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Latin American & Latino/a Studies

Night sky of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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 Latinos in the United States.

Important Academic Information for Spring 2020

In response to COVID-19, Smith College has implemented alternate modes of instruction for all academic courses for the remainder of the spring semester, as of March 30, 2020. Guidelines and information for academic continuity are available below. For general information, read the college’s FAQ about COVID-19 and visit the digital support for spring 2020 website.

Updates and information will be posted here as soon as they become available.


Film and Culture

Want to know what’s been happening in Latin American film? See Remezcla’s take on the best films of the last decade.

Art from the Caribbean

Zilia Sánchez has her first museum retropsective at the Museo del Barrio in New York City, Soy Isla (I am an Island).


For current news from Brazil—in English, Portuguese or Spanish—read Folha de S. Paulo’s international edition.

Smith Award Winners

Congratulations to Julieta Rendon-Mendoza ’21 for the 2020 Innovation Challenge grant, “Hopkins House as a Food Justice Home.” As part of this project, students will lead on-campus programs and conversations with local community members around issues of food and justice.

Faculty News

Professor Velma Garcia’s book, Gabriela Mistral’s Letters to Doris Dana, won honorable mention for the Morton N. Cohen award from the Modern Language Association. The book was praised as a significant reevaluation of Gabriela Mistral, the first Nobel Prize-winning Latin American poet.


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, 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 courses (24 credits) emphasizing key intellectual and methodological capacities: 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.

Required Core

  • One course in the history of Latin America and/or the Caribbean
  • 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: Dana Leibsohn (2019–20)

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 Studies

LAS 201 Colloquium in Latin American and Latino/a Studies

  • Climate and Conflict
  • Environmental Legacies and Ecological Futures in Latin America

LAS 250 Knowing Latin America

LAS 264 Women and Revolutions

LAS 301 Seminar: Contesting Space: Art, Ecology, and Activism

LAS 310 Latin American Studies: Issues, Methods and Debates

LAS 400 Special Studies

LAS 404 Special Studies

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

AFR 111 Introduction to Black Culture

AFR 366 Seminar: Contemporary Topics in Africana Studies

ANT 220 Collecting the Past: Art and Artifacts of the Ancient Americas 

ANT 234 Culture, Power and Politics

ANT 237 Native South Americans

ANT 269 Indigenous Cultures and the State of Mesoamerica

ANT 352 Seminar: Topics in Anthropology Politics of Language
The Anthropology of Multiculturalism

ARH 204 Art and Architecture of the Ancient Americas

ARH 207 Translating New Worlds

ARH 218 Modern Architectures in North America

ARH 280 Art Historical Studies Global Modernism in Architecture

DAN 144 Tango I

DAN 244 Tango II

DAN 377 Advanced Studies in History and Aesthetics Salsa in Theory and Practice

FYS 127 Cuba and the U.S. Embargo

FYS 129 Tierra y Vida: Land and the Ecological Imagination in U.S. Latino/a Literature

GOV 220 Introduction to Comparative Politics

GOV 226 Latin American Political Systems

GOV 237 Colloquium: Politics of the U.S./Mexico Border

GOV 307 Seminar in American Government Latinos and Immigration Politics in the U.S.

GOV 322 Seminar in Comparative Government Latin American Social Movements

HST 263 (C) Aspects of Latin American History Women and Gender in Latin America

POR 201 Brazilian Art Inside and Out

POR 228 Indigenous Brazil: Past, Present and Future

POR 232 Popular Music, Nationhood and Globalization in the PortugueseSpeaking World

POR 381 Seminar in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Place, Space and Identity in the Portuguese-Speaking World

SOC 213 Race and National Identity in the United States

SOC 214 Sociology of Hispanic Caribbean Communities in the United States

SPN 230 Latin American and Peninsular Culture and Society A Transatlantic Search for Identity

SPN 240 From Page to Stage Mujeres de Artes Tomar

SPN 246 Latin American Literature and Culture Zapatismo Now: Cultural Resistance on the “Other” Border Reinterpreting Magical Realism The City in Words and Colors

SPN 260 Latin American Cultural History Becoming Latin America: Modernization and Resistance Decolonizing Latin American Literature

SPN 372 Seminar: Topics in Latin American and Iberian Studies

  • Stages of Conflict: Performing Memory and Change in Spain and Latin America
  • Teatro x la identidad (2000–17): Social, Political and Cultural Dislocations in Argentine Society

SPN 373 Seminar: Cultural Movements in Spanish America

  • Recent Latin American Films; Bridging the Public and the Private
  • Contesting Feminisms: Indigenous Voices Rethinking Latin American Feminism
  • Decoding Love: Affect and Subjectivity in Contemporary Latin American Culture



Nancy Saporta Sternbach
Professor Emerita of Spanish

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

Adviser: Marguerite Harrison

See your academic adviser for more opportunities.

Courses at the Five Colleges

Fifty or more Latin American courses are available through the Five College Consortium. More information about studying at the Five Colleges is available on the registrar’s website.

Masters in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University

Students interested in pursuing graduate studies in LAS have the option of completing an M.A. in Latin American studies at Georgetown University in only one extra year and a summer. Those interested must consult with an LAS adviser during their sophomore year or early in their junior year.

Students primarily interested in Latin American literature may wish to consult the major programs available in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.





Department of Latin American & Latino/a Studies

Wright Hall 224
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3503

Administrative Assistant:
Zachary Bergeron-Clearwood