Self-Determination in Latin America: Mexico


Winter 2014 quarter

Taught by

Spanish language, Latin American literature
Spanish language, Latin American studies

The recent history of Latin America can be described as a struggle for self-determination, from the wars of independence to the present-day unequal footing in the world economic system. Taking Mexico as a case study, we will explore how questions of self-determination have shaped Latin America and the lives of the various communities that constitute the region. We will focus, in particular, on the different roles that culture, politics, and economics have played in struggles for self-determination and investigate the tensions and symbioses between them. We will ask ourselves: What roles do culture and economics play as tools of self-determination? How can culture facilitate processes of self-determination at moments when political or economic self-determination is not possible? What are the limitations on the use of culture when one has limited political and economic self-determination? What role do third parties play in struggles for self-determination and how do we situate ourselves with regards to various processes of self-determination in Latin America?

Our study of various groups and communities within Mexico and across its borders to the north and to the south will illuminate the country’s diversity, while also highlighting the connections between personal, national, and regional politics in Latin America. We will explore how self-determination is manifested in relationships of class, gender and ethnicity and study the specific ways in which struggles for self-determination have emerged in Mexico from the nineteenth century to the present. We will focus on various historical moments and issues including nation-building efforts and conflicts with the United States in the nineteenth century; issues of violence and class during the Mexican Revolution; contradictory uses of Indigenismo; popular movements and state repression in the 1960s and 70s; the emergence of the Zapatista movement; the economic impact of NAFTA; and questions of economic development and cultural identity during recent migrations to the United States.

Throughout the quarter, we will engage historical and contemporary realities in Mexico using multiple frameworks from the humanities and the social sciences. In the process, we will introduce literary and cultural theory, as well as economic theories of capitalist development. Students will gain an in-depth ability to interpret literary texts in their social contexts, and to use economic models to understand specific aspects of Latin American societies. This program will involve frequent writing assignments and develop skills in visual analysis.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

literature, history, economics, political economy, sustainable development and Latin American studies.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$25 for a one-day field trip (including museum admission).


Date Revision
December 6th, 2013 Fee has been reduced (from $100 to $25).
May 14th, 2013 Catalina Ocampo has joined the teaching team. The description has been updated. It is now offered winter only and will accept students of all class levels. Students who were interested in this program for fall should refer to the new fall program Caribbean Cultural Crossings.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 72


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20133
So - Sr (16 credits): 20242
(1-16 credits): 20528

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