Latin American and Caribbean Studies 101:
Introduction to Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Fall, 2019

Professor Ellen Mayock

MWF:  9:45-10:45 / CGL 203

Contact information for Professor Mayock: 

Tucker 305



Office Hours for Fall, 2019: 

Mondays, 3-4pm

Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 2-3pm

Fridays, 11am-12noon

and by appointment


Class Schedule

Course description

LACS 101 is a multi-disciplinary, introductory course designed to familiarize students with the pertinent issues that determine or affect the concept of identity in Latin American and Caribbean societies through a study of their geography, history, politics, economics, literature, and culture.

This course counts as FDR in the HU category.

This course fulfills the introductory requirement for the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Minor. Students should consult the LACS website for more information about completing the Minor.


LACS 101 provides an introductory framework for students to be able to engage fully in future courses that examine aspects of Latin America and Caribbean. The course material allows students to understand the scope of methodological and disciplinary skills they will use in subsequent courses at the upper levels and to continue to make interdisciplinary connections as they approach the capstone experience.  LACS 101 has as its objectives the following LACS Program objectives:

1.  Identify and explain characteristics of people and places of Latin America and the Caribbean—and, when appropriate, show how they are distinct from North America.

2.  Identify and explain regional variations within Latin America and the Caribbean.

3.  Develop writing and oral communication skills to treat issues related to Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

4.  Participate in a community of learning that engages with current issues regarding Latin America and the Caribbean in and out of the classroom.


·        This course approaches the study of Latin America and the Caribbean through disciplinary and geographic breadth:

·        We examine the diverse ways in which the relevant disciplines approach the study of Latin America and the Caribbean. Classes will include discussions and lectures that reflect issues across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, in such areas as history, literature and culture, biology, social organization, and political economy. In the first part of the course, the readings and class organization build on the region’s historical context and its legacies. In the second part, we apply these concepts to specific sociocultural issues.

·        The course aims to familiarize students with the principal geo-cultural regions: the Hispanophone sub-cultures of the Southern Cone, Mesoamerica, Andean Region, and the Antilles; the Lusophone culture of Brazil; the Francophone and Anglophone areas of the Caribbean; and the profound links between and among these regions, the United States, and the rest of the world.

·        A written research project will serve to allow student to explore their own interests and at the same time to bring together disciplinary and geographic approaches.

Reading List

Required texts:

Americas: The Changing Face of Latin America and the Caribbean. Winn, Peter. (UC Press, 2006; 3rd edition)

Americas: An Anthology, Rosenberg, Mark B., A. Douglas Kincaid (Oxford UP, 1992)



Texts on Reserve:

Americas Video Series (WGBH-Boston). On reserve in Leyburn and digitized in TMC

Black in Latin America (PBS).  On reserve in Leyburn.

Films:  Los diarios de motocicleta (“Motorcycle Diaries”); Yo, la peor de todas (“I, the Worst of All”); Quinceañera; También la lluvia

Other useful resources:

Latin America and the Caribbean.  Clawson, David L.  (Oxford UP, 2012, 5th Edition)  *Extremely useful.

Latin America: The World Today Series. Buckman, Robert T. (Baltimore, 2006)

The Buried Mirror. [Text and Videos] Fuentes, Carlos. (Boston, 1992)

Understanding Contemporary Latin America. . Hillman, Richard S., ed. (Boulder, 2005)

Americas: New Interpretative Essays. Stepan, Alfred, ed. (Oxford, 1992)

Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks From The Heart: The Story of Elvia Alvarado. Benjamin, Medea. (Harper Perennial; 1989)


*See Professor Mayock, LACS faculty, and librarian Professor Dick Grefe for additional resources and suggestions.  See this list of resources via the LACS homepage.

*See also this excellent Leyburn Library research guide for LACS 101.



Class Current Events Blog:

·        For our LACS 101 blog, students must follow these instructions in order to share current events of LA/C:

·        Find an article on the LA/C region from a reliable news source.  Open a Word document and complete the following steps;

·        Include the title of the article, its source (link), and a creative title for your post, and then summarize the article in 75-100 words;

·        Write a critical reaction of no fewer than 250 words.  The critical reaction can be comparative (e.g. how does what has happened compare to situations in other areas of this particular country, or other areas of LA/C, or of the U.S.?), prescriptive (e.g.  I understand the problem, and I offer solutions from other local/regional/national contexts here), and/or supplementary (e.g. this article is interesting, but it neglects to address X point, which I’m addressing here).  The reaction should demonstrate increasing understanding of the complexities and nuances of LA/C;

·        Include a word count.  Print the word document, write out the FULL PLEDGE, and SIGN the pledge.  Place the paper document in a two-pocket folder for submission to Prof. Mayock on the assigned day;

·        Post your article write-up by 10:00 pm on the night before the class discussion;

·        You must ALSO read and comment on the blog posts of two classmates.  Comments must be posted before the start of class (9:45am) on the assigned day.

Group presentations:

·        As assigned, groups of students present in class on specific regions of Latin America and the Caribbean.  Groups must provide a one-page handout for students and the professor for all presentations. Groups must organize carefully the format, content, handout, and discussion questions (*what are the principal issues affecting this country/region, and why?) and must be prepared to answer questions from the class.  Presentations should be 10-12 minutes in duration.  Students should not read from their materials, but rather should present their ideas in a creative, lively, informative way.  Students should avoid vague stereotypes about the region and focus on concrete information.


A:  The Anglo and French Caribbean:  Case, Joe, Katie

      B:  The Hispanic Caribbean:  Carissa, Dalton, Hannah, Kristen

      C:  Mexico and Central America:  Adam, Jack, Owen, Tristan

      D:  The Andean Region:  Eleni, Jacob, Logan

      E:  The Southern Cone:  Janie, Lauren, Lydia, Megan

      F:  Brazil:  Audrey, Clarie, Eli, Hadley


Research paper:

·       Students will select an individual research topic as the basis for a research paper.  All topics must be approved by the professor.  Sample topics include: “NAFTA, 25 Years Later,” “Left and Right in Latin America,” “Artistic Representations by and about Latinxs in the United States,” “Presidential Politics in ____ Region,” “Place and Race in {region of LA/C}” “Gender Politics in {region of LA/C},” etc.

·       Papers should be 8-9 pages in length (12 point, Times New Roman) and should be typed, double-spaced, and stapled.  Use MLA Style.  All work should be the student’s own work.  Be careful with citation practices!  If you are using a direct quote, make sure to include a parenthetical reference with the author’s last name and the page # of the source.  If you are using someone else’s idea, also include a parenthetical reference with the author’s last name and the page number or numbers from which the idea came.  Make sure to write out and sign the pledge at the end of your paper. 

·       A written proposal (1-2 paragraphs; thesis (= WHAT will you examine and HOW [roadmap to your paper]); WHY this topic interests you; and possible research sources) is due to the professor by Friday, October 4.  Final research papers are due by Wednesday, November 13.  *Papers submitted by Friday, November 1 will receive a bonus of 3 points.

·       Leyburn Library Course Research Guide:

Testing:  Students will take the midterm exam at the Global Discovery Laboratories (GDL) on the date indicated on the syllabus.  GDL hours of operation are posted on the web site:

Honor System:  Unless otherwise indicated, all work submitted by a student to the professor should be the student’s own work (and not work copied from another student or copied/borrowed without citation from another source).  The professor will give clear guidelines for each assignment and quiz/test.

Final Grade

Class preparation and participation


Blog Entries


Group Presentation


Research Paper


Midterm Exam


Final Exam



Grading Scale:

100-90   A

89-80     B

79-70     C

69-60     D

59-0       F


Class participation:


Your participation grade is based on both the quantity and quality of your participation.  In particular:



Washington and Lee University makes reasonable academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. All undergraduate accommodations must be approved through the Office of the Dean of the College. Students requesting accommodations for this course should present an official accommodation letter within the first two weeks of the (fall or winter) term and schedule a meeting outside of class time to discuss accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to present this paperwork in a timely fashion and to follow up about accommodation arrangements. Accommodations for test-taking should be arranged with the professor at least a week before the date of the test or exam. 

Last modified 9/9/19.