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Course Objectives

The objectives of this course are twofold: to develop useful knowledge as well as useful skills. Along with achieving our other major learning objectives, we will be able to answer some important questions regarding Latin American history:

These are some of the major themes we will be covering, although we will not be able to exhaust every example in every country. Another main objective of the course is for you to further develop your skills in critical thinking and writing so that you can express your knowledge in class discussions and on papers and exams. These skills will serve you in this course and in whatever you do in the future.

Learning Outcomes

Course Materials

I have chosen these readings with the above objectives in mind. You will read a total of six books for this course.

Required Textbooks

You will need to buy these textbooks.

Chasteen’s Born in Blood and Fire (referred to as “Chasteen” in the course materials) is a well-written and engaging text that offers a clear and concise view of Latin American history.

Chasteen and Wood’s Problems in Modern Latin American History (referred to as “CW” in the course materials) provides a useful combination of primary sources and secondary sources on specific issues and themes.

Chosen Books

You have choices with the other books you will read for the course.

For the early nineteenth century, you will choose between two biographies by John Lynch, either his book on Simón Bolívar or his book on San Martín, both of whom were great liberators of South America. You will write a paper on whichever book you choose to read. Choose one of these:

You also have a choice with your next book. You will read either José de Alencar’s Senhora: Profile of a Woman or Mariano Azuela’s The Underdogs. Both of them are novels, one Brazilian and the other Mexican, and you will have a writing assignment on one of these books as well. Choose one of these:

Your final paper will be on one of these two books:

Carlos Eire’s Waiting for Snow is a highly acclaimed memoir of the author’s upbringing in Cuba before and after the Cuban Revolution.

The other book is Patrick Symmes’s Chasing Che, which takes us on a journey in search of the legend of Ernesto “Che” Guevara—the Argentine doctor-turned-Cuban-revolutionary and current world icon. Patrick Symmes is a talented journalist who follows the trail of the Guevara legend in the 1990s, using Guevara’s 1952 diaries as a guide. We will thus be dialoguing with Guevara’s past and the Latin American present to see what things have changed and what things have remained the same.

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Lesson Quizzes

Each lesson concludes with a multiple-choice quiz that tests your knowledge of the concepts in the readings. The two lowest quiz scores will be dropped from your grade automatically.

Map Quiz

You will be quizzed on the countries of Latin America, their capital cities, and their major geographical traits (island groups, major rivers, mountain ranges, seas, and oceans). You also need to know the location of the Rio de la Plata, ParanĂ¡ River, Greater and Lesser Antilles, Falkland/Malvinas Islands, and the seas and oceans. Use the following maps as a study guide:

Analysis Papers

You will write three papers analyzing the books you read for the course. These papers are not summaries or book reviews. Instead, they should be an analytical elucidation of an aspect of the book you choose to focus on. In a short paper, you really need to choose a focused theme that is important in the book and hopefully one that interests you.


You need to come up with a focused topic and thesis for your paper. How do you go around doing that? I suggest that as you read these books, you take notes on a number of different themes you see reappearing (comparing different countries or cultures is too broad for this assignment). Once you find a theme, ask yourself more questions: “What role does this theme/argument/idea play in the book, and why is it important?” “Is this theme of sufficient significance as to merit a paper on it?” “Are there aspects of the book that contradict my idea?” “Can I narrow my focus even more?” After asking yourself these kinds or questions, you will eventually come up with a thesis statement that will serve as an indicator of what arguments your paper will pursue, and a thesis statement should then become a guiding light for you as you write your paper.

Here is an example of focusing a topic from a book about the Mexican Revolution. You might ask yourself a series of clarifying questionsthat, by the end, will lead you to a thesis statement for your paper:

You: “What topic interests me most, and is there enough material in the book to write on it?”
Yourself: “I want to write about religion, and yes, there is a lot of good material on it.” (A start, but way too big)
You: “What about religion?”
Yourself: “Women’s role in religion during the Mexican Revolution.” (More focused, but still too general.)
You: “What about women’s role in religion during the Revolution?”
Yourself: “I’m interested in what kind of power or authority they had.”

Eventually you might end up with a statement (hypothetical) like this: “The Mexican Revolution weakened traditional Catholic cultural values in Mexico, which opened the door for women to exercise more power in religion even though the Church was weaker.” I will ask you to bold your thesis statemnt. This is not common for final paper assignments, but I sometimes ask students to bold their thesis for the student's own benefit. If you have to bold your thesis statement, then you have to have a thesis statement, and that helps a lot of students.


The assigned books should provide the majority of the information, content, and evidence for your paper.

You should use and cite information and quotes from the book to provide context and evidence for your arguments. You should quote specific, short passages, but long block quotes are not needed in such a short paper. Paraphrase more and save your quotes for passages from the books that are key to your argument.

In addition to the assigned book, you will need to include at least three additional academic sources to compliment your paper. Outside sources should fit into the flow of the paper and they should strengthen your arguments (they should not stick out like a sore thumb). Articles in scholarly journals, chapters in edited volumes, and books on your topic will be the most useful. Be sure to briefly introduce your source and show how it fits into your paper (“As one historian of Revolutionary Cuba argues . . .”). If you have access to hard copies in a local library, feel free to use them.

You also have access to the online resources of the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. Finding articles online is easy through BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library website. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the library website ( and log in with your NetID and password.
  2. Enter the title, author, search terms, and so on, then click Search (the magnifying glass icon).
  3. Click Available Online, then click Full Text Online. (You may have several options.)
  4. Click the title of the article to read the full text.

You can also search freely available online databases. JSTOR and Project Muse are two of the best databases to locate appropriate articles, but there are others as well. These do not count as prohibited “Internet sources” (such as Wikipedia or blogs) because they are real academic publications placed on the Internet.


These papers are formal history writing assignments and should be grounded in the history portrayed in the books. You should write to an audience (your instructor) that is somewhat familiar with Sarmiento and Eire’s books. However, you should still provide context and evidence from the book. Your writing should

  1. use clear and effective sentences.
  2. use proper grammar and structure—intro, analytical thesis, body of main arguments supported with evidence in a coherent style, transitions between sections and ideas, and conclusion.
  3. not be an informal personal narrative of your reaction to the book.

Many things in these books will resonate with you personally. That is fine, but this assignment is not designed for you to write a reflection based on your time spent in Latin America nor some other personal journey. Keep your paper grounded in the history portrayed in the book. Your audience understands that you are expressing your own opinions, but you do so with evidence, turning those opinions into conclusions backed up by evidence. Do not turn your paper into a personalized religion paper.

Paper Format

Follow these formatting guidelines as you prepare your paper.

Note: Save your papers in .DOC or .DOCX format and submit the files through your course online for grading.


You will be graded based on how well you meet the parameters, style, and format of the assignment (thesis; content/argument/analysis; organization, structure, grammar, and flow; use of sources; formatting).

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We will have one midcourse and one final exam. The midcourse exam covers material in lessons 1–11. The final exam covers material in lessons 12–21, with some comprehensive elements.

Please see the exam-preparation pages for more details and relevant study guides.

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These items all count toward your course grade.

Assignment Percentage of Grade
Map quiz 2%
Lesson quizzes 23%
Paper 1 (Lynch) 5%
Paper 2 (Allencar or Azuela) 15%
Paper 3 (Symmes or Erie) 15%
Mid-course exam 20%
Final Exam 20%

Grade Scale

I will determine your letter grade using these percentages.

A 93–100
A− 90–92
B+ 88–89
B 83–87
B− 80–82
C+ 78–79
C 73–77
C− 70–72
D+ 68–69
D 63–67
D− 60–62
E (fail) 59 and below

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Course Content Issues

The question of what is appropriate and inappropriate course content can at times be a contentious issue. At BYU there may be consensus at the extremes (what is appropriate for sure and what is for sure inappropriate), but there is surely a large middle ground where opinions might differ. I think the heart of the matter lies in the purpose of education. Retired history professor Frank Fox, chosen by BYU Today magazine as one of the top 10 teachers of all time at BYU, uses this example to illustrate the point about the university environment and the purpose of education:

If you go to a graveyard, dig up a body, take it to your garage and begin cutting it up, you will probably get arrested and jailed for a number of offenses. However, in a university classroom students in anatomy classes observe, handle, and cut up dead bodies. What is the difference between the two scenarios? The difference is the educational environment of the university, and the educational intent of a particular activity.

To that example we could add others. History is a broad subject that encompasses all human experience—politics, economics, religion, culture, and gender relations. Beside traditional written histories, peoples also express their history and culture through art, so the study of images created by various artists and cultures of the past are very much a part of the study of history. We come to university to learn about all things in and under the earth, even if they may not always reflect the way we see the world. Like the analogy of the anatomy class cutting up dead bodies, we study the full spectrum of human activity at the university in order to learn and understand.

Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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