes.

Papers will be typed in 12 pt. font, double-spaced, and will have 1″ margins (please note that the default in WORD is 1.25¨). Be sure to spellcheck and grammar check your papers. Computer breakdowns are NOT an excuse.  Papers are due at the beginning of class.  Late papers (even one minute late), will be penalized one grade for each 24 hour period.

Check your paper to ensure that
1) You have a thesis, something to argue
2) The thesis is stated clearly
3) Each paragraph is asserts something that relates back to the thesis
4) This assertion is backed up by specific evidence
5) Each paragraph contains some of your own ideas
6) The conclusion reasserts the paper’s argument clearly and concisely


I encourage you to discuss your papers with me and I am willing to read any drafts, except in the last 24 hours before the assignment is due.

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