Introduction to Latin American Studies, an online syllabus

University Studies, UNST 233/INTL 240

A fully online class

Professor Smallman Graduate mentor: 

Rm. 345, East Hall e-mail: 

Phone: 503-725-9978 Available Wednesdays between 10 and noon

E-mail: by Skype, Google Meeting, Zoom or phone. 

Office Hours: My office hours will be 11:30am to 1:30pm Portland time on Wednesday. Students can Skype me (username: shawn.smallman), use Google Hangout (, or call me (personal cell phone 503-957-9175). No appointment necessary. But students also can always make an appointment with me here I am also available to meet with students outside these hours; please just send me an email. Because I work remotely from the East Coast, all meetings are by phone or video chat.


With Latinos/as now the largest minority group in the United States, and Brazil’s economy larger than Britain’s, Latin America is attracting considerable attention in the United States.  While its people struggle to preserve the region’s artistic, literary and cultural heritage, Latin America also is experiencing rapid political and economic change. This class explores the rich diversity of peoples, histories and cultures that together define Latin America, from the Caribbean to the Southern Cone.  This class will also give you a foundation from which to choose classes in the Global Studies cluster, if you decide to pursue it.  Bienvenidos! Sejam Bem-vindos!

Class Format and Requirements: 

There are no regular class sessions for online classes. Instead, the course is organized around the weekly class activity, the Discussion board.  These activities will be evaluated based on the students’ ability to demonstrate they have completed the assigned readings (or other assigned materials). Therefore, it is essential that students complete reading assignments prior to partaking in the online discussions (discussion boards and mentor sections). In general, students should plan on spending about eight hours a week dedicated to course readings and participation in the weekly activities and assignments. This is equivalent to the time requirements for the on-campus Intro to Latin American Studies SINQ.

Expectations for Online Students

The online format requires personal discipline to succeed. Time management is a major factor in online success. Students should follow these basic rules:

  1. Block out time for your online class.
  2. Set your personal weekly times for “attending” your online class, just like when you attend a campus class.
  3. You should reserve the time that you would budget both to attend a regular format class, plus study time.
  4. ALWAYS, start on your work early in case of a computer problem; don’t wait until the last moment. 

Accessing D2L:

To access D2L, go to the To login, enter your odin ID and your odin password. If you do not have an odin account, or are not sure what your odin ID or password is, go to or contact the Information Technology Help Desk ( or 725-HELP. For D2L help in person, please go to the 2nd floor computer lab in the Broadway building. All assignments will be submitted in D2L.

Communication with the Faculty Member

You can contact me directly at my email ( or by emailing me through D2L. Please feel free to contact me for further clarification of the assignments, if you have questions about the materials, or if you have personal concerns that will affect your academic performance. I make every effort to respond to email in 48 hours. If you have lengthy or complex questions, we can arrange a phone call or Google Chat.


All the course readings are available online through course content. There are no books to buy for this course.

Mentor Session:

In face to face SINQ classes there is a separate weekly class for small group discussion with a graduate mentor, who also provides support. In this class, that role will be played by the discussion board. Your mentor, Natalia, will support your work on the discussion board, as well as with course assignments. This exchange forms part of your class discussion grade. Natalia may be reached at the email at the top of this syllabus.

Basis for Grade:

On-line Discussion (40% of the final grade; 20% each for the midterm and final grade): Every Monday, the class graduate mentor or I will post a question to the discussion board. The goal of this is to facilitate an academic community that engages in an online conversation. The class will be divided into small discussion groups of five to six students. Every week you will have to respond to my post by Wednesday at 11:59pm (150-200 words), and to another student’s post (100-150 words) by Friday at 11:59pm. While I will provide a question to start the conversation, students are also allowed to post on another question that interests them, to raise an issue for the reading, or to share related material to the class. In other words, you don’t have to always respond to the instructor’s question, which is only meant to start a conversation. Students are expected to demonstrate, at all times, academic integrity and respect for others. Posts that do not meet this standard will not be given any credit, and will impact a student’s overall discussion grade. 

Reading and Video Response Paper (20% of the final grade): Students will submit a four to five page response paper to Assignments on the Sunday following week four. This page count does not include the reference list, which will be in APA format. In this paper students will discuss the four sources (apart from the textbook chapters) that they believe were most important during the first four weeks of the course. These sources may be either videos, readings or podcasts. In their response they will briefly summarize the argument the source makes (and the key issue that it seeks to address), describe its strengths and weaknesses, and state why they thought it was particularly important, both to the course and to them personally. They must make specific reference to each of the four sources. It is important to incorporate quotations from the works viewed or read, and to include in-text citations in APA format. The papers must have a clear argument. For you, which was the most important source of all and why?

Please remember, that students  will be expected to read or view all content in each module, even though they will only discuss four works in this response. Please also be certain to save the document before submitting it. It is your responsibility to confirm that your response was submitted, and to check your grades regularly throughout the course.

Midterm Reading Quiz (10% of the final grade) Thursday and Friday of week 6: Students will take a multiple-choice quiz of ten questions on the reading covered in the first six weeks. Not everyone will receive the same questions. In order to be prepared for this quiz, all students should have read all the assigned readings carefully. The quiz will open at 6am on Thursday of week 6, and close at 11:59pm of Friday. You will have one hour to complete the quiz.

Latin American Culture Project (30%): Friday of week 10 by 11:59pm

Students will produce a slideshow using Google Slides (which is available in your Google account) regarding a particular form of Latin American music, art, film or literature. Students may focus on a particular genre, or an individual artist. Students do not need to worry if another student chooses the same topic; it is inevitable that the same genre will interest more than one person in the class.

One goal of this project is to create an online community, even though it is an individual project. For this reason, students will share the work and give feedback by posting materials in their discussion groups by key dates outlined in the syllabus. By week eight students will have a draft roughed out and a link to share with a peer reviewer in their discussion group. In week ten students will share what they create with the class (through the group-share feature of the discussion board, where they will post the link for their slideshow), which will be the culmination of the course. The presentation must be posted by 11:59pm on Sunday, March 8th.

Your slideshow must have ten sources listed in the references, of which three will be peer-reviewed articles, and one must be a book. You will also be citing all of your images. You can see how to do so using the video in week nine.

University Studies: Many students will be taking this course as a University Studies class, to fulfill their general education requirements.  “Introduction to Latin American Studies” is one of the general education courses you may choose to take after Freshman Inquiry.  If you transferred to PSU as a sophomore this may be your first University Studies course.  Introduction to Latin American Studies is followed by a number of other courses, in a cluster called “Global Perspectives.” If you decide to continue into this cluster, you would choose three courses within the cluster, after completing this course. Of the several University Studies general education goals, we will focus on extending your communication skills, both written and oral, the diversity of the human experience as well as critical thinking. 

Global Perspectives Cluster
Description:Through exploring the interplay between contemporary political, economic, environmental, and cultural systems, this cluster aims to introduce students to the diversity of Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.  Drawing on perspectives from the humanities and social sciences, students will develop skills and attitudes to function as “global citizens.” 
Learning Objectives:▪  Demonstrate knowledge of the forces of modernity, nationalism, colonialism, imperialism and globalization▪  Demonstrate knowledge of the perspectives, attitudes, and beliefs of another culture and region▪  Understand how history, culture and geography inform a region’s present situation▪  Appreciate the diversity and interconnectedness of human experience that frame contemporary political, economic and social interactions

Late policy: It is important to do the discussion posts the week that they are due, because they are part of a conversation. If you post late your peers are not reading what you write, which undermines the goal of building an online academic community. For this reason, late posts are not accepted without prior permission from the Professor. For the Culture Project and the Video and Reading response there will be a late penalty of five percent for every day that they are late, including weekends. For the reading quiz, students who do not complete the quiz on time will instead do a three page report on a peer reviewed article related to Latin America, which they will find on their own. 

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism:

Academic integrity is essential to learning, especially in an online setting. Plagiarism is the submission of another person’s work as your own, such as by having someone else write your quiz response or discussion post.  It is also a serious academic crime.  Any instance of plagiarism will result in an automatic “O” for that assignment, for both the person who submitted the assignment, and the person who helped them. The student(s) may also be referred to the Dean of Students. 

Disability: Any student who has a disability that may require some special arrangements in order to fulfill the course requirements should contact the Disability Resource Center at the start of the course to make appropriate arrangements. The DRC is located in 116 Smith Memorial Student Union, and their phone number is (503) 725-4150.

Course Schedule:

True academic inquiry must proceed at its own pace.  Accordingly, the order of these topics may be changed, and we may not cover all of them. But we will begin by discussing Latin American culture and art, followed by key aspects of Latin American society and history. 

Please note that some videos are easier to view on computers than on tablets. If you leave town for a weekend, you may want to check that the assigned movies play on your tablet before you leave, or to bring a laptop. You will need to sign in with your odin ID before watching the movies.

Please let Professor Smallman know if a link is broken. You can, however, find most movies and peer reviewed articles by searching the library catalogue.

Week One: The Music of Latin America


View: Map of Latin America



  • Lea Ramsdell, “Cuban Hip-Hop Goes Global: Orishas `A lo cubano’” Latin American Music Review. 33:1 (Spring/Summer 2012), 102-123.
  • Lippman, A. (2018). Listening across borders: Migration, dedications, and voice in cumbia sonidera. Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society, 1(1), 201-215.

Do: Begin to think about a possible topic for the Culture project.

Do your first discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

Week Two: Literature


Borges Short Stories: 

  • Borges, A Personal Anthology. pp. 22-71 . From the short story “The South” through “To an Old Poet.”
  • This ebook is available through the PSU library. Please note, if this link does not work, you can find this work by searching the library catalogue. 
  • Moser, B. (July 2, 2018), “He’s one of Brazil’s Greatest Writers,” New Yorker.



Do your discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

Week Three: Indigenous Peoples


Watch: Both of the first two videos this week can also be found through searching the library catalogue.

  • Amlin, Patricia. 1989. The Popol Vuh : Mayan Creation Myth. Larry George, narrator. This video has closed captions which may be turned on using the CC icon on the bottom of the screen.
  • Amazon Games
  • Survival International. (August 21, 2013) Uncontacted tribe: new footage of Peru’s Mashco Piro tribe

Do: Do your discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

Work on your proposal, which consists of your research topic and learning outcomes (what you want your audience to learn) for your culture project. You will share these with your small discussion group in week four.

Week Four: Race and African Legacies


  • Perreira, Krista M, and Telles, Edward E. “The Color of Health: Skin Color, Ethnoracial Classification, and Discrimination in the Health of Latin Americans.” Social Science & Medicine 116 (2014): 241-50.


Gates, H., & Pollack, Ricardo. (2011). 

Do: Do your discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59. Post your research topic, outline and learning outcomes to your small group discussion board. Read and comment on other students’ Culture Project proposals.

        Your video and reading response paper is due on the Sunday after week four by 11:59pm in Assignments. You can see a rubric for the assignment here. The instructions for this project are given above in the “basis for grade” section of this syllabus.

Week Five: Religion, Ritual and Folklore



Do: Do your discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

Week Six: Immigration and Migration




  • Do your midterm reading quiz. The quiz will have ten questions, which will differ from student to student. The questions will cover the readings (not the videos) for the first six weeks of the course. The quiz will open at 6am on Thursday and close at 11:59pm on Friday. You will have one hour to complete the quiz.
  • Do your discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59. Work on your Culture Project, and let your classmates in your small discussion group now how your work is progressing.

Week Seven: Authoritarianism, Populism and Violence



  • Foreign Correspondent (2019), The Battle for Rio. ABC television. Please note that this film has a transcript.
  • Robin, Marie-Monique, Bourdon, William, Gazio, Françoise, Idéale Audience International, Production Company, and Icarus Films, Distributor. Death Squadrons : The French School. Brooklyn, New York]: [Distributed By] Icarus Films, 2020. Available through the PSU library system.
  • Note: this film does not have a transcript. If you wish, you may instead find and read any peer-reviewed article on violence or authoritarianism in Latin America.


Do your discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

You should have a rough draft of your Culture Project complete this week.

Week Eight: Drugs


Watch: Mama Coca’s War: How the War on Drugs Impacts Latin America

  • Galloway, K., Duane de la Vega, Kelly, Kelley Farías, Nefertiti, Loteria Films, Canana Films, Latino Public Broadcasting, & Bullfrog Films. (2016). El poeta. Oley, Pennsylvania]: [Distributed by] Bullfrog Films. Warning: this video has disturbing images of violence. If you would prefer, you can find and read a peer-reviewed article on the drug war instead.

Do: Do your discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

Share a rough draft of your project with your discussion group. View and comment upon the projects of the other people in your group by the weekend.

Week Nine: The Environment



Do: Do your discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

Revise your Culture project based on feedback from your group.

Week Ten: Viewing Culture Projects

Do: upload your project by Wednesday at 11:59 pm.

View: the online presentations and materials for the Culture Project. You should view the ten projects that most interest you.

Do: Do your discussion post by Wednesday at 11:59, and respond to another student by Friday at 11:59.

The discussion question will focus on the Culture Projects.

There is no final exam in this course. Enjoy the break.

Sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking. 

Portland State is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and sexual harassment (sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and gender or sex-based harassment and stalking). If you have experienced any form of gender or sex-based discrimination or sexual harassment, know that help and support are available. PSU has staff members trained to support survivors in navigating campus life, accessing health and counseling services, providing academic and on-housing accommodations, helping with legal protective orders, and more. Information about PSU’s support services on campus, including confidential services and reporting options, can be found on PSU’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response website at: or you may call a confidential IPV Advocate at 503-725-5672. You may report any incident of discrimination or discriminatory harassment, including sexual harassment, to either the Office of Equity and Compliance or the Office of the Dean of Student Life.

Please be aware that all PSU faculty members and instructors are required to report information of an incident that may constitute prohibited discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. This means that if you tell me about a situation of sexual harassment or sexual violence that may have violated university policy or student code of conduct, I have to share the information with my supervisor, the University’s Title IX Coordinator or the Office of the Dean of Student Life. For more information about Title IX please complete the required student module Creating a Safe Campus in your D2L. 

Access and Inclusion for Students with Disabilities: PSU values diversity and inclusion; we are committed to fostering mutual respect and full participation for all students. My goal is to create a learning environment that is equitable, useable, inclusive, and welcoming. If any aspects of instruction or course design result in barriers to your inclusion or learning, please notify me. The Disability  Resource Center (DRC) provides reasonable accommodations for students who encounter barriers in the learning environment.

If you have, or think you may have, a disability that may affect your work in this class and feel you need accommodations, contact the Disability Resource Center to schedule an appointment and initiate a conversation about reasonable accommodations. The DRC is located in 116 Smith Memorial Student Union, 503-725-4150,, If you already have accommodations, please contact me to make sure that I have received a faculty notification letter and discuss your accommodations.

Privacy & Cookies: This site uses cookies. See our Privacy Policy for details. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. If you do not consent, click here to opt out of Google Analytics.