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Latin American Studies Program
Major in Latin American Studies
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Colby’s Latin American Studies Program, established in 1995, provides students with an opportunity to deepen their understanding of this exciting and crucial region of the world. The program’s interdisciplinary nature allows students to draw on multiple fields as they study the complex societies of Latin America. The program’s faculty brings to the classroom considerable experience living and working in Argentina, the Caribbean, Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru, and diverse training in anthropology, economics, government, history, and literature. Language study (Spanish or Portuguese) and a semester abroad are an integral part of the program. Majors may opt to work towards a senior honors project that combines individual student interest with focused intellectual inquiry.
In addition to courses selected from the above disciplines, students take “Introduction to Latin American Studies,” which examines selected debates on identity, culture, politics, and development in Latin America. Students can then elect to study, among other topics: the colonial experience, European and Amerindian responses to the cultural encounter, history of women, gender, and family in Latin America, economic policy and performance, U.S./Latin American relations, anthropology of development, history of the Maya, Caribbean society and culture, caudillos and populism in Latin America, U.S. Latina/Chicana women writers, or sexual dissidence in Latin America.
The Latin American Studies Program has been fortunate to be the beneficiary of the generous Walker Endowment. This has allowed us to enrich our program in multiple ways. We are now able to award our students two kinds of fellowships for study abroad. The Walker Language and Culture Fellowship, intended primarily for sophomores, is designed to enhance language learning and cultural immersion. The Walker Senior Project Fellowship supports field research for senior Latin American studies majors working on independent projects on Latin America. We have awarded grants to study in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
These trips are, sometimes, life-changing experiences. As a student wrote upon her return from the field, “I was able to learn a lot about myself during the month I spent in Nicaragua. I learned to really live in the moment and to take full advantage of my surroundings. I realized how much I enjoy speaking Spanish and how rewarding my conversations with native Spanish speakers are. I finally came to understand that poverty and hunger are not just social issues that are discussed, but daily realities for so much of the world’s population. I came to fully acknowledge an overwhelming force pulling me towards Latin America, and came to accept it as both a challenge and as part of my future.”
The Walker funds also allow us to bring to Colby a wide array of distinguished scholars to complement our academic program. We have invited speakers from academic institutions, government agencies, international organizations, and the community. They have lectured, for example, on “Democracy in the Andes,” “Ugly Stories of the Peruvian Agrarian Reform,” “School of the Americas: A School for Assassins,” “Academics and Latin American Public Policy,” “Child Labor, Child Poverty, and Child Soldiers,” “Two Faces of Feminism in Latin America?” “Gendered Transculturation in Six Feet Under,” “All in the Revolutionary Family: Cuba, Mexico and U.S./Mexican Relations During the 1960s,” and “The Future of Free Trade in the Americas.”
The Latin American Studies Program sponsors a symposium on alternate years. Our symposia have featured internationally renowned speakers who came to Colby to discuss such themes as “Globalization, Democracy, and Indigenous Rights,” “Diaspora, Migration, and the Caribbean,” “The Crisis of the State in Latin America,” “Hegemonic Narratives about Latin America,” and “Transnational Latin America.”