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.

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 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.

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