Interest in Latin American and U.S. Latino/a studies is increasing nationally and at Smith. The history, development and current status of Latin America are explored in approximately 30 courses offered every year by the departments of American studies, art, comparative literature, dance, economics, government, history, sociology and Spanish and Portuguese as well as in the interdisciplinary courses offered in the Latin American studies program. Fifty or more Latin American courses are available through the Five College Consortium.
This interdisciplinary major acquaints students with the emergence of new cultures that developed as a result of the meeting of Native Americans, Africans and European invaders, and examines contemporary issues affecting the area. The program also offers a minor concentrating on the experiences of Latinos/as in the United States.
About two dozen students currently major in Latin American studies. Proficiency in Spanish is required for majors, and a reading knowledge of Portuguese is also recommended. The program works closely with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, which offers majors in Spanish and Portuguese-Brazilian studies.
This program allows the student to tailor her choice of courses to her particular interests. Two yearlong surveys of Latin American history and Latin American literature form the basis of the major. Aside from this common core, each student chooses periods, disciplinary approaches or topics to complete the major requirements. The breadth of courses offered can accommodate interests as varied as Latina and Latin American women writers, the Mexican revolution, gender and public policy in Latin America and the Caribbean, development economics, race and ethnicity in the Americas, and Andean cultural history.
Knowledge of Latin American culture can grow outside class, too, at department lectures and at activities sponsored by the Latina student organization Nosotras, and by way of student liaisons of the Latin American studies and Spanish departments. Smith women frequently join study abroad programs in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Chile. Latin American studies majors may also choose to join the Smith-affiliated study program in Córdoba, Spain.
The professors teaching Latin American studies at Smith have done extensive research into the experiences of Hispanic populations in the United States and on countries including Cuba, Peru, Argentina and the Dominican Republic. Some of their special interests are in traditional medicine, Latin American feminist writers, economic history, peasant and socialist economies, contemporary literature, race and racism and educational policies in Latin America.