Latin American History and Culture

Universidad Latina - Heredia

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Latin American History and Culture

  • Host University

    Universidad Latina - Heredia

  • Location

    Heredia, Costa Rica

  • Area of Study

    History, Sociology, Spanish

  • Language Level


    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    II. AUDIENCE: ISA students
    III. CONTACT HOURS: 45 contact hours


    The purpose of this course is to provide an introductory and brief analysis of Latin American history and culture. The course will focus on general aspects of the very rich and complex Latin American history, starting from the most important pre-colonial indigenous groups up to a contemporary view of the different Latin American countries. For culture, the course will cover pre-colonial, colonial, nineteenth century literature, modernism, and the literary boom which led to Magic Realism and other movements. Other issues to be included are the many diverse styles of Latin music and basic aspects of cultural interaction as nonverbal communication and misconceptions among cultures. During the course, students will be able to read, study, and discuss documents related to the main topics as well as be exposed to authentic material such as music and dance. Finally, students will take a field trip in which they will learn more about coffee.

    The students will acquire basic knowledge of Latin American history and culture.
    Specific Objectives:
    * To get a panoramic view of Costa Rica?s social, educational, historical, and political life
    * To obtain a brief introduction to the three main indigenous groups that the Spaniards faced during the conquest: Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas
    * To study the most important contributions and the socioeconomic and political structure of the Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas
    * To discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the Spanish and Portuguese conquest
    * To identify the different causes and effects of various Latin American countries? independence
    * To understand Bolivar?s goal to create Gran Colombia and San Martin?s fight to obtain South American countries? independence
    * To critically examine present Latin American political leaders and to analyze the current situation of Latin America
    * To read and discuss the importance and contribution of pre-colonial writings
    * To read and analyze some examples of the authors who belong to the Latin American literary boom
    * To read and discuss some Latin American contemporary authors
    * To compare and contrast some of the many diverse styles of Latin American music
    * To identify and demonstrate some gestures that are particular to Latin people

    This course has no prerequisites.

    This course will not use any specific textbook; instead, a combination of texts from diverse sources will be used.


    Williamson, Edwin. The Penguin History of Latin America. London, England: Clays Ltd., 1992.

    Biesanz, Richard, Karen Z, and Mavis H. The Costa Ricans. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc, 1982.

    Latin American History

    The European Voyages of Exploration

    Discussion Class Homework
    Week 1 Introduction (program, contents, guidelines, expectations)
    Gestures and misconceptions among cultures
    Placement Test

    Week 2 General Information ? Costa Rica
    General overview Pictures Aztecs, Mayas, Incas (5 per student min.)

    Week 3 Aztecs, Mayans, Incas
    Socioeconomic & political contributions
    Background conquista
    Biography of Conquistador

    Week 4 Spanish & Portuguese Conquest
    Conquistadores: Cortes, Pizarro, Balboa Advantages, disadvantages
    Compare & Contrast
    Oral Presentation

    Week 5 Movie: 1492: Conquest of Paradise
    Forum: accuracy of events &
    Encounter vs. clash of cultures
    Ways countries celebrate their independence

    Week 6 Independence in L.A. countries
    Independence of Mexico Causes & Effects
    Effects on L.A.
    Biography liberators

    Week 7 Simón Bolívar: Gran Colombia
    San Martin: Independence of South America
    Jose Martí: Cuba
    Presidents of L.A.

    Week 8 Present L.A. political leaders &
    Situation of L.A. Critically examine
    Debate-Group Project

    Week 9 Free topic
    Guest speaker

    Week 10
    Field Trip: Café Britt - Coffee in Costa Rica
    Relevance of coffee in Costa Rica

    Week 11 Popol Vuh and other Colonial Writings
    19th century authors
    L.A. Literary Boom & Modernism
    Contemporary authors Importance
    Contributions, main
    characteristics Read, understand, analyze
    Oral Book Report Relevance of Coffee CR
    Relevant products L.A.

    Week 12 Coffee in CR ? Grano de Oro
    Other products in other countries Effect on socio, economic & cultural areas
    Show and Tell Turn in journal (12 entries minimum)

    Week 13 Latin American music
    Present different rhythms
    Dance lessons //

    Week 14 General Review ? Oral
    Typical food day Show and Tell
    Origin of ingredients// Turn in Summary Study for final

    Week 15 Final Exam


    1. Student?s journal: 15%
    2. Written summary 15%
    3. Group project (debate capitalism vs. socialism) 15%
    a. Oral presentation of assigned president 5%
    b. questions to pose during debate 5%
    c. participation 5%
    4. Class participation 10%
    5. Pop quizzes 10%
    6. Oral and written presentations 20%
    a. Conquistadores 5%
    b. Independence 5%
    c. Liberators 5%
    d. Book report 5%
    7. Final Exam 15%

    Classes start on time. Arriving more than 10 minutes late is equivalent to being tardy. Three tardies equal one absence. Students who arrive more than 30 minutes late are marked absent. A student who accumulates four (4) or more absences fails the course.

    The Coffee Tour will provide a vivid representation of how coffee originated and how it is produced in Costa Rica. This information will complement the class discussion on the importance of coffee in the Costa Rican economy.

    All assignments must be handed in on the due date.
    Exams must be taken on the assigned date and will only be made up in case of documented emergencies. If an emergency occurs, it is the student?s responsibility to communicate with the professor and make arrangements.
    There is a 17,000 colon charge for make-up tests/activities which require the professor?s presence.

    The University provides, upon request, appropriate academic adjustments for qualified students with disabilities. Any student with a documented disability (physical or cognitive) who requires academic accommodations should contact the Academic Coordinator as soon as possible to request an official letter outlining authorized accommodations. Approved accommodations will not change the basic elements of the course/class.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Some courses may require additional fees.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.