The Spanish-Speaking World: Cultural Crossings

Fall 2016, Winter 2017, and Spring 2017 quarters

Taught by

Spain and Latin America share not only the Spanish language, but also an intertwined history of complex cultural crossings. The cultures of both arose from dynamic and sometimes violent encounters and continue to be shaped by uneven power relationships as well as vibrant forms of resistance. In this program students will engage in intensive study of the Spanish language and explore cultural production by Spaniards and Latin Americans in historical context. Every week will include seminars on readings in English, Spanish language classes, a lecture or workshop conducted in Spanish, and a Spanish-language film. There will be regular written seminar responses, synthesis essays, and creative writing exercises. Please note that Spanish language classes are integrated into the program—students do not have to register for them separately. We welcome students with any level of Spanish from true beginner to advanced.

Fall quarter we will explore cultural crossings in Spain and Latin America prior to the 20th century and examine cross-linguistic influences, questions of epistemology, cultural negotiation, and hybridization in the context of unequal relations of power. We will study the coexistence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in medieval Spain and the suppression of Jewish and Muslim communities during the Spanish Inquisition. We will also focus on the encounter between indigenous and European cultures after the arrival of Europeans on the American continent. Finally, we will turn to Latin America's struggles for independence in the 19th century and analyze to what extent they changed or reproduced colonial institutions and structures. Our readings will include historical accounts as well as contemporary cultural products that reexamine and reimagine these encounters.

Winter quarter, we will turn to the 20th and 21st centuries in Spain and Latin America by considering multiple perspectives on the significance and legacies of iconic historical and cultural events. Possible cases include the Mexican Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, transitions to democracy in Spain and Latin America, the Nicaraguan Revolution, and the impact of unprecedented migration in the Americas. In each of these contexts, we will explore the interrelationships between politics and cultural production and how literature and film can impact processes of social change. Students will have the opportunity to develop a project around a book of their choosing and to engage in local community work.

Spring quarter offers two options for study abroad and an internship option with local Latino organizations for those who stay on campus. The Santo Tomás, Nicaragua, program is coordinated with the Thurston-Santo Tomás Sister County Association and its counterpart in Nicaragua and is open to four to eight intermediate/advanced language students. The Mérida, Mexico option is coordinated with HABLA Language and Culture Center, and is open to 15 or more students of all language levels. For students staying in Olympia, the program will have an on-campus core of Spanish classes and seminars focused on Latino/a communities in the U.S. and the opportunity for student-originated projects and/or internships. All classes during spring quarter, in Olympia and abroad, will be conducted entirely in Spanish.

Internship Opportunities

Students remaining on campus spring quarter may intern with organizations serving local Latino/a communities. Students must complete an in-program Internship Learning Contract in consultation with the faculty and Academic Advising. Please go to Individual Study for more information.

Program Details

Fields of Study

cultural studies history language studies literature writing

Preparatory For

Latin American and international studies, literary and cultural studies, Spanish language, politics, history, education, film studies, writing, and human and social services.


Fall Open Winter Signature Spring Signature

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Study Abroad

Mexico or Nicaragua, 10 weeks, spring, approximately $4,700 for Mexico (15 or more students at all language levels) or approximately $3,600 for Nicaragua (4-8 intermediate/advanced language students), plus airfare. A deposit of $250 is due by Feb 1, 2017. For details on study abroad, visit or contact Michael Clifthorne at .

Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First spring class meeting: Tuesday, April 4 at 10am (Sem II B3109)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$100 in winter for overnight field trips.

May be offered again in



2016-11-17Fall fee cancelled.