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Willamette University

900 State Street
Salem, Oregon 97301

503-370-6300 voice

Latin American Studies View this department's website

Latin American Studies is an interdisciplinary program that combines subject matter and modes of inquiry from several academic disciplines to give the student a broad background encompassing the historical, political, social, and cultural aspects of the region. Students are encouraged to develop the analytical and evaluative skills that will enable them to gain a systematic understanding of the region. Majors demonstrate language proficiency in Spanish and are strongly encouraged to participate in a Willamette-sponsored program in Latin America.

The degree program in Latin American Studies affords the student a wide range of career opportunities in the United States and abroad. The rapid growth of the Latino population in the United States produces an increasing need for trained persons with a knowledge of the Latin American region to work in teaching, government, the nonprofit sector, journalism, business, and other fields. The major is also well-suited to students who wish to pursue graduate work in Latin American studies or other disciplines in which a Latin American specialization is helpful.

Requirements for the Latin American Studies Major (11 Credits)

Eleven credits are required in the Latin American Studies major. These should be determined in consultation with a Latin American Studies academic advisor by the end of the sophomore year. A service learning component is also required for the major; it may be met by satisfactory completion of LAS 251 or (subject to prior faculty approval) by a service learning component in an approved study-abroad program. A minimum of six credits must be earned in residency at Willamette University. Credits that students earn in a Willamette-sponsored Latin American program may be substituted for course requirements listed below, subject to faculty approval. Credits to be earned abroad should be approved by the Latin American Studies faculty before the foreign study program begins.

Core course

  • LAS 251 Latin American Cultures (1)

Three credits from Group A

Two credits from Group B

  • LAS 244 Latino/Latina Voices in the US (1) [Crosslisted RHET 244]
  • REL 334 Liberation Theology and Social Change (1)
  • LAS 380 Latin American Cinema [Crosslisted SPAN 380] (1)
  • LAS 350 (IT; TH) Mesoamerican Civilizations (1)
  • SPAN 333 (TH) Hispanic Civilization (1)

Two credits from Group C

  • SPAN 355 (IT) Latin American Literature I: Conquest to Modernismo (1)
  • SPAN 356 (IT) Latin American Literature II: Modernismo to the Present (1)
  • SPAN 357 (IT) Indigenous Literatures of Latin America (1)
  • SPAN 427 Topics in Latin American Literature (1)
  • SPAN 428 Contemporary Mexican Literature (1)
  • SPAN 430 History of Hispanic Thought (1)
  • SPAN 431 Contemporary Novel and Short Story (1)
  • SPAN 435 Contemporary Latin American Women Writers (1)
  • Two additional courses to be chosen from Group A, B, or C
  • LAS 497 (W) Senior Thesis in Latin American Studies (1)

Double majoring in Latin American Studies and International Studies (Latin American regional focus) is not permitted.

LAS Honors: Given to the graduating senior(s) with the highest GPA in the major (minimum: 3.7). No more than two students will receive LAS honors in a given year.

Requirements for the Latin American Studies Minor (5 Credits)

Core course

Groups A, B and C (4)

Students must take four credits in each of the three groups (A, B and C) but no more than two credits from any given group.

Minors will not take LAS 497 Senior Thesis in Latin American Studies.


  • Patricia Varas, Professor of Spanish, Chair
  • Francisco Barbosa, Visiting Instructor of History and Latin American Studies
  • Maria Blanco-Arnejo, Professor of Spanish
  • Nathaniel Cordova, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies
  • Robert C. Dash, Professor of Politics
  • Jennifer Jopp, Assistant Professor of History
  • William Smaldone, Professor of History
  • Kelley Strawn, Assistant Professor of Sociology
  • John Uggen, Professor of Spanish
  • Charles I. Wallace Jr., Associate Professor of Religious Studies and University Chaplain
  • Peter Wogan, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Course Listings

LAS 251 Latin American Cultures (1)

This course provides an introduction to major aspects of Latin American Cultures (especially indigenous cultures), including the following: conquest history, ethnicity, national identity, religion, healing, politics, gender, media representations, Latinos in the U.S., and language. A service-learning component involves work with a local community agency serving Latinos.

  • Offering: Spring
  • Instructor: Chambers

LAS 330 Landscapes and Cultures of South America (1)

This course is designed to serve as an introduction to the lands and peoples of South America. The nature of the colonial experience is of primary concern to us, with similarities and differences drawn between the operation of the two great imperial powers, Spain and Portugal.

  • Offering: Alternate springs
  • Instructor: Chambers

LAS 331 Landscapes and Cultures of Middle America (1)

Landscapes and Cultures of Middle America is designed to serve as a general introduction to the lands and peoples of Middle America, defined territorially as Mexico, Central America, and the Greater and Lesser Antilles. As our opening lecture will demonstrate, these geographical limits are increasingly blurred as the lives of North Americans are inexorably tied to those of our southern neighbors. The course will feature regular film screenings, with visual representations of Middle America reality drawn from several genres (documentary, drama, historical reconstruction).

  • Offering: Alternate springs
  • Instructor: Chambers

LAS 350 (IT; TH) Mesoamerican Civilizations (1)

This course presents the intellectual and material achievements of ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, particularly the Olmec, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, Maya, Toltec and Aztec; examines the contributions of humanistic and scientific approaches to understanding pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations; and looks at the enduring influences of Mesoamerican cultures in contemporary Mexico and Central America.

Mode of Inquiry: Interpreting Texts; Thinking Historically; Indigenous Peoples and Cultures Cluster

Prerequisite: One of ANTH 250 or LAS/ANTH 251; or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Alternate years in spring
  • Instructor: Dash

LAS 379 Latinos in U.S. Politics (1)

[Crosslisted with POLI 379]

This course looks at the role of Latino national origin groups in shaping state and national politics in the United States. It examines the political history, voting behavior, and non-electoral political mobilization of the three largest Latino groups in the United States -- Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban, and questions the degree to which it is useful to conceive of a single Latino politics and Latino community. The course also focuses on specific public policies of concern to Latinos, and it pays particular attention to the transnational hemispheric processes that link U.S. Latinos to their countries of origin. Not open to freshmen.

Prerequisite: One POLI 100 or 200 level course, or one 200 level LAS course or consent of instructor

  • Offering: Alternate falls
  • Instructor: Dash

LAS 380 Latin American Cinema (1)

[Crosslisted with SPAN 380]

This course examines films, features and documentaries, by and about Latin Americans. It focuses on the political, economic, social, and aesthetic tensions that characterize the region and contextualize cinematic production. It explores the constitution of Latin American cultural identity through film. Readings, written and oral work will be carried out in English.

  • Offering: Alternate years in fall
  • Instructor: Dash, Varas

LAS 497 (W) Senior Thesis in Latin American Studies (1)

In the Senior Thesis, students are expected to integrate various components of the major program in the analysis of a topic of special interest. Topics must be proposed to and approved by the Latin American Studies faculty. The thesis will normally be written in English, but the incorporation of documentation and references in Spanish will be required. Also, a multi-page précis of the thesis in Spanish must accompany the thesis. The thesis is presented to a faculty examination committee upon its completion.

General Studies Requirement Fulfillment: Writing centered

Prerequisite: Senior standing in Latin American Studies

  • Offering: Annually
  • Instructor: Staff