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Latin America During the National Period (HIST 140)

"Poor people inhabit rich lands"
- E. Bradford Burns

Spring 2004, Truman State University
MC209, TR 1:30-2:50 & 3:00-4:20
Office: KB 225A

Marc Becker
Office Hours: W 1:30-3:30
Phone: x6036


This course surveys the history of Latin America from the arrival of the first peoples on the American continents to the present. We will examine a variety of issues including economics, democracy, racism, class structures, gender, ethnicity, human rights, globalization, and popular movements. Rather than analyzing Latin America from a North American point of view, we will examine how Latin Americans view themselves and how their culture, economics, and politics have developed in different directions than the United States and Europe.

This course fulfills the History mode of inquiry in the Liberal Studies Program. It is designed to train you to:

  • think historically about why things happen the way they do;
  • understand how historians work in an interdisciplinary manner to interpret the events of the past;
  • analyze the interplay between choices individuals have made and developments societies have undergone;
  • appreciate the richness of different cultures.


You are expected and required to attend every class session, and you are responsible for the material covered in the lectures, readings and films, and for any announcements made in class. Unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade. Please drop me an email note if you are sick or otherwise unable to attend class. If you have a disability or any conflicts which may affect your class performance, please bring this to my attention immediately so that we can make arrangements for this to be a positive learning experience for you. Please let me know if you have suggestions for improving the class.

My primary means of communication with you outside of class will be via the CourseInfo ( web page. To logon, enter your email id as the user name, and your social security number as your password (unless you have already changed this password for another class). Once you are logged on, click on "student tools" and then "change your information" to change your password. If you forget your password, email the administrator ( to reset it for you. Be sure the email address under "student tools" is set to an account that you regularly read. Please let me know if you need assistance in using these resources.


Following are the required books for this class. Read the assignments before class so that you are prepared to carry on an intelligent discussion of the material in class. Lectures will complement the readings and assume the base level of knowledge which they present, so it is critically important that you keep up with the readings. Do not wait until the last minute to buy these books since about half-way through the semester the bookstore will return unsold copies to the publisher.

Chasteen, John Charles. Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. New York: Norton, 2001.

Dorfman, Ariel. Exorcising Terror: The Incredible Unending Trial of General Augusto Pinochet. New York: Seven Stories Press; 2002.

Gott, Richard. In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chávez and the Transformation of Venezuela. London: Verso, 2001.

Murillo, Mario. Colombia and the United States. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003.

Rampolla, Mary Lynn. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003.

Assignments and grades

Course grades will be based on the following assignments. You can check your grade progress in CourseInfo (there is a total of 1000 possible points in the class). More detailed information on the written assignments will be posted to the web page. I do not accept "drop and run" papers. Grades on late assignments will be penalized 10% for each day that they are late. Successful completion of all assignments is required to receive credit for this class.

Map quiz (Jan 22)
Rampolla exercise (Jan 22)
Magical Realism (Jan 27)
Midterm exam (March 4)
Colombia essay (March 30)
Venezuela/Chile essay (April 29)
Final exam
Daily identification terms (5 pts ea.)
Weekly quizzes (10 pts ea.)

40 pts.

The map quiz will require identification of 20 Latin American countries and their capitals, and will be taken on the Cinfo web page. The Rampolla exercise will help you learn how to write a history essay. The essays are to be three-pages long, typed, double spaced, include citations and a bibliography, and follow good essay form. For the essay on Magical Realism, discuss what it is and how it is portrayed in The House of the Spirits. Later I will post more elaborate descriptions of the questions you should address in the other essays to the Cinfo page. We will decide on the exact format of the midterm exam later, but it may include objective (multiple choice, matching, true/false, etc.) as well as identification or essay questions. The final exam is comprehensive and will include everything we have covered this semester. We will begin each class period with identifying and giving the significance of one identification term drawn from a list posted to the Cinfo web page for each of the assigned readings in the Chasteen textbook. These will be graded on a scale of 1 to 5 points. One point means that you are present, 2 points indicate that something was fundamentally wrong with your response, 3 points indicate a rote response from the text, 4 points represent analytical thought, and 5 points are for responses that reveal critical thought that extends significantly beyond the text and places the term in a broad historical context. Eleven weekly quizzes will consist of 5 multiple choice questions based on the identification terms from the Chasteen textbook. Take these quizzes on the Cinfo webpage by noon on Thursdays of the weeks that there are readings from the Chasteen text.

Class Schedule

Week 1 & 2 (Jan 13-22) Introduction & Geography
Read: Chasteen, ch. 1 "First Stop, the Present"
Jan Knippers Black, "Introduction: The Evolution of Latin American Studies," in Jan Knippers Black, ed., Latin America, Its Problems and Its Promise: A Multidisciplinary Introduction, 3rd ed. (Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 1998), 1-17 (on reserve in the library or on the Cinfo page).
Rampolla, Pocket Guide to Writing in History
Assignments: Map quiz (due Thursday, Jan 22)
Rampolla exercise (due Thursday, Jan 22)
Magical Realism essay (due Tuesday, Jan 27

Week 3 (Jan 27) Encounter
Read: Chasteen, ch. 2 "Encounter" (Note: quiz is due on Tuesday this week)

Week 4 (Feb 3-5) Colonial
Read: Chasteen, ch. 3 "Colonial Crucible"

Week 5 (Feb 10-12) Independence
Read: Chasteen, ch. 4 "Independence"

Week 6 (Feb 17-19) Caudillos
Read: Chasteen, ch. 5 "Postcolonial Blues"

Week 7 (Feb 24-26) 19th-Century Latin America
Read: Chasteen, ch. 6 "Progress"

Week 8 (March 2-4) Midterm review & exam

Week 9 (March 16-18) Neocolonialism
Read: Chasteen, ch. 7 "Neocolonialism"

Week 10 (March 23-25) Nationalism
Read: Chasteen, ch. 8 "Nationalism"
Murillo, Colombia and the United States
Assignment: Colombia essay (due Tuesday, March 30)

Week 11 (March 30-April 1) Revolution
Read: Chasteen, ch. 9 "Revolution"

Week 12 (April 8) Chile
Read: Dorfman, Exorcising Terror

Week 13 (April 13-15) Reaction
Read: Chasteen, ch. 10 "Reaction"

Week 14 (April 20-22) Venezuela
Read: Gott, In the Shadow of the Liberator
Assignment: Venezuela/Chile essay (due Thursday, April 29)

Week 15 (April 27-29) Globalization
Read: Chasteen, ch. 11 "Neoliberalism"

May 4 Final review

Final Exam
1:30 section: Tuesday, May 7, 11:30-1:20
3:00 section: Monday, May 10, 11:30-1:20

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