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Latin@ American Cultural Topics

This course studies trends in thought, art, film, music, social practices, in the Spanish speaking Americas, including the United States. Topics may include colonialism, race, class, ethnicity, modernization, ecology, religion, gender, and popular culture.

Requisites: Prerequisite, SPAN 261 or 267.
Gen Ed: BN, GL.

Instructor: Prof. Oswaldo Estrada

The goal of this course is to critically examine Latin American migration, borders, and the construction of hybrid identities in the U.S. The course explores, among other themes and topics, coloniality, imperialism, discrimination, violence, race, religion, popular culture, and gender. The goals of the course are to broaden the understanding of Latin/o America; to be aware of its diversity and cultural wealth; to critically reflect on the formation and development of its cultural manifestations; to establish a dialogue between the students’ own culture and that of Latina/o immigrants, while questioning and revising current stereotypes; to grasp and critically analyze a variety of texts in Spanish and English from different origins and genres; and to relate texts and acquired knowledge with the historical moment and the cultural environment in which they have been produced.

Instructor: Prof. Alicia Rivero

Explore historical and current events, film and multimedia, as well as selected 19th and 20th century literary works to discover not only why the Mexico/US border, but also immigration have become controversial issues. To understand these, we’ll probe: (1) How they are defined in Spanish America and the US; (2) Intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, nation, and the transnational; (3) (Post-)colonialism, slavery, transculturation, hybridity, stereotypes, diaspora, criminalization of immigration in the US, labor practices, ethics, etc.

How do ideas of race and ethnicity originate in and have shaped Latin American societies since the second half of the 20th century? How do race and ethnicity intersect with nationhood, class and gender? How do Indigenous and Black writers and artists’ address and challenge ideas of race and ethnicity in their work? Using an intersectional framework, this course will address the answers to these questions by critically examining the social, cultural, and political constructions of race and ethnicity and its consequences as they are represented in contemporary Indigenous and Black literatures, music and film. Some of the authors to be studied include: Domitila Barrios de Chungara (Aymara), Martín Tonalmeyotl (Nahuatl), Maya Cu Choc (Q’eq’chi Maya), Gladys Potosí (Kichwa), Victoria Santa Cruz, Lelia Gonzalez, Nancy Morejon, Shirley Campbell Barr, Manuel Zapata Olivella and Quince Duncan.

Note: This course is also part of the UNC Global’s Connecting Carolina Classrooms with the World initiative through Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL). Students enrolled in this course will have the opportunity to interact and collaborate in research assignments with students from Universidad de San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Ecuador, during a five-week module.

Instructional mode: synchronous remote

Explore historical and current events, film and multimedia, as well as selected 19th and 20th century literary works to discover not only why the Mexico/US border, but also immigration have become controversial issues.  To understand these, we’ll probe:

  • How they are defined in Spanish America and the US.
  • Intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, nation, and the transnational.
  • (Post)colonialism, slavery, transculturation, hybridity, stereotypes, diaspora, criminalization of immigration in the US, labor practices, ethics, etc.

This course will explore the representation of various types of intimate relationships in Mexican theatre, narrative, poetry, cinema, and pop culture. Although romantic relationships between men and women will be included, our investigation will beyond this obvious category to incorporate other kinds of romantic relationships, relationships with God, and the idealized self with the lived self. To this end, we will target the following goals:

  • To develop skills for the analysis of various types of artistic expression
  • To identify themes or patterns in the representation of various types of intimate relationships
  • To relate form and context to function
  • To communicate observations orally and in writing
  • To explore Mexican culture with a specific focus

This course looks at the intersections of labor movements, race, and gender in locations on all three sides of the Spanish-Cuban-American war: Durham, NC, A Coruña, Spain, and Ybor City Florida. We will build connections and comparisons between the three sides, not to affix blame, but to complicate the narrative of the war and to deepen our understanding of this pivotal moment in cultural history. The course will also enter into some of the history and function of the nineteenth century tobacco industry, both as a mirror for the times and as a hotbed of political activism.

These three tobacco towns work well together because they offer different formulations of the same process. Whereas Ybor’s factories were integrated racially and in terms of sex, the factory in A Coruña was staffed only by women, with their nimble fingers and their lower wages. While Durham and Ybor are both in the South, the ways that they reacted to and interacted with reconstruction and the Jim Crow era, let alone their reckonings of the purpose and importance of the war in 1898, vary wildly. Durham is also a cigarette factory, so a slightly different process, with less artistry, leading to different relationships between owners and workers than can be seen in the other locations.

Readings for this class will be in both Spanish and English, and will include a large number of primary documents from the Nineteenth Century (newspapers, advertisements, political cartoons), in addition to political essay, novels, poetry, and film. More information on the course can be found at:

Early Latin American writing reflected both indigenous exchange with the natural environment, and European astonishment at new flora and fauna. Forests, deserts, rivers, and oceans have figured in modern Latin American literature as the romantic locus of an original “Latin America”; as obstacles in the constitution of national sovereignties; or as what needed to be saved in order to avoid a catastrophic future. Writing and film were at times used to reinforce humankind’s domain over nature, and other times to create visions of a world in which the human and the non-human affect each other. Beginning with a couple of colonial-era texts, the course will focus on different ways modern and contemporary Latin American cultural production engaged with the environment.