History 262 focuses on Latin America from the late pre-contact period to the late eighteenth century, treating the history of the region thematically to bring out features of the region’s social and economic development. It examines the pre-Columbian worlds of Mesoamerica and the Andes, and explores the consequences of contact between those worlds and the intrusive European and African. The course emphasizes in particular the mindsets (mentalidades) and motives of the colonizer and the colonized, and the quest for identity in the American context (both issues intimately related to questions of race and ethnicity), the struggle to balance concerns for social justice against the search for profit, the evolution of systems of labor appropriation, the changing nature of land exploitation and tenure, and the circumstances of life both in “core” areas and on the periphery of empire. The course attempts throughout to elicit the voices of the participants, elite and non-elite alike, through the periodic inclusion of primary materials (letters, chronicles, and the like).
Questions of sovereignty and issues of class and racial inequality have roiled the surface of the Cuban Republic since its founding in 1902 in the wake of the Spanish-Cuban-American War, and led to two major violent breaks with the past, the Revolutions of 1933 and 1959. This course examines the context from which those revolutions emerged and how post-revolutionary governments addressed, or failed to address, the concerns that prompted Cubans to choose the “revolutionary option.” The course pays particular attention to the relationship between the United States and Cuba, the legacies of slavery and racism, and the shaping of Cuban revolutionary society after 1959. Our studies begin with readings from José Martí, the “father of the Cuban nation,” whose writings give us perspective on Cuba’s revolutionary heritage. We then move to works (both texts and films) elucidating aspects of twentieth- and early twenty-first century Cuban society that allow us to explore the conflictive issues of race, class, dependence, and “mediated sovereignty” Cuba has confronted since independence. Throughout, our concern is with social forces attempting to shape Cuban society over the course of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, sensitive to the ongoing struggle over who has the right to define a nation and its people.