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Latin American Culture and Society

Modern Languages Program

ESCUELA DE LA TIERRA (ET)(School of the Earth)
International Programs


Code Number CS5100
Level: Undergraduate
Nature: Theoretical with field trips
Credit Hours: 4 
Modality: 3 intensive weeks
Weekly hours: 20/3 weeks
Attending hours: mon-tues: 6 hrs each; wed-thurs: 4 hrs each 
Independent study: 19 hours
Prerequisite: None

Bryan Gonzalez Hernandez
Rodolfo Meono Soto
Guadalupe Urbina
Francisco Robles

1.Course Description:

This class discusses cultural trends and characteristics of and in Costa Rican and Latin American societies throughout their history. The natural history and landscapes first received migrants during the last Pleistocene and especially during the Holocene (since about 10.000/8.000 Before the Common Era -BCE). These societies evolved and expanded all over the continent, Costa Rica becoming one of the principal migration routes and receiving influences from North and South lands, and from both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. These indigenous societies had many types of social organizations and rich and complex cultural forms and practices, including empires with large cities already during the first millennium CE (Common Era) and until the European invasion during the XV century CE. The colonial conquest and domination by Spain and Portugal (Brazil)(XV-XIX centuries) represented an effort to destroy and replace the multiple cultural variations and diversity characteristic of the indigenous societies, by counter reformist and inquisitorial Catholicism. Thus, during the colonial times culture was centered on the Church and on the arts it required. To an important extent, though, popular and indigenous cultures were incorporated by the characteristic syncretism of that regime. The Republican era still alive today, began during the first three decades of the XIX century and has adopted several social, cultural, and political forms, alternating oligarchic, dictatorial and democratic regimes. European influence was very strong during the XIX century while the cultural influences arising from the United States have been dominant during the XX and XXI centuries. During the Republican era, especially after 1900, the region has generated worldwide influential art and culture, including Modernist poetry, Mural painting, popular and folk Music, Novel and Poetry. Latin America has strongly influenced European and American cultures. In this class, emphases are put on Literature, Painting, Music, Architecture, and about recent discussions on culture, mass media and internet influences and trends.

1. General Educational Goals:

At the end of the class, the student will be able:
  • To have a general historical understanding of Latin America´s cultural characteristics, (countries, epochs and periods, trends, contents, schools and authors), including illustrations and exemplars;
  • To experience and report on, a current Latin American cultural event/artifact; and
  • To explore a current Latin American cultural event/artifact
2. Evaluation:

Three General L.A. History exercises15
 Visit and report on a current cultural event/artifact30
 A cultural/artistic contribution from Latin America (Country, period, specific art/craft/organization, authors, contents, exemplars)30
 Readings & Video Reports25

3. Methodology:

The subject matter is approached historically, for the Latin American region as a whole (Spanish and Portuguese colonies during the XV-XIX centuries) and with emphasis on principal cultural/social centers, characteristics, trends, institutions and authors. Typical exemplars are used to explore each epoch and period. The students also investigate a current cultural/artistic event/artifact/organization. Teachers and groups of students introduce each class, to open a general discussion of the topics, followed by presentations.

4. Educational Resources:

Students read selections from

Alexander, Gauvin (2005) Art of Colonial Latin America (Art and Ideas). Phaidon Press.

Barnitz, J. (2001) Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America. University of Texas Press.

Bethell, L. (1998) A Cultural History of Latin American Literature, Music and the Visual Arts in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Cambridge University Press.

Craven, D. (2006) Art and Revolution in Latin America 1910-1990. 2nd Ed. Yale University Press.

Gagini, C. (1991) Redemptions (El arbol enfermo). E. Bradford Burns, Translator. San Diego State University.

Leon Portilla, M. & E. Shorris (2002) In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature, Pre-Columbian to the Present. W.W. Norton & Company.

Lucie-Smith, E. (2004) Latin American Art of the 20th Century. 2nd Ed. Thames & Hudson.

Miller, M.E. (2012) The Art of Mesoamerica (World of Art), 5th Ed. Thames & Hudson.

Tapscott, S. (Ed.)(1996) Twentieth Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology. University of Texas Press.