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Latin American & Latino/a Studies

Chile Despertó, Santiago, Photograph by Carla Puentes Hernández

The interdisciplinary program of Latin American & Latino/a Studies (LALS) fosters a rich and critical understanding of Latin America, including Brazil and the Hispanic Caribbean, in its broadest sense. The program focuses on the cultural production, history and political, social and economic structures created by the inhabitants of the area extending from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, from California to Cuba, and in dialogue with the rest of the world. Students explore the diversity that existed in Latin America before the arrival of Europeans, the societies that subsequently developed among Native Americans, Europeans, Asians and Africans, and contemporary issues and forms of expression both of Latin Americans and of Latinas/os in the United States.


Best Article Prize from the Association of Latin American Art

Congratulations to Professor Dana Leibsohn, whose essay “Lost and Found at Sea, or a Shipwreck’s Art History,” co-authored with Aaron Hyman and published on West 86th, has received the Best Article Prize from the Association of Latin American Art.


The LALS Program has four primary goals for its students:

  • To understand Latin America and Latinos in the United States through the lenses of literature, the arts and the social sciences.
  • To investigate the specific historical conditions that have shaped—and continue to shape—these societies.
  • To develop communication skills in Spanish and/or Portuguese.
  • To further knowledge of the unique ways in which visual culture, literature, artistic production, history, politics and economics intertwine for present­-day people who consider themselves Latin Americans.

These goals focus our curriculum to prepare majors to successfully attain essential capacities, with particular strengths in developing historical and comparative perspectives through the study of the development of societies, cultures and philosophies; the study of languages; and the understanding of multi­- and interdisciplinary approaches. Likewise, the program curriculum fosters the development of informed global citizens with its fundamental commitment to engaging with communities beyond Smith, domestically and internationally, and its attention to the regional and global challenges of ethnic and racial diversity, as well as gender, environmental and social justice.

The curriculum is attentive to the development of critical and analytical thinking skills and the cultivation of the skills necessary to convey information and understanding. Students develop close reading, clear speaking and writing skills, most explicitly but not exclusively in literature and history courses. Course offerings in the humanities create opportunities for creative expression, in written as well as visual media and performance, and those in the social sciences develop the necessary skills to evaluate and present evidence accurately, verbally and in writing. Community­-based research courses and public scholarship -oriented research projects provide opportunities for students to work collaboratively and to reflect critically on the collaborative process.

The major (10 courses, 40 credits) builds upon core interdisciplinary work in Latin American Studies and centers a commitment to the study of Spanish and/or Portuguese. Building on the strength of the core, students will follow a program of studies related to Spanish America and/or Brazil from the disciplines of anthropology, art, dance, economics government, history literature, sociology and theater, through courses offered in affiliated departments and programs. Given the importance of Latino/a studies within the field of Latin American Studies, majors are required to take at least one course in this field. LALS emphasizes student-adviser mentoring partnerships to chart an appropriate curricular path through the major based on students' academic and co-curricular interests.


  • LAS 150
  • Other core requirements: LAS 250 and LAS 310: Capstone


All students must also complete seven electives:

two humanities courses (e.g., literary studies, historical studies, cultural studies) in Spanish or Portuguese; normally these will be at the 200-level [8 credits]

  • Two courses in the social sciences (e.g., Sociology, Anthropology, Government, Economics); normally these will be at the 200-level [8 credits]
  • One historically-focused class on Latin America (e.g., a course that considers Indigenous, Black and/or other histories of Latin America across a long durée, a temporal stretch that extends beyond 1950-present); normally at the 200 level [4 credits]
  • One course that focuses on the arts in/of Latin America (Art History, Film Studies, Theater, Dance); normally this will be at the 200-level [4 credits]
  • One course on Latin America at the 300-level; this class may be in any discipline [4 credits]

Of these seven courses, at least one must focus on the period before Independence (e.g., pre-1825) and one must focus on Latino/a studies.

To build coherence across this range of classes, we expect students to work with their major advisers, choosing their seven courses to develop an intellectual focus. Such foci may be:

  • Thematic (e.g., Race/Diaspora, Indigeneity, Gender/Sexuality, Latinidades, Migration/Immigration)
  • Geographic (e.g., National, Transborder/border Studies, Regional)
  • Temporal (e.g., pre-1825, 19th/20th century, contemporary)

The minor in Latino/a studies consists of six semester-long courses (24 credits).  This minor emphasizes key intellectual and methodological capacities for Latino/a Studies: exposure to the shared, transnational histories of Latin and Latino/a America; critical engagement with Spanish as a language of thought and cultural production; a shared, intellectual and interdisciplinary experience with a community of majors and minors in the program.

The S/U grading option is not allowed for courses counting towards the minor, except for these (pandemic) exceptions: any relevant classes taken in the spring of 2020, which were graded S/U by the College, will count towards the minor; students may also count up to two classes towards the major S/U, if thoses classes wre taken in the 2020-2021 academic year. 

All students must complete three core courses:

  • One course in the history of Latin America and/or the Caribbean (e.g., a course that considers Indigenous, Black and/or other histories of Latin America across a long durée, a temporal stretch that extends beyond 1950-present); normally at  the 200 level [4 credits]
  • One humanities or cultural communication course in Spanish (normally at the 200-level)
  • LAS 310: Capstone

All students must also complete three Latino/a-focused courses that fulfill these distribution requirements:

• At least one course in the social sciences, normally at the 200-level (ANT, ECO, GOV, SOC, HST)

• At least one course in the humanities/arts, normally at the 200-level (ARH, CLT, DAN, ENG, SPN, THE)

Students may count one course in Latino/a studies from another Five College institution toward the minor.


Honors Director: Michelle Joffroy (2023–24)

Please consult the director of honors for specific requirements and application procedures. More information about honors is available on the class deans website.


Admission by permission of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Committee.

  • The same as those for the major.
  • Thesis proposal, preferably prepared during the second semester of the student's junior year and submitted for consideration no later than the end of the first week of classes the following September.
  • A thesis and an oral examination on the thesis.

LAS 430d Thesis
Credits: 8 (yearlong course); offered each year

LAS 431 Thesis
Credits: 8; offered each fall


Students can choose from approximately 30 courses on Latin America offered every year by the departments of art, comparative literature, dance, government, history, sociology and Spanish and Portuguese, as well as from the interdisciplinary courses offered in the Latin American studies program. Fifty or more courses on Latin America are available through the Five College Consortium.

For additional information, please refer to the Smith College Course Search.

LAS 150 Introduction to Latin American and Latino/a/x Studies
Professor Vicente Carrillo

LAS 201of Colloquium: Topics in Latin American and Latino/a Studies
Organizing Freedom – Domestic Worker History and Cultures of Resistance in the Américas
Professor Michelle Joffroy

LAS 201ql Colloquium: Topics in Latin American and Latino/a Studies
Queer Latine Embodiments: Affect, Race, and Aesthetics
Professor Vicente Carrillo

LAS 260 Colloquium: Animal Histories of Latin America
Professor Javier Puente

For additional information, please refer to the Smith College Course Search.

AFR 111 Introduction to Black Culture
Professor Traci-Ann Wint

ANT 223 Caribbean Cultural Thought: The Plantation, Diaspora, and the Popular
Professor Aaron Kamugisha

ARH 201 Brazilian Art Inside and Out
Professor Marguerite I. Harrison

DAN 144 Tango I
Professor Laura Grandi

FYS110 A Century of Revolutions in Latin America 
Professor Javier Puente

POR 124 Elementary Portuguese for Spanish Speakers
Professor Malcom McNee

POR 125 Intermediate Portuguese 
Professor Simone M. Gugliotta

SOC 350 Seminar: Caribbean Feminisms
Professor Ginetta E.B. Candelario

SPN 200 Intermediate Spanish
Professor Melissa Belmonte

SPN 200 Intermediate Spanish
Professor Adrian A. Gras-Velasquez

SPN 230tm Topics in Latin American and Peninsular Culture and Society
Tales and Images of Travel and Migration in Latin America
Professor Maria Helena Rueda

SPN 245fw Topics in Latin American and Peninsula Studies
Latin American Films Made by Women
Professor Maria Helena Rueda

SPN 246ta The Transpacific Archive of the Americas
Professor Yeongju Lee

SPN 373rw Seminar: Topics in Cultural Movements in Spanish America
Radical Words: Latin American Women and the Struggle for Livable Worlds
Professor Michelle Joffroy

SPN 112y Beginning Spanish
Professor Molly Falsetti-Yu



Velma Garcia
Professor Emerita of Government

Maria Estela Harreteche
Professor Emerita of Spanish and Portuguese

Nancy Saporta Sternbach
Professor Emerita of Spanish

Andrew Zimbalist
Robert A. Woods Professor Emeritus of Economics

Anne Zulawski
Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor Emerita of History and of Latin American Studies

Study Abroad Opportunities

The Smith College Office for International Study has an extensive list of programs available for students wishing to go abroad. This list changes frequently, so please contact them directly for details.

Study Abroad in Brazil

Advisers: Marguerite Itamar Harrison and Malcolm McNee

See your academic adviser for more opportunities.





Department of Latin American & Latino/a Studies

Dewey House 106
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3679

Administrative Assistant: Lyndsay Lettre

For questions regarding the Latin American and Latino/a Studies major or minor, please contact chair Javier Puente